New car review

Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate test drive

Ford’s attempt to revive its large estate in the face of SUV competition hinges on this hybrid model being a success, but we’ve got bad news…

There was a time when the Ford Mondeo was the king of the road. Back in the 90s, it was the repmobile of choice, regularly making its way to the upper reaches of the UK’s best-selling cars lists.

However, then the SUV revolution happened, and the Mondeo – and all large saloons and estates for that matter – saw sales slump as buyers preferred high driving positions and the premium allure of being seen in a 4×4.

The latest Mondeo, though, is still an enticing prospect. The cabin is spacious, there’s loads of room in the boot, and it looks good, too. This is the hybrid version, which is important because Ford reckons it will make up about half of all of Mondeo sales going forward.

What’s new about the Ford Mondeo Hybrid?

This isn’t the first time Ford has offered a hybrid version of the Mondeo, though it was only a saloon before, so this latest version is largely sporting the same updates seen across the rest of the range. So, there’s an updated exterior design, new alloy wheel designs, and improved interior fitment.

As you’ll hear in this review, though, the whole hybrid thing feels like an afterthought. This is most obvious when it comes to rear cargo space, with the electric motor and batteries bulging into the boot. It means that, with the rear seats up, boot space is actually slightly smaller than the non-hybrid saloon and over 100 litres smaller than the non-hybrid estate.

Opt for a Toyota Corolla Touring Sports and you get nearly 200 litres more from your hybrid estate – in a smaller car.

How does it look?

With Mondeo buyers moving on to premium SUVs, it’s no surprise to see that the latest versions of the estate have been trying to move the model upmarket. This updated Mondeo is no different, sporting a smart exterior that could easily be mistaken for the price point above.

  • Ford Mondeo hybrid estate – front view | The Car Expert
  • Ford Mondeo hybrid estate – rear view | The Car Expert

Despite its sheer size, it manages to look sharp and svelte up front, with the slim headlights and angular grille hiding its heft. Meanwhile, a range of high-quality metallic paints and chrome finishing help amplify this feeling.

What’s the spec like?

With Ford Mondeo Hybrid prices starting at £29,450, you get a decent amount of kit for your money. This includes 18-inch alloy wheels, twin digital displays in the instrument binnacle, heated front windscreen, DAB digital radio with satellite navigation, cruise control, and plenty more.

Our car was specified up to almost £34k, with the premium driver assistance pack coming highly recommended. It’s not cheap at £1,100, but adds a Sony DAB radio, parking assistants, rear-view camera and adaptive cruise control.

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Again, though, that pesky Toyota rears its head to make the Mondeo a hard sell. The Corolla Touring Sports hybrid with equivalent performance starts at £28k, and while the kit isn’t quite as good and the premium feel falls behind inside and out, it’s better to drive and more practical.

Safety-wise, the Ford Mondeo range scored five stars from Euro NCAP when the current model was launched. That was back in 2014, however, and the car hasn’t been re-tested against the newer, tougher standards that are in place today.

What’s the Ford Mondeo Hybrid like inside?

The interior doesn’t differentiate itself from standard models in any way – though when you stop after a journey the dash displays a message that says “thanks for driving a hybrid!”, which is surely enough to make even the eco-friendliest of buyers roll their eyes.

Ford Mondeo hybrid estate – interior and dashboard | The Car Expert

Besides that, it’s standard Ford fare, with the decent (if far from class-leading) Sync infotainment system, eight-inch touchscreen, soft-touch materials and loads of space for front passengers. Rear passengers might find legroom a little bit less than you’d expect from a car this size, but it’s certainly not a deal-breaker.

What’s under the bonnet?

The hybrid system uses a 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine and an electric motor that work together to power the front wheels. The combined power output is 185hp and 173Nm of torque, but it feels a lot less than that.

That’s largely thanks to the gearbox, which is a ‘power-split’ transmission that works a lot like a continuously-variable transmission (better known as a CVT). The idea is that it’s always at the optimum revs for economy and doesn’t have traditional gears.

However, it’s horribly unresponsive, reminding of the bad old days of CVTs, with a bizarre elastic sensation where what your right foot asks of the throttle pedal isn’t matched by the car.

What does work quite well, though, is the regenerative braking system, which is the only way to recharge the battery. Braking feel is largely consistent, so coming to a stop is typically smooth, something that couldn’t be said of the previous model.

What’s the Ford Mondeo Hybrid like to drive?

Unsurprisingly, then, those looking for something that will remind them of the joys of driving or simply be a pleasant companion during mind-numbing traffic jams should probably look elsewhere.

Even getting up to speed on a motorway is a noisy and frustrating experience, while a lack of throttle response means it can’t make up for its deficiencies in country lanes. Where the Ford Mondeo Hybrid does work quite well, though, is in town – when running in electric mode, throttle response is quicker, so slow-moving journeys are its forte – though the Mondeo’s huge size means it’s not exactly stress-free here.

Despite gearbox foibles, once you’re up to 70mph with the cruise control set, the Mondeo is a comfortable motorway mile-munching companion.

Verdict

It’s hard to understand just how Ford got the Mondeo Hybrid so wrong. It feels rushed and unfinished. The gearbox cripples the driving experience, making the big estate feel slow and unresponsive, while fuel economy isn’t even that impressive.

With more and more buyers looking towards electrified models, particularly in the business sector, this was an opportunity to claw back a few sales from SUVs. However, if you need the space of an estate and the low running costs of a hybrid, there are bigger and better rivals out there – the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, for example.

Similar cars

Kia Optima | Mazda 6 | Peugeot 508 | Skoda Superb | Toyota Camry | Toyota Corolla Touring Sports | Vauxhall Insignia | Volkswagen Passat

Key specifications

Model as tested: Ford Mondeo Hybrid Titanium estate
Price: £33,845
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor
Gearbox: continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)
Power: 185 hp
Torque: 173 Nm
Top speed: 116 mph
0-60mph: 9.0 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 46.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 113 g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: Five stars (2014)

Darren Cassey
Darren Cassey
Articles by Darren Cassey are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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