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Twenty years young - is the Ford Mondeo a classic?

Published 19 August 2013

I seem to be saying it a lot this year, but isn't it amazing how landmark anniversaries of new car launches have a habit of making you look at certain cars in a new light. But really? The Mondeo is 20 years old? How did that happen?

Okay, thanks to the improved longevity and build quality of moderns, cars seem to be taking longer to age these days, so I'll forgive you for looking at the original Ford Mondeo, and never even considering using the word 'classic'. After all, it was launched in 1993, when vehicle styling was going through one of its more unadventurous phases.

But I still vividly remember the excitement that surrounded the launch of Ford's hugely important mid-liner. It was a staightforward replacement of the Sierra - a car which celebrated its 30th birthday last year - and was all-new from they tyres up. And in many ways, it was diametrically-opposed to the car that it replaced, and more than anything, the Mondeo was an object lesson in a car company learning from its past mistakes.

But what mistakes, I hear you ask? It's clear that the Mondeo's inoffensive and derivative styling was a lingering consequnece of the Sierra's avantgarde aerodynamics of a decade previous - because that car sold slowly from launch, and buyers took years to grow into it. And as manufacturer used to building number one sellers, this would never do - leave visual progress to the likes of Citroen...

But while the Sierra floundered during the mid-1980s, the Escort and Fiesta took up the strain, with the former becoming the UK's best seller. Problem was that when these two cars were replaced, in 1989 and 1990, their inoffensive styling also underpinned cost-constrained engineering... and they were panned in the media for being sub-standard, the 1990 Escort especially so. Sales held up, of course in the UK, but this victory for the accountants had serious repercussions on European sales where Ford lost ground.

The 1993 Mondeo was the answer to the poor performing Escort and Fiesta. Whereas these cars were poor to drive and powered by archaic carry-over drivetrains, Ford ensured that the Mondeo boasted state-of-the-art double overhead-cam engines and class-leading suspension set-ups. Being new from the ground up, the Mondeo was expensive to develop, costing the company a cool $4bn (compare that with the 1995 Rover 200's development budget of £250m and you'll get an idea of Ford's expenditure on the Mondeo), and every aspect of it was honed to the nth degree.

Marketing was massive - Jackie Stewart was drafted in to explain the magnificence of Richard Parry-Jones' suspension set-up to enthusiasts, while blanket media bombing took care of the rest. And after years in the doldrums, Ford headed straight to the top of the class with the brilliant Mondeo. Of course, being a mass-market saloon, it soon fell victim to changing buying habits in the UK, so that 1990s Mondeo-man of Blair's Britain has become Cameron's 3-Series professional - but that's another story...

The thing is - could you deservedly call the Mondeo a classic yet? It ticks all the boxes: it was exceptional when new, setting new standards along the way; it's already getting rare; and most importantly, if you can find a nice early 2.0Si, you'll have a car that's great fun to drive and still cheap to run.

What do you think?

Ford Mondeo Mk 1 Cutaway

Comments

Neil Rapsey    on 19 August 2013

Definitely a classic in my eyes, I think that the sporting models and the 4x4s will be the ones that people will seek out as is the case with the XRs and Cosworths are now, but I think the lower spec models will end up being forgotten and un loved and will disappear.
But as whats happening with Sierra's , Cortina's Fiestas and Escorts/Orions the surviving bread and butter models in original spec will start to become sought after, amongst colectors

Neil Rapsey    on 19 August 2013

And I think it was Fords first true world car, the US spec car only available in V6 flavour and no hatch or estate version but with slightly different front and rear styling, which in my opinion looked better and more adventures

AlltheInterWeb.co.uk    on 27 August 2013

Mondeo's definately a million miles better than a Vauxhall Vectra, the Vectra being so bad that in addition to Clarkson + HonestJohn kicking it down, even the mechanics at my local garage selling the things said they're s***.
Was looking at the possibilty of getting one of the newer ones (c. 2004?) as a first car the other day after FINALLY getting to take & pass my driving test at the ripe old age of 34.... but decided "screw that" with a £1200 insurance quote for a Mondeo 1.8 LX(?) selling for around £875

Original Mondeo + the facelift got added cred from Nigel Mansell's appearances in the British Touring Car Championship in 1993 + 1998.

RicardoB    on 27 August 2013

I can't believe it's twenty years since the Mondeo appeared! I remember all the write-ups at the time extolling its virtues - especially in the ride and handling department.

I entered a competition at the time on a well known national commercial radio station (ssh Classic fm) where "the new Mondeo" was the star prize. I came second, so missed out on the star prize, but won a year's subscription to What Car mag!

But in 1995, I changed jobs and qualified for a car - no choice except for colour - a Mondeo 1.8LX hatch. I chose the dark metallic blue with the blue trim. It really was as good as all the reviews at the time. Handled really well but was very comfortable, had all the goodies (although air con was not an option at that time). It was reasonable on fuel and the twincam engine had, dare I say, a "throaty" tone to it when accelerating.

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to the car before its second birthday - not the car's fault - but change of job and company.

And also sadly, they seem to have mainly disappeared from the roads, so in a way, it will become a classic, but maybe not to the extent that Ford Cortinas are coveted today.

I have to say IMHO that the front end design did "date" rather quickly though - the revised "mk2" was an improvement.

Andy Midd    on 29 August 2013

Dull.

Alex Moore    on 28 January 2018

I have a 1998 Mk2 Mondeo 1800cc low mileage in very good condition. Iam a mechinic so wants for nothing being solid underneath now nearly 21years old. Use her as my daily great with the kids i have upgraded a fair bit but done tastfully and proffessional. No plans on selling any time soon.

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