End of the world car: one last race in the Ford Mondeo

Nothing lasts eternally. Not even one of Ford’s most successful, high-performance family models ever made. Not even a car whose name was once used by the country’s rulers to define a particular variety of British voters. Not even the ubiquitous Ford Mondeo.

Next March, after five million European sales over four generations, and 29 years of production, the Mondeo will disappear from our showrooms. Few buyers will even notice its departure, as few buyers are more looking for a Mondeo. If you’re looking for a graphical illustration of how the auto market has changed dramatically in three decades, a Mondeo sales chart is well worth a look.

In the early 1990s, the new Mondeo was touted as the first truly global car, the likely foundation for a new era of success at Ford. He introduced front-wheel drive, a revolutionary change for a Blue Oval car of this size. It ushered in a bold new era of sophisticated design, plus a revolution in ride quality championed by the influential and outspoken young engineer from Dunton, Richard Parry-Jones.

Looking back, Autocar’s own enthusiasm for the arrival of the Mondeo in 1993 underscores just how important this was to a European automotive event. Our launch story on January 6, 1993 (as part of a staging of the car’s unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March) consisted of an extremely detailed 12-page technical detail of a car that the CEO of the ‘time, Ian McAllister, described it as “the best thing we’ve ever done.” Advanced gadgets included a standard full line driver airbag, 16-valve four-piston engines, V6 and turbo-diesel model promises, seat belt pretensioners, and (in some models) traction control and adaptive shock absorbers. Our first driving verdict, published on 10 additional pages three weeks after the launch story, carried the cover line “The Mondeo is King!” because we had pitted it against a Nissan Primera, Peugeot 405, Toyota Carina and Vauxhall Cavalier and its excellent handling, handling, refinement and specifications made it an undisputed leader in its class.

This first explosion of exposure to Mondeo was just the beginning for us. By March we had packed another new Mondeo and, using an Autocar team of 10, we had covered 12,000 miles across Europe in the space of a week. For the same issue, on March 17, we borrowed another Mondeo, plus nine rivals (Alfa Romeo 155, BMW 3 Series, Mazda 626, Nissan Primera, Peugeot 405, Seat Toledo, Toyota Carina, Vauxhall Cavalier and Volkswagen Vento), to lead the father and mother of all comparison tests – which the Mondeo has won over 32 pages.

Like our road testers, the first potential customers immediately sensed the difference, just as Parry-Jones and his group had promised. Buying a utility Ford started to be cool again, as it had been decades ago when Ford won rallies for fun, and eventually Le Mans as well. It was also a time when “ Ford ” appeared on the cam covers of almost all Formula 1 cars.

Mondeo sales were expected to be up to 400,000 per year in Europe and Asia, plus around 250,000 in the United States, where the car was to be called the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. It never really worked out well across the pond (American Ford customers thought the car was too small and bought the sturdier Taurus), but sales got closer to the brand early on. forecast in Europe, pushing 375,000 in 1994, the first full year of sales.


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