Past Master: 1993 Ford Mondeo

We take a look at another former What Car? award winner. In this case, it's the Ford Mondeo – our 1993 Car of the Year...

1993 Ford Mondeo 1.8 GLX – Rewind Wednesday

Ford’s once-ubiquitous hatchback scooped our Family Car of the Year award, as well as overall What Car? Car of the Year, back in 1993. However, it was born from the ashes of a disappointment. So where did its predecessor go wrong? And how did the Mondeo get things so right?

Where it all started

In 1993, the Ford Sierra was on its way out and, at What Car? we weren’t sorry to see it go. Despite the much-lauded motorsport success enjoyed by the Sierra RS Cosworth, the standard car had never quite hit the mark.

Luckily for all those people who drove Fords as their company cars, a major rejuvenation was just around the corner in the shape of the Mondeo.

1993 Ford Mondeo 1.8 GLX – Rewind Wednesday

Ford’s new family car took its name from the Latin word 'mundus' (meaning 'world') and for good reason: it represented a more cohesive approach from the company, with development split between Europe and the US, and was even advertised as a “car for the world”.

One of the notable influences from the US was the inclusion of a driver’s airbag, making the Mondeo the first car in the UK to be sold with one as standard on all versions.

However, this was far from the only change; the Mondeo shared little with the Sierra it usurped, swapping from its predecessor’s rear-wheel drive layout to front-wheel drive.

At launch, buyers had a choice of three petrol engines (1.6-litre, 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre variants) and five trim levels (Base, LX, GLX, Ghia and Si). The car was priced from £14,600 when it went on sale.

1993 Ford Mondeo 1.8 GLX – Rewind Wednesday

Our 1993 Car of the Year

In dishing out praise to the Mondeo, we pulled no punches over Ford’s other lacklustre models in its portfolio at the time, stating the new saloon “embodies all the virtues missing in mainstream Fords for so long”.

It was clear that the Mondeo was a step up from its predecessor and, indeed, the rest of its rivals. We wrote:

“Ford’s new family car gets it right in nearly all the important areas to make it a far more tempting proposition than the Sierra has been for years.

"They’ve come up with a car with quality to match a Nissan Primera, handling and ride to match a Peugeot 405, an interior design to beat a Cavalier and refinement to top the lot.

“It contains a whole host of safety features, including a standard-fit driver’s airbag, which leaves rivals gasping. All this is some achievement, and for the thousands of buyers who’ll be taking delivery of a new family Ford this year, it’s fantastic news.

1993 Ford Mondeo 1.8 GLX – Rewind Wednesday

Our 1993 Car of the Year

In dishing out praise to the Mondeo, we pulled no punches over Ford’s other lacklustre models in its portfolio at the time, stating the new saloon “embodies all the virtues missing in mainstream Fords for so long”.

It was clear that the Mondeo was a step up from its predecessor and, indeed, the rest of its rivals.

“Ford’s new family car gets it right in nearly all the important areas to make it a far more tempting proposition than the Sierra has been for years.

"They’ve come up with a car with quality to match a Nissan Primera, handling and ride to match a Peugeot 405, an interior design to beat a Cavalier and refinement to top the lot.

“It contains a whole host of safety features, including a standard-fit driver’s airbag, which leaves rivals gasping. All this is some achievement, and for the thousands of buyers who’ll be taking delivery of a new family Ford this year, it’s fantastic news.

“The Mondeo isn’t perfect, mind. Rear seat head room is a bit restricted and the steering feel could be better. But with so many plus points on its side, all of which will make life more pleasant for so many people, the stylish, good-looking Mondeo has to be our 1993 Car of the Year.

And so we concluded:

“What we liked: top-notch refinement, strong performance from the 1.8-litre Zeta engine (so much sweeter-sounding here than in the Escort), a supple ride combined with wonderfully fluid handling, a welcoming cabin with a rounded, futuristic feel, ample leg room, a slick gearchange, smart, distinctive looks – and a winning litany of safety features including a standard-fit driver’s-side airbag.

“What we didn’t: steering is slightly rubbery, rear head room is a little tight and economy could be better.”

1993 Ford Mondeo 1.8 GLX – Rewind Wednesday

What’s it like today?

Step inside the Mondeo and the interior is a wonderfully retro and comfortable place to be. All the dials and switches feel robust and the driving position is bang on the money, with great visibility and a good range of adjustment along with spongey and supportive seats that help you soak up the miles in comfort.

It still has remarkably good cruising manners, with a floaty ride that wafts over imperfections with a gentle bounce and it feels well planted at speed. The 1.8-litre engine doesn’t have much poke but offers linear acceleration that will drag the car up to motorway speeds and cruise along without trouble, although performance does feel a bit flat throughout the rev band and it doesn’t have a particularly charismatic exhaust note. The gearbox is sweet, though, with a nice, precise shift that still feels pretty sharp after all these years.

But let’s not get lost in blue-tinted nostalgia; hit a winding road and the Mondeo handles more like a family barge than a family saloon. The steering is slow and uncommunicative, and it doesn't feel agile. That said, you’re unlikely to want to tear up the countryside in it; it’s much better suited to town or motorway driving.

1993 Ford Mondeo 1.8 GLX – Rewind Wednesday

We admittedly had an exceptionally well-looked-after model from Ford’s heritage fleet, but a drive in the Mondeo still leaves you thinking that, with its gentle ride and comfortable interior, you could easily run it as a daily car today.

How much do they cost now?

You’ll do well to find a first-generation Mondeo in the classifieds; they are very rare indeed. This isn’t because they are a sought-after and much-loved classic, but rather because they were fairly ordinary and so often run into the ground by fleet companies. If you do find one, it would command a relatively hefty price. Early models with around 50,000 miles cost around £1500.

If you widen your search to include post-facelift (Mk2) models, then you’ll find a few more on the market for a lot less money. One from around 1999 can be had for as little as £500. However, while Fords do generally have a pretty good reliability record, any car that old will likely require a bit of investment in its upkeep. So long as it's been cared for previously, though, it has a good chance of running fairly sweetly.

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Prefer something modern?

The Mondeo has continued to evolve, of course, but even the latest version is starting to feel its age. So what should you buy instead? Here we count down our top 10 modern alternatives – and reveal the models to avoid.

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The latest Mazda 6 offers strong but quiet diesel engines and plenty of room for passengers, plus Mazda's infotainment system is second only to BMW's for ease of use. Only the fact that the 6's low-speed ride is firm and the handling less precise than you might expect stops it finishing higher.

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9. Jaguar XE

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Taking on the German brands in the executive car market is a big task, but Jaguar has made a good go of it with its junior saloon, the XE. It's offered with a strong range of engines and rewards keen drivers with excellent steering and sharp handling. It's let down a little when it comes to interior quality, but a generous equipment list should entice company car drivers.

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The C-Class is one of the big three when it comes to executive cars – the other two being the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, which feature further up this list. Merc's car does a lot well, too, combining strong and efficient engines with a smart interior and lots of toys. However, the ride is rather firm on standard suspension.

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Next: the top 10 continued >>

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