What Car? Car of the Year awards 2009 - Family car

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  • 16 categories of awards
  • All the winning models featured here
  • What Car? Car of the Year 2009 revealed
Family car
What we were looking for: A car to soak up long distances with ease, cope with everything that family life can throw at it, and that won't bust the household budget to run.

The contenders
Best buy under £16,000
Mazda 6 1.8 S 5dr
List price £14,891
Target Price £13,803
Best web price £12,416 (www.drivethedeal.com)

Best buy £16,000 – £18,500
Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI CR 140 S 4dr
List price £18,007
Target Price £16,413
Best web price £15,081 (www.uknewcars.com)

Best buy over £18,500
Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Zetec 5dr
List price £19,428
Target Price £16,828
Best web price £13,543 (www.carfile.net)


The winner is...
Family car
Ford Mondeo
2.0 TDCi Zetec 5dr
List price £19,428
Target Price £16,828

With two wins on the bounce, the Ford Mondeo is back on top in a big way.

When we say big, we mean really big. The sheer size of the Mondeo is probably the thing that hits you first.

The boot's so big that you could lay out a fair-sized Scalextric track in it, while the cabin is simply enormous — there's more rear legroom than you'll find in many luxury cars. You could take five strapping rugby players from Twickenham to Murrayfield and they'd feel fresh enough to scrum down as soon as they arrive.

There's far more to the Mondeo than its sizeable dimensions, of course, not least how well it manages to cope with all of that weight and bulk on the road.

On the road
It might be one of the big boys, but the Mondeo doesn't feel like it, and it can duck and dive with the best of them. The quick, well-weighted steering provides plenty of feedback from the road, and it's amazingly responsive. Also, you can dart about, position the Mondeo with confidence and really have fun, thanks to an excellent chassis and suspension set-up.

While the Mondeo can do fast and furious, it can also do calm and comfortable. That steering might be quick, but it's not jittery, so when you want to make more stately progress, it's still stable and confidence-inspiring.

Refinement is also a major selling point — the cabin is well-insulated against both road and wind noise, so you won't be constantly turning up the stereo.

Performance
The smooth 2.0-litre diesel engine is also a peach. It makes the Mondeo nippy away from a standstill, while the broad spread of torque makes for easy overtaking without the need to constantly change gears. If you do turn off the motorway and onto a back road, however, you'll love the way the slick six-speed gearbox shifts.

The engine helps give the Mondeo real range, too. With strong economy, and a 70-litre tank, there's potential for some serious mile-munching. Emissions are creditably low, so you won't cringe when you come to renew your road tax, and company drivers won't be murdered by high monthly company car tax bills.

Equipment
Stepping up to Zetec specification does cost a little bit more than the entry-level Edge model, but we feel a car as capable as the Ford deserves it. Edge trim is pretty good, but it misses out on the alloy wheels that set off the Mondeo's snappy styling, and Zetec cars also have climate control and electric rear windows.

The Ford Mondeo has turned the family car market on its head and proved that you can be big and clever at the same time. It's a jack of all trades, and a master of most.

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