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Larger, more stylish, and more refined, the MA Mondeo was a much more appealing car than its predecessor. The first Mondeo was well regarded in Europe, but failed miserably here when it got lost in the turmoil that was Ford Australia in the wake of the tumultuous AU launch. But being larger, more stylish, and more refined, the MA Mondeo was quite a different and much more appealing car than its dismal predecessor.
While the previous model was highly regarded for its on-road dynamics its looks were bland, but the new model corrected that deficiency with striking new styling to go with the rewarding drive.
The base four-cylinder engine delivered respectable performance, but perhaps more importantly it boasted respectable fuel economy. The cabin was cavernous and the interior layout both practical and stylish; the switches and gauges were well placed and user-friendly, and the seats were comfortable and supportive.
There is nothing to suggest the Mondeo is afflicted with any serious issues, the reports from the trade say it is a reliable and generally robust car. With seven airbags and electronic stability control in addition to the now expected ABS brakes and brake assist the Mondeo was well equipped to handle a crash. The minimum fuel requirement for the base four-cylinder engine is 91-  octane, but the hot five-cylinder turbo requires at least 95-octane. Honda Accord 07-09: One of the class benchmarks, the smart looking Accord is a rewarding drive with heaps of features, punchy engine, precise handling and supple ride.
Toyota Camry 07-09: Not very exciting, but the ever-reliable Camry is roomy, comfortable with good boot space and respectable fuel economy.
The Mondeo’s arrival was heralded as a sign of things to come as Ford signed up for the company’s world-wide car program but like many models the company’s local arm has introduced here in recent times it fizzled rather than flew. It wasn’t a bad car, it was highly regarded in its European home territory, and was warmly praised by local road testers, but the Mondeo just didn’t get off the ground. Ford’s plan for the Mondeo, a replacement for the popular Telstar, was to tackle the mid-sized heavyweights, the four-cylinder Magna and Camry, but it was a new nameplate to a market comfortable with the rival badges and not willing to switch brands without good reason. Ford unveiled a range of four models and three body styles when it lifted the wraps on the car it dubbed “the affordable European”.
Ford hoped the Mondeo’s European chassis dynamics would prove to be the thing that swayed mid-sized car buyers to switch from the Japanese cars they were buying. It was a delight to drive on a winding road where the chassis balance and response could be fully appreciated. Four-wheel disc brakes provided powerful stopping performance, and there was the option of ABS if you wanted added stopping safety. The LX sedan and wagon opened the bidding with wheel trims, colour-coded bumpers, velour trim, central locking, power steering, power mirrors, adjustable steering column, and a driver’s airbag. Add to that air-conditioning, upgraded trim, power windows and intermittent wipers, and you had a GLX sedan or hatch.
A restyled model brought a bright new look in 1996 along with an array of new standard features. Air-conditioning became standard across the range, while the GLX got standard cruise control, power driver’s seat, and remote locking.
Ford also retuned the 2.0-litre engine to extract more form the mid-range to make it more drivable for the average motorist who wasn’t interested in revving it into the next world to realise its performance.
Another minor upgrade followed in 1999, before the final fling in 2000 that brought a new look, new model line-up, and a hot new sports sedan. Gone were the LX and GLX badges, in their place came the new Verona and Ghia nameplates respectively. The ST24 came with sports suspension, a 125 kW 2.5-litre V6, five-speed manual gearbox and an aggressive body kit. The HE Verona sedan is priced at $14,500, the Ghia hatch at $16,500, and the hot ST24 at $18,000.
With odos averaging close to 100,000 km the Mondeo motor is due for a cam belt change so carefully check for a service record to see that it has been changed when due.
You can also expect to replace disc brake rotors at around the same distance if they haven’t already been replaced.

Some owners are reporting problems with the auto trans at 100,000-plus km, which can mean a $2500 rebuild. Look for minor bumps and scrapes, particularly poorly repaired and painted bumpers, which are prone the damage. A nicely balanced chassis with four wheel disc brakes means good crash avoidance, and a driver’s airbag is standard if you can’t avoid the impact. Ken Dickson is the happy owner of a 1995 LX auto that has been trouble free over 82,000 km. Forgettable styling means Mondeo has been forgotten, but with good chassis, brakes and steering, it’s worth a look.
The EL was the last in the line of aerodynamic Falcons that began with the EA in 1988, and arguably the best. Ford spent $40 million on what was a comprehensive facelift designed to fix the problems that had plagued the all models of the Falcon since the EA, including the EF that immediately preceded the EL.
Compared to the EF there was a number of relatively minor cosmetic changes, including new grilles, headlamps, bumpers, tail lights and wheel trims. Thicker, tinted glass and added dash insulation reduced noise inside the Falcon, while new seats increased headroom, which made it more comfortable for taller drivers.
While the external changes were welcome the big improvements on the EL were underneath where changes to the suspension and steering dramatically improved the handling. The EF had been criticised for a handling imbalance that made it seem as though the front and rear were having a domestic dispute and weren’t talking to each other. The problem was that the rear suspension roll rate was markedly different to the front roll rate which manifested itself in the feeling that the car was lurching into oversteer when changing direction. Ford responded by lowering the rear roll centre and altering the geometry of the front suspension to improve the steering response. It was possible to link the six to a five-speed manual gearbox, but most buyers opted for the four-speed auto. On the road the Falcon six delivered heaps of torque, which made it easy to drive and great for towing, while delivering reasonable fuel consumption for the time.
