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Packing up the Mondeo hybrid for a long drive

Many might like to conjecture that the Ford Mondeo, similar to so many big saloons, could be headed for the knacker’s yard within the next three years or so. In some ways that would be a pity, as on its day it was one of the best cars to drive with almost faultless dynamics. Yet we waited too long for the latest model, and when it came the SUV/Crossover craze was running riot, so big saloons were not the first choice for families. Yet the return of the Toyota Camry after a long absence from these shores may mean that all is not lost. I have had some great times in Mondeos over the years as well as its forbears.
So, I was in quite a nostalgic mood when I picked up the Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate to take on a trip to Donegal. Mondeo Man lived again.
The estate version was one of the biggest load carriers in the business, however the batteries for the hybrid electric power have taken a big chunk of the space behind the rear seat, probably almost halving the area between floor and pull-out cover. Yet despite that I am a serial over-packer we managed to get in a fold-up double canoe, a massive suitcase – that could probably take two bodies – and a whole array of other luggage, including dog beds, four very large supermarket carrier bags and, on the return, a lot of purchases while still keeping everything out of sight.
However, the most impressive thing about the Mondeo Hybrid was its economy. We did a lot of fast motorway driving as well as the testing Donegal roads and by the time we returned to Phibsborough 800km had been built up, yet there was still 115km available and 300km had been done in EV mode. The overall consumption had levelled out at 5.1 litres per 100km. Not bad at all for a large comfortable car, which – as you will see from the photograph above, taken outside our very favourite hotel, Rathmullan House – also has a certain charm.
Talking of Rathmullan, this was our third trip there in four years, and we love it. Not only do they have great dog-friendly rooms; a superb restaurant, the Tap Room, with Kinnegar beers and great pizzas; but the hotel overlooks Lough Swilly, and you just walk across the front lawn to a glorious Blue Flag beach. Oh, of course, there’s also the delightful White Harte bar overlooking the pier.
But back to the Mondeo. It is ideal for a long journey even if most of the time the back seat was only taken up by our Jack Russell, Ziggy.
The test model was the Mondeo Titanium Hybrid Estate in Moondust Silver. It is in the 126-140 emissions band and main features were: the very satisfactory 16in alloy wheels; power folding door mirrors; SYNC 3 with 8in touchscreen; parking sensors – front and rear; keyless entry; cruise control with speed limiting device; traffic sign recognition; and lane keeping aid.
Additional options include: privacy glass at €150 and metallic paint for €600. All pretty normal and very much musts on a car in this price range. There should also have been a rear camera, if not an all-round-view one. While the Mondeo starts from a very low €22,513, the HEV estate model came in at €35,247, and with additional options, €35,997 (this excludes p&p).
It was a good car for the trip but it seems like the start of a long goodbye. I feel that Ford has given up on it. An icon will go out of motoring and political discourse. A fully electric Mondeo doesn’t seem on the cards – Ford SUVs like the Kuga are likely to get that – but the company is generally coming very late to the EV party.
The day I gave back the Hybrid Mondeo, I was whisked off to spend a day with the new Ford Focus ST, which claims to “blend track-day performance, B-road fun and everyday usability without compromise”. Now I can’t talk about the “track-day” stuff unless you take in a fast chase down a motorway, but a few hours of driving across mountain roads during which the weather would switch from absolute torrential downpours to awful steamy heat meant that you couldn’t fault the “usability without compromise”.
I’m not a target market for the fast ST cars (the ST-line range is different – style without substance) but in a good year Ford would sell about 50 of them at prices that will start at €40,000. The uncertainty in the market might change that.
They are fun to drive, especially with the great throaty roar of the Ford’s 280 PS 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol. The new engine line-up makes available to drivers up to 12pc more power and 17pc more torque compared with the previous generation ST. The petrol engine deserves to be the most popular choice, but there is also a 190 PS 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel. Both deliver a broad spread of power and torque across for fast sports performance. Ford’s first application of an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) for a front-wheel drive vehicle further enhances the cornering and stability of the EcoBoost-powered variant – sharpening responses to changing grip levels and driver inputs using computer-controlled pre-emptive actuation. The Michelin tyres are excellent.
A choice of six-speed manual or quick-shifting new seven-speed automatic transmission is offered, and Selectable Drive Modes technology is introduced to the Focus ST for the first time, enabling drivers to adjust the vehicle’s character to suit the driving scenario.
“We’ve incorporated learnings from programmes including our Ford GT supercar and the acclaimed Focus RS to develop a mid-size performance car with a degree of flexibility that’s unique in its segment.” said Leo Roeks, Ford Performance director, Europe.
I wish Ford luck with the Focus ST. It’s definitely fun, looks sportier, is fast and well built, but a bit like the Mondeo, these sorts of cars will become dinosaurs. Although the investment in dynamics should trickle down to keep cars like the Fiesta at the top of their game. Ford is going through a lot of change, which will impact heavily on the Irish HQ in Cork. I wish them well, they are good people.
While I was with the Focus ST news came of the pricing for the all-electric MINI (below). At €27,765 on the road for an iconic car – which is celebrating its 60th anniversary – this is a great way for city dwellers especially to get into the EV market while having all the MINI style and driving ability we all love.
Range is between 230-270km. Deliveries will start next March, and I can’t wait to give it a blast.
This time a classic deservedly lives on.

