20 years of Mondeo man

It’s been 20 years since Ford released the Mondeo, a ground-breaking family saloon that helped revive the fortunes of the motor manufacturing giant. But it has since suffered something of an identity crisis thanks to its association with ‘Mondeo man’ – the stereotypical travelling salesman who racks up endless motorway miles in pursuit of a middle class lifestyle. Think Gareth Cheeseman from Coogan’s Run. Or Chris Finch from The Office. And while it’s an undeniable fact that the Mondeo is an outstanding fleet vehicle, this association that has done a lot to undermine just how much of an impact the Mondeo had on Ford’s floundering fortunes and, by extension, the entire motoring world. So let’s go back to the beginning and take another look…

20 years ago…

It’s 1993. The Conservatives are in power. The UK is struggling its way out of recession (sound familiar?), Bill Clinton becomes the 42nd president of the United States, Manchester United win their very first Premier League title, Jurassic Park, Mrs Doubtfire and Schindler’s List are the hit films of the day, Oasis sign to Creation records, Prince becomes and Mr Blobby takes the Christmas number one spot.
And, following a five-year, £3billion development programme and a couple of false starts, Ford releases the Mondeo and begins to turn its ailing reputation on its head. Although Ford cars have always been a popular feature on Britain’s roads, back in 1993 it was floundering amid accusations its cars were being designed by accountants rather than engineers. So when designing the Mondeo, Ford engineers (not accountants) completely overhauled the design so it shared little, if anything, with the Sierra model it was replacing. Sophisticated suspension design not only did away with poor ride quality but resulted in class-topping handling and ride quality, while front and rear subframes offered up executive car refinement. The design team was also told to make the Mondeo the safest car in class, so it became the first car to have a driver’s airbags fitted as standard in all versions, and higher spec models were also fitted with side-impact bars, seat belt pretensioners and ABS as standard. Other features included self-levelling suspension, adaptive damping and traction control, all of which helped make the Mondeo the European Car of the Year in 1994.

First facelift

It’s 1996. The Tories are still in power. The country is out of recession, Changing Rooms embarks on its quest to have everyone rebuild their homes using MDF, Dolly the sheep is ‘born’, Britain is in the grip of the BSE crisis and the Spice Girls not only have the year’s biggest hit, Wannabe, but also the Christmas number one, Two Become One. And Ford now has on its hands a best-in-class, large family saloon which just needed a few refinements here and there to keep it ahead of the pack. So in 1996, the Mondeo’s first facelift model was released and featured a new, more aggressive-looking front grille and wraparound lighting units to address the complaints of bland styling and poor headlight performance levelled at the Mk I. The interior was altered to improve legroom in the back and, as an additional safety feature, the facelift model featured a full-size driver airbag as standard, although some specifications were lowered and functions such as air-conditioning and alloy wheels became optional extras on the Zetec models.

2000: A cabin space odyssey

It’s 2000. Labour are now in the hot seat, pre-millennial ‘Millennium Bug’ tension is a thing of the past – as is the recession( but it turns out we’re all spending our way into another one without realising). Big Brother hits our screens for the first time, Judith Keppel becomes the first person to win £1million on Who wants to be a millionaire?, the Queen Mum turns 100, the last Ford Escort rolls off the production line, Wembley Stadium is to be knocked down and rebuilt and Bob the Builder claims the Christmas number one.
The next generation Mondeo was also unveiled and saw the designers carry out a radical overhaul. Out went the exterior curves and rounded, US-style interior fittings, replaced with cleaner exterior lines and a more sophisticated interior based on the VW Passat. This new Mondeo was also much larger than previous incarnations, with the increased wheelbase offering much more cabin space. Ford used this facelift to introduce its Intelligent Protection System (IPS), which used a network of sensors to calculate the most effective safety features to deploy in an accident. Which makes it sound like a Bond car. Which indeed it became in 2006’s Casino Royale.

Bond’s Mondeo hits the streets

It’s 2007. Labour are still in office, Tony Blair gives way to Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, and we’re on the cusp of another recession. An earthquake measuring 4.3 hits Kent, the new Wembley Stadium opens (and Chelsea win the first FA Cup final played there), foot-and-mouth hits the UK and Leon Jackson (no, I’ve no idea either) takes the Christmas number one slot with When You Believe (again, no idea).
Following on from its cameo in Casino Royale, Ford’s newest Mondeo hits the streets a year later, retaining the sharper angles and ‘Germanic’ interior and loaded with advanced technologies such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Interactive Vehicle Dynamic Control and Ford Easy Fuel System to stop people topping up their petrol engine with diesel, or vice versa. Later updates to this model include Ford EcoBoost petrol engine technology and safety and convenience features such as Driver Alert, Auto High Beam and Lane Departure Warning. With its reputation as a safe, reliable vehicle intact, Ford’s next generation Mondeo will launch next year with an emphasis on fuel economy and green energy. It’s 2014. The Conservatives/Lib Dem coalition is in office… [embed width="560" height="315"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LMdCXVLS50&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

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