The Falcon model range kicked off with the GLi sedan and wagon, which came with a decent array of standard equipment for the time, including power mirrors, cloth trim, lumbar adjustment in the front seats and remote central locking with an engine immobiliser. Then there was the prestige Fairmont, which came with alloy wheels, auto air, trip computer, six-speaker sound, and power windows front and rear. Next came the Fairmont Ghia that had a more powerful, 162 kW engine, nine-speaker sound system, six-stack CD player, LSD, leather trim and lashings of chrome. Check everything on the car to make sure they work, from lights to wipers, radio, heater, and air-conditioning.
Falcons of the era are renowned for problems with the air-conditioning controls and they’re expensive to replace so make sure all is well there. The six-cylinder engine is prone to head gasket leaks, even with as few as 50,000 km on the odometer. Primary safety was upgraded in the EL with the adoption of the then latest generation of Bosch ABS anti-skid brakes, which were standard on all models except the GLi where they were optional. An important safety consideration now is that the EL Falcon was the only Australian-built car at the time to feature a driver’s airbag standard on all models, with a passenger’s side airbag available as an option.
Ageing big car with sturdy fundamentals that make them hard to kill, but they’re let down by small irritating things.
It faded from the market as fast as it appeared, and it wasn't missed, so with that humbling background the new Mondeo arrived without too much expectation of doing anything special. It offered sedan and hatch body styles, a wide choice of models, and a range of engines including a decent diesel and a hot turbocharged five. It was a front-driver, but plenty of work had gone into making it sharp and responsive and the result was excellent ride and well-balanced and nimble handling.
For even more economy there was the option of a turbo diesel engine that had heaps of torque for a more flexible driving experience, while the five-cylinder turbo provided all the punch sporty types needed for a thrilling ride. The base LX boasted air, power front windows and mirrors, and CD sound; the Zetec had alloy wheels, parking radar, cruise, dual-zone air, six-stack CD sound, auto wipers and power driver's seat.

Even when its masters finally put it down it was still relatively unknown by the car buying public at large. With 97 kW at 6000 revs and 175 Nm at 4500 revs, the fuel injected Zetec four was relatively smooth and quiet, and a willing revver if you were prepared to bury the right foot in the cut-pile. While the manual ’box was well geared the shift was stiff and awkward, but improved when the shift was changed to a cable type in 1996. It wasn’t enough, but it has to be said that the Mondeo rode, steered, braked and handled well. The Ghia had alloys, plush velour trim, woodgrain, trip computer, traction control, dual front and side airbags. It had 120,000 km on the clock, had been serviced regularly and the cam timing belt had been changed at 100,000 as per service book. He rates the road holding terrific, the brakes great, the auto smooth and quiet, and the air-con perfect.
The company had assumed the top sales spot in the early 1980s and cruised into the 1990s still comfortably ahead of archrival Holden, which was recovering from its financial meltdown in the mid-1980s. It was also the last model before the ill-fated AU, which sent Ford into a financial tailspin that rivalled Holden’s of a decade earlier.
The perception was worse than the reality, but it was enough for many customers to feel uncomfortable and the complaints rolled in.
Other changes to the front suspension bushes, shock absorbers, and steering made the handling more linear. There was the 4.0-litre single overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine that had an alloy cylinder head and fuel injection and produced 157 kW at 4900 revs and 357 Nm at 3000 revs. Without abusing them it’s really hard to kill them off, but irritating little things that stemmed from questionable build quality and development shortcomings also plagues them.
It was more of a problem on earlier models, but reports still come in about the EL, which suggests it too had problems. Water pumps can also be a problem so check to make sure there are no signs of coolant in the oil and the temperature gauge is sitting where it should. The transmission carries barely enough oil for the job and it’s not uncommon to see them being rebuilt after 140,000-150,000 km. To achieve short stopping distances, most manufacturers, Ford included, fit the cars with hard brake pads and soft disc rotors. The XR5 got larger alloy wheels, a sporty body kit, heated front seats, keyless entry, and push-button start. As with all European cars expect a relatively high rate of wear on brakes, both pads and rotors, and tyres compared to cars coming from Asia.
He says the engine is responsive, it handles like a dream, is economical, and there is no visible rust.
It is still taut in the suspension and steering and has only required minimal repairs, including brake pads and tyres at 50,000 km. Water pumps can give trouble, and oil leaks are common from the rear main bearing seal and the timing cover seal.
This means it’s usually necessary to replace the disc rotors at the same time the pads are replaced, which occurs at intervals of 50,000-60,000 km.
It handles well, the performance is adequate, the engine is noisy, but the auto gearbox is clunky and thumps into gear. Most mechanics replace the factory-fitted pads with softer equivalents, which extends the disc life and makes ongoing maintenance less expensive. You can download this as nice desktop wallpaper by right click and save as into your computer.
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