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Here’s what made up my mind about Ford’s new ‘SUV-look’ Focus Active

I usually get to the stage in a review where I ask myself, on your behalf, if I would buy a particular model should I be in the market for, and be able to afford, one. This week’s model provided me with a serious reason to buy – and an equally weighty one to avoid. I have reached a decision but before disclosing it, permit digression to tell you a little about the Ford Focus Active and my experiences with it over the course of 1,100 or so kilometres of varied driving across the face of the country.
I won’t burden you with details of the basic Focus; suffice to say that in its intrinsic ­hatchback guise it is a fine car. I like the versions with the sporty rear axle the most; others less so.
That is very much by-the-way as far as the Active model on test is concerned. It is called Active because it is made to look a bit like a crossover/SUV. It is a reasonable attempt with raised ground clearance, roof rails, black wheel arches, bigger bumpers, skid plates, sports-type seats and so on. It works okay so long as you don’t look too closely, but really it’s a bit of a hotchpotch of contrivance. Realistically, it would be better to buy the larger, pricier, more robust Kuga or go somewhere else for a family SUV. The only thing is the substantial extra cost.
All that aside, I thought my test car looked a bit garish in white. Give me a nice blue ‘ordinary’ Focus hatch any day.
I must concede, though, the Active addresses, however mildly, the demand for cars that look more SUV than hatchback.
Thankfully, my impressions of the outside did not carry to the interior. Apart from ‘sports-like’ seats which seemed to give us all an extra modicum of comfort, it was grand. My backseat passenger was happy with the space, too.
We also easily fitted three reasonably sized carry-on cases in the boot – with plenty of room to spare. So the practical side of things remains constant.
Countering some reservations about the whole Active concept was the 1.5-litre diesel engine. I got an average of 5.1-litres/100km over 1,100km, mostly well laden with passengers and luggage. That is 55mpg. Impressive.
I was delighted with it given the profile of driving undertaken. With a little more care and a little less urgency, I’m certain 60mpg was there for the taking. We’ll miss these diesels whenever the curtain eventually comes down on them.
Now, you can probably guess where all this is going: the balancing of different looks versus frugal fuel consumption.
You’d be only partially correct. There was one major factor which would have been definitively decisive were I in the market for a car of this sort.
I didn’t notice it much at first, but once I did, it was as if I were waiting for it to happen; a sure way to overcook prejudice and criticism.
The engine seemed to almost gasp for breath when I looked for pulling power in second and fifth gears in particular.
You know when you are toddling along in traffic in second and you press the accelerator and it seems like something has disappeared?
Well that’s what happened with this. Same result, different scenario when in fourth and doing nicely – until I’d shift up.
It has to do with gears and gearing and all that; power felt surprisingly distant on a few occasions.
And that would be the deal-breaker for me.
I think in their, however laudable, attempt to make this as easy on fuel as possible they may have placed too much reliance on the diesel engine’s ability to generate pulling power (torque in other words).
With a load on board, the lack of such was more than noticeable.
On the open road it was a perfectly good cruiser and so long as I kept the power on, it was fine around the lower gears.
But I drove as I normally do – as with all cars I test – and discovered this.
I still like the ‘ordinary’ Focus a lot and have not come across the power hiatus experienced in my Active model in it.
I think the Focus hatch is underrated. Yes, I would buy that model. Indeed I recommend it on a regular basis to readers, friends and acquaintances.
However, I wouldn’t buy this Active version as tested.
I don’t think great fuel consumption and ‘SUV looks’ are enough to swing the argument in its favour.
Facts & figuresFord Focus Active 5dr
1.5 TDCi 120PS, 6spd, 93g/100km, €180 tax. Focus range from €22,513; test car; €27,563.
Spec: 17in alloys, ‘Active’ upper grille/front/rear bumpers, black cladding/wheel arches, skid plates, LED front fogs/cornering lights, black roof rails, 30mm+ clearance; 8in t/screen, SYNC 3, voice control, sports-style front seats; Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Trail modes.

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Wraps come off new electric Mini set to hit Irish showrooms next spring

These are first official pictures, details and prices of the new electric Mini. The brand is claiming it is the first small car to run solely on battery electric power in the premium segment.
Prices start from €26,890 after the SEAI grant of €5,000 and the VRT rebate of €5,000 have been factored in. That price puts it right in the mix with the likes of the Renault Zoe, for example.
You can expect to see it in Irish showrooms next March but, as is increasingly the case these days, the order books are now open for next spring delivery.
The announcement also marks something of a milestone in that the brand’s first full electric car is being unveiled in the year that the company is celebrating its own 60th birthday.
Given the current drive toward electric motoring, the Mini EV’s timing is good – and the starting price looks decent.
There is also an Irish link: the electric Mini model is being masterminded by young Dundalk man James Redmond.
All future Mini electric vehicles will be made at the Oxford plant for global markets.
There are some interesting figures among the details of the new EV. For instance, it clips from zero to 60kmh in 3.9 seconds and to 100 kmh in 7.3 seconds, which in a car of this size should feel particularly fast.
The electric motor pumps 184hp and 270 Nm of torque (pulling power).
The lithium-ion battery is capable of going 235 to 270km between charges (WLTP figures). The ultimate range depends on model; the higher level you opt for, the more range you get.
Mini says luggage space is not affected by the intrusion of the battery pack and standard equipment includes a new digital dashboard, connected navigation including real-time traffic information (RTTI), LED headlights and tail lights.
The new EV can be charged at a household socket, wall-box or public charging stations; fast direct-current charging is possible at up to 50 kW.
It should be a great little driver given electric cars’ capability to deliver all their pulling power from the get-go – plus the fact it is a Mini with substantial verve built into the chassis anyway.

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