The idea of a ‘world car’ wasn’t an entirely new one when the Mondeo, or CDW27 as it was then known, was first mooted in the mid-1980s. Indeed, Ford had tried it a few years earlier with its Escort, and General Motors had done the same with the Cavalier – but neither were really global products. Born from the same idea, perhaps, but each was developed by separate teams on both sides of the Atlantic – with the final products being rather different to cater for the different markets.
But research revealed that cars didn’t have to be entirely different to be sold to markets around the world. By the late 80s, the differences in what customers wanted in the US and Europe were getting smaller. Safety regulations were becoming harmonised worldwide, while buyers in all countries were increasingly concerned about fuel consumption and emissions.
Ford had two products that desperately needed replacement. The Sierra, in Europe, was dated, and losing sales to Japanese rivals. The same was true for the Ford Tempo in the US. Why then, should Ford go to the expense of developing two replacement vehicles for both models, when one would do?
Technology would make it easier for a true world car to be developed. By the late 80s, it meant video conferencing could take place between Ford employees worldwide. A dedicated TV-equipped studio set up at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre provided a live connection to Cologne and Dearborn, negating the need for executives to take expensive (and time-consuming) flights to discuss the CDW27 project.
Fast forward to 23 November 1992, and the very first Mondeos left the production line ahead of the model’s official debut at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show. The design of the production Mondeo (taking its name from the Latin ‘mundus’, meaning ‘world’) originated from a concept drawn up by Ford’s studio in Cologne. Proposals by the Dearborn design studio, Ford’s California Concept Center and Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin were all rejected, while the interior was developed at Dunton in the UK.
Taking a seat in this 1995 Mondeo LX we’re testing here, it’s a strange contrast between old and new. It’s relatively modern – the switchgear, for example, is logical and easy to find, while the seats feel comfortable enough for covering several hundred miles with ease. But visibility is incredible – you sit a long way forward, all part of the ‘cab forward’ approach – with a raked windscreen and short, sloped bonnet.
Richard Parry-Jones, the man who would develop the original Ford Focus into arguably the best-handling C-segment car ever, was appointed as chief engineer for the Mondeo. He was given the challenge of making the Mondeo better than the Honda Accord and Nissan Primera – both class-leading in terms of driving at the time. And what a commendable job he and his ‘drive team’ did.
An innovative suspension setup was developed, with the hatchback model here using Ford’s ‘Quadralink’ suspension at the rear mounted onto a separate subframe in a bid to improve refinement. Power steering was standard across the range – at the insistence of said drive team, which included Jackie Stewart.
Although Ford firmed up the Mondeo for Europe, it certainly feels on the softer side today. It wafts over bumps in a way that middle-management company car drivers can but dream of today – helped, no doubt, by its 14-inch wheels. Negotiate bends with any sort of gusto and it’ll lean in a way that modern cars just don’t, but don’t let that fool you – it’ll grip and grip, while providing this brilliant thing called ‘feedback’ though the steering wheel: something that we no longer take for granted.
Power in Ford’s heritage car comes from the popular four-cylinder 1.8-litre petrol Zetec engine, produced at the firm’s engine plant in Bridgend. It’s a likeable engine, especially combined with the five-speed manual gearbox, and keen to chase the entire rev range. Officially it’ll hit 60mph in 10.5 seconds and is capable of 121mph. Not quick by today’s standards, but neither is it going to be left behind on modern roads.
If it’s thrills you’re after, you’ll be wanting the US-sourced 2.5-litre V6. Although it sold in much smaller numbers in Europe, they do come up for sale occasionally. With 170hp on tap, the V6 will take the Mondeo to 62mph in 7.8 seconds and up to 139mph flat-out.
If you really want to buy an original Mondeo – and why wouldn’t you – you’ll be pleased to read that they’re worth peanuts today. Keep an eye on the classifieds and a budget as low as £300 ought to find you a running project with an MOT, while paying a little more opens up a wider market. We wouldn’t pay four figures for a Mk1 Mondeo unless it’s something special – a minter, perhaps, or a rare specification.
The downside of the low values is that, to many, they’re still seen as cheap sheds – and may have been maintained as such. Service history is desirable, as are wheelarches that aren’t made of filler. Take a magnet and a screwdriver to check, and have a gander through the car’s MOT history to check what it could be hiding.
Ask for evidence that the cambelt’s been changed recently – Ford advises changing it every 80,000 miles, so factor it into your negotiations if it hasn’t been done. Other than that, it’s fairly standard stuff: do all the electronics work, does it get up to temperature (and stay there), and does the suspension feel tired on the test drive?
While Ford parts shouldn’t be challenging to come by, we have heard of some obscure early Mondeo parts becoming increasingly difficult to find as the number left on the road drops. If there’s anything that the seller’s neglected to fix, ask yourself if there’s a reason for that.
We don’t need to tell you just how successful the original Ford Mondeo went on to be. A flurry of dealer demonstrators meant it became the sixth best-selling car in the UK in the first half of March 1993 – despite not officially going on sale until 25 March. Reviews from the time all agreed that it was an enormous step up over its Sierra predecessor while, in 1994, it won the title of European Car of the Year.
Its success meant the Mk1 Mondeo went through a period of being vanilla but, as we approach its 25th anniversary, we reckon it’s about time we celebrated Ford’s world car. While it takes a special sort of person to get excited by the Mondeo, we’d encourage anyone to save this future classic (yes, we went there) before it becomes entirely extinct.
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