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First drive: Mondeo 1.8LX - on sale now

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Review

The Ford Mondeo has featured in the top 10 best selling models in the UK since its launch in 1993. Back then it redefined the family saloon sector with precise steering and great handling, and raised the bar again when the current version was launched in 2000.

It’s also a firm favourite with fleet buyers and was the basis for the original ‘repmobile’ image. An all-new Mondeo is due in January 2007 but until then, Ford is aiming to give the current model a new lease of life with a subtle face-lift and an improvement in quality.

The most noticeable changes are at the rear with new light clusters and a new bumper, which incorporates a lower lip with twin reflectors. At the front, a mesh grille with chrome surround is now standard on all models.

Inside the cabin, the door handles, clock surrounds and gearshift gaiter are now chrome and there is a wider choice of interior colours. Two new trim levels, Titanium and Titanium X, have been added, which offer similar equipment levels to the Ghia and Ghia X variants, but are aimed at younger buyers.

Along with cosmetic changes, there are improvements to enhance driving quality. The braking system has an improved feel and more responsive, solid feedback when applying the brakes.

The good news is that the Mondeo is still as impressive as ever and has plenty to appeal to the keen driver. A great all-rounder, it handles well and has responsive, well-weighted steering, although the 1.8-litre petrol engine can feel underpowered at times. The 115bhp 2.0-litre TDCi would be our pick at just under £900 more.

Last year, Ford sold 60,441 models while big rival Vauxhall sold 48,450 Vectras, enough to put a smile on the face of those with an affinity to the blue oval. For the first six months of 2005, the ubiquitous Mondeo has already sold 32,229 units, proving that it is still as popular as ever.

Strengths: Great handling, quality interior
Weaknesses: 1.8-litre slightly underpowered
Opportunity: Face-lift should boost sales
Threat: Modern rivals
The USP: New look for popular car
Price: £16,000
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Performance: 1.8-litre, 125bhp: 0-62mph 10.9sec; top speed: 127mph
Efficiency: 37.2mpg, 182g/km CO2
CAP RV 30k/3yr: £4,450 (28%)
Rivals: Vauxhall Vectra, Renault Laguna, Honda Accord, Mazda6

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