I never thought I’d write this, but I’m a little bit in love with a station wagon.
There’s a good chance this is just a crush, as our romance was fleeting. But it does always happen when you least expect it, doesn’t it? And, as in this case, often with the unlikeliest of characters, one you’re sure is not your type.
I have very happy memories of station wagons from my youth. With six kids on one side of my family, regular visits from them would mean piling into the back of their chocolate-brown Kingswood wagon (and I really do mean, the back…) to visit our older relatives in Griffith, Narrabundah and Yarralumla.
It was a different time, but I’m still amazed we got away without attracting some serious negative interest from the police.
My own driving career, however, has followed a pretty solid pattern of hatchbacks, small sedans, and now my little Toyota 86. I’ve just never felt I needed the space a station wagon has to offer.
If I’m honest, they’ve always felt a little bit … daggy.
But a couple of weeks trying out the current Ford Mondeo sportswagon has made it seriously likely that one of these will have a home in our driveway soon.
About the car
The Mondeo was first manufactured by Ford in 1992, and the name comes from the Latin word mundus, meaning ‘world’.
The one you’ll find in the dealerships now is the fourth generation, on sale since about April 2015.
It has traditionally been Ford’s mid-size offering, but since production of the Falcon ended, it’s now Ford’s sole mid-to-large sized passenger car.
You can choose from three specifications – the base grade Ambiente, the Trend, and the top-of-the-line Titanium which we were lucky enough to try.
How’s it look?
Even if those who aren’t fans of Ford or the Mondeo admit (sometimes begrudgingly) that this is a very good-looking car.
Each to their own taste, but in my opinion, Ford has struck a good balance here between the aggressive sports styling, without making the car look too ‘out there’. The front-end design is definitely much bolder than the rear, which maybe helps this balance.
One of the risks of driving the top-end specification is that you’ll be charmed by features that most drivers won’t get to experience. The panoramic sunroof falls into this category – it adds an amazing feeling of light and space to the cabin, but unless you’re shelling out for the Titanium, you’ll have to go without.
Interior comfort and space
When it comes to interior design, I love me some good storage nooks and crannies, and the Mondeo has plenty, as well as ample charging points (essential in this day and age).
It’s not short on overall space either. Fill it to the brim with seats down, and you’ve got a whopping 1,605 litres of storage space in the wagon. To put that into perspective, it’s on par with several of the ‘large SUV’ class of vehicles (Hyundai Santa Fe, Holden Captiva), and only a couple of hundred litres less than you’ll get in a big Toyota Prado or Subaru Outback.
I’m also a huge fan of the cargo space on the Mondeo wagon, which is particularly clever. It has an impressive array of built-in nets, dividers and straps that you can easily move and slide around, to ensure whatever you’re carrying … doesn’t.
Most striking from the inside view though, is the long-awaited new Sync 3 infotainment system that integrates absolutely seamlessly with your phone and lets you voice-control everything from climate control to navigation and music.
It represents a complete overhaul of the previous in-car system and is designed to be just like having a giant mobile phone screen on your dashboard – it’s big and clear, so you can tap and swipe as naturally as you would on your iPhone or Samsung.
Under the hood
You can choose from a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine, or – the one we tried – the 2.0L Duratorq 16V turbo diesel.
Want to set out from Sydney with about half a tank of fuel and still see a distance-to-empty of over 700kms? Go with the diesel (the official fuel consumption figure is about 5.3 litres per 100km).
If you really like to manage your own driving experience, you can choose modes from Sport, Normal and Comfort (for that smooth Kingswood floating-along-the-road feeling).
Whichever way you go, you’ll be driving with a six-speed automatic that also has Paddle Shifters for those Bathurst-inspired moments. If you’ve got your ear to the ground, you might have heard about a class action against Ford over gearbox concerns. This is not that type of gear, so no worries either way.
Consistent with its ‘affordable luxury’ tagline, the Mondeo has all the bits and pieces you’d expect if buying a new car today.
Like most new vehicles, it’s got the 5-star ANCAP safety rating with a buffet of airbags (including side curtains and the pretty-cool-but-hope-you-never-need-them rear inflatable seat belt airbags); plus Electronic Stability Control and indicator lights on your side mirrors to let you know when a vehicle is in your blind spot.
One of my pet hates is having to purchase a higher-spec model of car to access all the best safety features, that should really be standard in this day and age.
The Mondeo isn’t too bad on that front – the reversing camera is standard on all models including the entry-level Ambiente; though you’ll need to scale up if you want lane departure warnings, lane-keeping assistance or driver impairment warnings.
Also on the higher end specs, you’ll get ‘Active City Stop’ which addresses the high number of collision that happen when we’re crawling along at low speed. If you’re travelling at less than 40kmph and you don’t apply the brakes when the vehicle in front of you stops, it’ll brake for you.
‘Pre Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection’ radar-scans the traffic ahead to warn you about the possibility of a collision (shout out again to those super attentive drivers on our Canberra roads who pulled out in front of me and gave me more than one opportunity to test this feature).
All level come with the clever MyKey that you can program to remind the user (hello teenagers!) to drive as you would (or should …). It’ll tell them to put on their seat belts, limit their speed, turn the music down and ignore their phone.
It’s just like you’re right there in the car, nagging them yourself …
The Mondeo’s design and pricing puts it in competition with the Mazda6 as well as any number of those mid to large size SUVs. In the 2016 Drive Car of the Year Awards for Best Family Car, it defended its title against the Kia Optima and Skoda Superb (the Skoda nudged it out in the end, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all).
Prices range from $33,190 manufacturing prices (plus on-road costs) for the Ambiente hatch on regular petrol; through to $49,840 plus on-roads for the diesel wagon we drove.
Buy it because
- It offers more storage space and more power than your average SUV.
- You need to lug around, kids, dogs, luggage etc., but still want to (at least occasionally) be first away from the traffic lights.
- Ford’s current line-up of interior features – especially the Sync 3 infotainment system – has much tougher motoring journos than me very impressed.
Give it a miss if
- Your ego just won’t let the world see you in anything but a ‘sporty’ SUV.
The Mondeo just felt really good and easy to drive. It feels solid and stable on the road, but I reckon it’s also light and agile enough to make it interesting. There are cheaper cars in the class, but if you’re looking in that price window, it’s a car you won’t ever be unhappy with. That’s especially the case if you can find a few extra bucks for the upper-spec models.
What do you think? Are you looking to buy a wagon or an SUV? Have you taken a look at the Mondeo?
We were provided with the Ford Mondeo Titanium Sportswagon by Ford Australia through Thomson Ford in Parramatta. If you want to check one out locally, try John McGrath Ford – check out their current specials on the Mondeo here.