You can tell it’s a base model because of the black door handles. Check out the wheels too: 16in steelies with silver-painted plastic hubcaps. Not cool. But base-level Mondeos aren’t about cool. They’re about practicality and a hint of driving enjoyment for the family man/sales rep (delete as applicable).
Just how basic is the basic Ford Mondeo?
Get over the steel wheels (you can have alloys as an option) and the Mondeo Edge is decently equipped. You have to wind down the rear windows manually, but there's remote central locking, a cracking CD/radio, manual air-con, even cruise control. The interior actually benefits from losing the faux-aluminium 'spears' on the front door trims, and the cloth-trimmed seats are comfortable and supportive. It's well-finished and solidly put together but very unpretentious.
That diesel engine sounds a bit small
The 123bhp 1.8 TDCi puts out the same 251lb ft of torque as the full-fat 138bhp 2.0-litre, but it peaks at 1800rpm rather than being ladled out from 1750rpm to 2240rpm. That means you lose a bit of overtaking punch and you'll sometimes miss the longer surge of the 2.0-litre's accelerative powers.
But if you'd never driven the 2.0-litre you'd be happy enough. The 1.8 rarely feels under-endowed and it's also decently refined, only really exposing its oil-drinking habit when cold or if you pull away in a hurry. At a cruise it's just a background hum, and it pips the 2.0-litre (just) on fuel economy and emissions but loses out by a second on the 0-62mph sprint.
The bigger saving is on purchase price: the 1.8 costs £16,995 as a five-speeder or £17,195 with a six-speed 'box, compared with £17,595 for the six-speed 2.0.
Does the Ford Mondeo handle?
Like all Mondeos, even in poverty spec you get an entertaining drive. In the transition to this series, the car has physically grown and it's a bit more mature in character too, all to the benefit of ride comfort (adroitly damped but never harsh) and refinement (generally hushed with a bit of background white noise from the tyres). So it's not exciting in a hot hatch sense, but it is secure and involving enough to make punting down a B-road something to be savoured. In this respect, it's leagues ahead of the Renault Laguna and Vauxhall Vectra, and it's also lighter on its feet than the premium cars from Germany.
Not many people buy a Mondeo with their own money, and most fleets run to Zetec spec at least. But what the Edge proves is that the Mondeo doesn't need glitzy trim to shine. In fact, its down-to-earth nature makes the car's outstanding qualities (space, agility, quietude, comfort) stand out all the more. It really is good enough to make you wonder why you'd blow another £7k for a Merc C-class.
But you know as well as I do that, if you want truly amazing value for money, buy a Mondeo when someone else has owned it first.