Ford Mondeo Vignale

Ford attempts to take the Mondeo upmarket with its Vignale. Don’t mention Ghia.

Andrew Brady | May 2015

The Ford Mondeo has an image problem. It’s not that it’s a bad car – we liked it when we drove the latest model for the first time last year. But it’s just a bit… generic. And no one wants generic anymore.

Instead, we want executive saloon cars such as the BMW 3 Series. Or funky crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai. That’s why both now outsell the humble Ford Mondeo in the UK.

And that explains why Ford taking its Mondeo upmarket with the launch of its new Vignale.

Vignale takes its name from the Italian coachbuilder Alfredo Vignale, who was responsible for creating stylish, one-off designs for cars built by Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, Lancia and Maserati.

The Mondeo Vignale is the first in a line of production cars that’ll get the Vignale treatment – the next being the S-Max, due next year.

For around £4,500 more than the Mondeo Titanium, the Vignale gets a lot of extra leather. It’s everywhere – on the dashboard, covering the armrests and most places you touch. Even the seats have 110% more leather than the regular Mondeo leather seats. It’s premium Windsor leather, too, from the same factory as that found in the Bentley Continental GT.

3_Mondeo_Vignale

But the Mondeo Vignale is much than just a top-spec trim level, Ford insists.

For a start, the Vignale goes through extra quality checks at Ford’s Valencia factory. Extra attention is paid to paint quality and panel gaps… something you wouldn’t normally expect to be an issue on cars built by Ford in the 21st century, so make of that what you will.

The buying experience will be just a little more special, too. Rather than buying a Mondeo Vignale from your local dealership, you’ll need to visit one of 55 new Ford Stores that’ll be launched in the UK by the end of 2015.

There, you’ll find a special Vignale corner of the showroom, with furniture designed by the same designers behind the car. And you’ll be shielded off from the common or garden Ford customers.

Rather than a salesman, you’ll get your own ‘relationship manager’, who you’ll be on first-name terms with throughout the buying process and even as long as you own the car.

Once you’ve bought the car, you’ll have access to a 24-hour Vignale owners’ phone number should you need emergency breakdown cover or to book a service. When you do book a service, your dealership will collect the car from your home or office, and return it to you (freshly cleaned).

If you buy a used Vignale a few years down the line, you’ll be entitled to exactly the same perks. You can even (for a cost) ask your Ford dealership to detail it, so it’ll be returned to as-new condition.

What’s the Ford Mondeo Vignale like to drive?

2_Mondeo_Vignale

The Ford Mondeo Vignale drives in exactly the same way as the regular Ford Mondeo. That’s not a bad thing – there’s an engine for everyone, while the handling is typical Ford in that it’s direct and a touch sporty, if comfortable.

But, on the launch of the Vignale, we did get the opportunity to drive a hybrid for the first time.

Ford says, out of the 2,000-3,000 Mondeo Vignales it expects to sell in the UK, only around 2% will be hybrid.

Often, in a hybrid, the extra power provided by the batteries combined with instant torque means you put your foot down and scarper towards the horizon in a comical way.

But, while the Mondeo is happy to make a lot of noise when you accelerate (the curse of the CVT ’box), not a lot seems to happen performance-wise.

The Mondeo’s normally compliant ride appears to be upset by the extra kilos added by the batteries. Bumps in the road are transferred to the cabin, especially on the 18-inch alloys of our test car. We suspect smaller alloys might be a better choice, but then the handling will be even more numbed.

Is the Ford Mondeo Vignale a BMW 3 Series rival?

5_Mondeo_Vignale

No. Even Ford says the Vignale isn’t a BMW 3 Series rival. We suspect that secretly it’d like to think it is, but if it openly said so it’s opening itself up for mocking. Which we’ll do anyway.

Think of the Vignale as a top-spec Mondeo trim-level and it starts to make a bit more sense. Sure, the leather seats are very nice, as is the extra stitching.

But the interior isn’t as special as it ought to be. If anything, the upmarket additions make the rest of the interior look cheaper than it did in the first place. When the plastic centre console is surrounded by succulent leather, the centre console is suddenly no longer up to scratch.

We get the impression that accountants stopped designers really going to town on the interior in the way they probably ought to for it to be taken seriously as a properly upmarket Mondeo.

We want ambient lighting and Vignale badges everywhere. Trying to find the Vignale emblem is impossible inside the car, until you open the doors and find them on the treadplates. It’s the same reason people buy designer labels – they want to be reminded constantly that they’ve spent extra money on something premium.

Even the radio proudly boasts it’s a Sony unit. Its sound quality is excellent, sure, but you can spec the same radio in the regular Mondeo. For the full premium experience, we want to see names like Bose.

Verdict: Ford Mondeo Vignale (2015)

4_Mondeo_Vignale

When we drove the latest Ford Mondeo we gave it a four star rating.

As a car, it retains that four star rating. But Ford is so adamant that the Vignale is more than just a top-spec Mondeo – more of a lifestyle choice (cringe), and for us, it just doesn’t really work. Especially with a starting price of £29,045.

The company needs to go further if it’s to properly embrace going upmarket. The interior needs to be more special. And the service needs to be even more exclusive – we want a longer warranty and better residual values (early predictions aren’t looking good). A free wash just doesn’t cut it.

Save your money and, if you really want a Mondeo, buy a Titanium instead. If you ever find yourself longing for posher leather and brown metallic paint, think of that £4,500 you’ve saved.

Rivals: Ford Mondeo Vignale

  • Audi A4
  • BMW 3 Series
  • Lexus IS300h
  • Skoda Superb
  • Volkswagen Passat

Ford denies that it’s targeting the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series with its Mondeo Vignale, but there’s no denying that both are uncomfortably in reach for the money. The Lexus IS300h is actually slightly cheaper than the Mondeo hybrid, and is definitely a much more sensible choice if you want to go down that route. The Skoda Superb is due to be replaced and the new one makes a much more convincing case as an affordable upmarket car than the Mondeo Vignale. The Volkswagen Passat is slightly upmarket from the regular Mondeo, but stacks up well against the Vignale.

Specification: Ford Mondeo Vignale

Engine 2.0-litre diesel, 2.0-litre petrol, hybrid

Gearbox 6-speed auto, 6-speed manual, CVT

Power 180 – 240hp

Torque 128lb/ft – 332lb/ft

0-62mph 7.9 – 9.2 seconds

Top speed 116 – 149mph

MPG 38.7 – 67.3

CO2 99 – 176g/km