Road test: Ford Modeo Estate Vignale Hybrid

Road Test

 

Among a barrage of SUVs, the Ford Mondeo resolutely stands its family car ground. Ahead of big electrification plans, Richard Gooding discovers that the addition of an estate body style to the Mondeo’s hybrid range expands Ford’s electrified reach a little practically further

What is it?
The Ford Mondeo was launched amid great fanfare in 1993, and over the past 27 years has become a by-word for family saloons, the New Labour party even coining the phrase ‘Mondeo man’ in the 1990s. Over three subsequent generations, the market for family cars has shifted beyond all recognition, with SUVs now finding favour for ferrying passengers and luggage, but many believe that cars like the Mondeo still have a place, however small, for business users. The first Mondeo was first electrified in 2014, but only in saloon guise, the estate version not appearing until 2019. The body style might be a new addition to the Mondeo Hybrid range, but the powertrain technology is much as before, the enhanced refinement of the petrol engine being the only noticeable change.

How does it drive?
The Mondeo Estate Hybrid’s appearance in range-topping Vignale trim is certainly upmarket. The hexagonal-patterned grille and external chrome finishes lift it above less plush Mondeos, the no-cost Vignale Premium Chrome Blue paintwork lending it an understated but classy air. Inside, it’s a similar story, the quilted leather seats and glossy surfaces creating an impression of opulence. There’s also a leather-like dashboard covering and more chrome finishes, and the 10-way power adjustable driver and passenger seats mean there’s little danger of not feeling comfortable.     

The hybrid Mondeo’s powertrain consists of a 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle, four-cylinder petrol engine with independent variable camshaft timing, mated to a rear-mounted 88kW electric motor and 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery. The electric motor is coupled to a generator in a transaxle which splits power between the petrol engine, the electric motor itself or engages them both at once. The automatic CVT transmission uses a planetary gearset, in a similar set-up to that which Toyota uses in its hybrid range. Just like other Mondeos, the hybrid model is front-wheel drive, and enjoys the same positive dynamic ability that modern Fords are known for, even if at a slightly muted level due to the car’s 1,716kg weight.

Total system power is 184bhp, which seems a fair amount for such a large car, but Ford has set up the Mondeo Hybrid predominantly for economy. And that’s perhaps to be expected in a car which wears a ‘hybrid’ badge, but the pace can be found wanting in some instances. At speed, though, the car is supremely refined, but press the accelerator pedal and the petrol engine becomes quite vocal. It’s better to get up to speed and cruise, and that’s one thing the Mondeo Hybrid is very good at. In Vignale specification, the Mondeo Hybrid is almost whisper quiet. The revised hybrid powertrain adjusts the transmission ratios seamlessly and employs the highest engine torque at the lowest speeds for efficiency and performance. And on the whole, it works. In urban environments, the all-electric running is smooth, too, if not that long-lasting, once the accelerator pedal is pressed.

A ‘self-charging’ hybrid – there is no plug-in option – the Mondeo Hybrid’s battery is charged from excess energy when braking or cruising, and the regenerative braking has been improved since the original model of 2015, with up to 90 per cent of hitherto wasted energy recaptured. Ford’s ‘Brake Coach’ encourages gradual braking to harvest even more, and an ‘L’ (low) gear mode maximises engine braking for short periods. An ‘EcoSelect’ driving mode promotes greater economy and electrically-powered on-board systems – power steering, as well as vacuum and water pumps – also help with energy efficiency. A host of graphical gauges and read-outs both ahead of the driver and on the central infotainment display monitor efficiency.

The loss of some of the Mondeo Estate’s practicality is one of the biggest drawbacks of the transition to a hybrid. The battery pack is mounted under the boot floor, and there is a very obvious step when loading in large items. Laden to the roof with the rear seats up, the hybrid Mondeo Estate holds only 633 litres, down from the 755 litres of its diesel-engined siblings.

How economical is it?
Ford quotes official fuel economy figures of between 47.9mpg and 51.4mpg on the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle. Over the course of a week, we achieved an average of 41.4mpg in real-world driving conditions.

What does it cost?
The Ford Mondeo Hybrid is available in four versions and two body styles, a four-door saloon or five-door estate. The four-door Zetec Edition Hybrid starts things off at £26,655, and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights and tail lamps, Traffic Sign Recognition, as well as an 8-inch SYNC 3 colour touchscreen infotainment system. The £28,495 Titanium Edition Hybrid adds 18-inch wheels, auto lights and wipers, an auto-dimming interior mirror, ‘premium’ leather seats and a 10-inch colour TFT driver’s instrument display. The £29,795 ST-Line Edition adds an ST-Line body kit, 19-inch alloy wheels, aluminium pedals, front partial leather sports seats, rear privacy glass, and sports suspension.

The top-of-the-tree Vignale Hybrid is the most luxurious Mondeo available with prices starting at £32,395. Showcasing hand-finished craftmanship, the Mondeo Vignale offers specific exterior styling details and a special range of colours, ambient interior lighting, a heated steering wheel, LED adaptive headlights, a powered tailgate and rear view camera, a Sony audio system with 12 speakers, as well as integrated active noise control, which uses three cabin microphones to monitor engine noise in the interior. Opposing sound waves are then fed through the car’s audio system to cancel out engine noise. The Mondeo Estate Hybrid models cost around £1,500 more than the four-door saloon prices quoted here, with the Vignale Estate tested pegged at £33,795.

How much does it cost to tax?
At £165 for the first year, the 127g/km, four-door Zetec Edition is the cheapest Ford Mondeo Hybrid in respect of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). This reverts to £140 in the years thereafter, as the hybrid Mondeo is classed as an ‘alternatively-fuelled vehicle’ (AFV), and so invites the £10 AFV discount off the £150 standard rate. The range-topping 134g/km Mondeo Estate Hybrid Vignale costs £205 in VED during the first year, once again dropping to £140 in the following years. Benefit In Kind is currently 29 per cent for the Vignale version of the large hybrid Ford.   

Why does my fleet need one?
At odds with the current trend for high-riding SUVs, the Mondeo represents the old guard, the traditional family ferrying car. And for some, that equation still adds up. Spacious and nicely finished (especially in Vignale guise), the Mondeo Estate Hybrid is a very satisfying cruiser.

There’s no doubt its hybrid powertrain improves fuel consumption over a non-hybridised petrol Mondeo, but that’s theoretical anyway, as there isn’t one. However, in most circumstances, an EcoBlue diesel model would offer both better economy and performance, the hybrid still having the upper hand when it comes to taxation. Improved quality and a high level of refinement are supreme selling points, but there’s little denying a plug-in hybrid drivetrain would add benefits when it comes to efficiency and running costs. Unrivalled in its segment, as it stands, there’s a lot to like about the opulent-feeling and comfortable petrol-electric Mondeo. However, when it comes to the hybrid powertrain, there’s significant untapped potential, too.   

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