Euan DoigSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used tow car buyer’ written by Euan Doig
Of course, there was a time in the 1990s when the name Mondeo was a source of ridicule and irritation, associated as it was with the aggressive, thrusting ‘Mondeo Man’ who could be seen tailgating all and sundry on his way to that crucial photocopier sale. Usually with a new-fangled ‘car telephone’ the size of a shoebox in his hand.
No more. While Mondeo Man transferred his allegiance to upmarket German brands, the Ford Mondeo Mk3 simply got on with being better than all of its rivals – and better than most of the cars its former incumbent was now interested in.
It was launched as a saloon, hatchback and estate, and the last of these is perfect if you tow while carrying a lot of luggage, because its impressive load area is roomy, practical and flexible.
Early cars are knocking on a bit now, so you’ll be able to pick up a 2007 petrol model for around £1200, but it’ll have travelled the length of the country, many times over.
Tow car users are better off spending nearer to the £8000 mark, where you’ll easily find a low-mileage example of the 2.0 TDCi 140 model, in a high spec and with a comprehensive history.
In 2007, the third-generation Ford Mondeo arrived and simply blew everything else away. It was huge, it was comfortable and yet somehow it drove brilliantly on a twisty road.
The Mondeo range kicked off with a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, but it was nowhere near strong enough for a car of this size. Its performance is pedestrian and economy suffers because it needs to be worked so hard.
The 2.0 petrol is able to muster greater urgency, but it isn’t really that much better. There is also a 2.3-litre turbo petrol, which is linked to an automatic gearbox.
Finally, there is a five-cylinder 2.5-litre turbocharged engine that is genuinely rapid, but very thirsty.
If you must have a petrol Mondeo, go for a post-2010 facelift car, because that was the point at which Ford introduced the turbocharged 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine, which is eager and economical. That said, it’ll still struggle with a caravan attached.
Diesel is undoubtedly the way to go for towing. The 138bhp 2.0-litre TDCi engine provides a strong, smooth surge of torque from around 1700rpm and is easily capable of pulling a hefty caravan.
It’s much better than the grumbly old 1.8 diesel, which needs a lot of gearlever work if you’re to keep up momentum.
There’s also a 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel, which isn’t really strong enough to justify the extra spend.
Post-facelift, in 2010, Ford also offered a 1.6-litre TDCi engine, which is capable enough, but you won’t get anywhere fast.
All Mondeo models are well equipped and trims range from the basic Edge, through Zetec, the green Econetic, Titanium, Titanium X and Titanium X Sport. There was also a Zetec Business Edition aimed at company car drivers.
As you might expect from a car that has been developed to cover large mileages, the Mk3 Ford Mondeo is a relatively robust machine, with few issues to keep an eye out for on the forecourt.
According to comprehensive data provided by our sister title What Car?, the biggest weak spot is the electrical system, which can be prone to gremlins, including frequent headlamp, tail-light and indicator bulb failures, while the solenoid that controls the tailgate-opening switch has been known to go on the blink.
The dashboard can also show up warning lights for the anti-lock braking system, electronic stability control and airbags, which is more than likely a sign of electrical/sensor issues.
Mondeos are also known to get through wiper blades more quickly than rivals.
Early cars were noted for pouring water into the boot if the tailgate was opened after a downpour. A new rubber seal fixed this, so make sure the replacement has been fitted.
Some owners have reported problems with the car’s power steering rack, so if it’s noisy or if you can feel a faint ‘graunching’ when turning from lock to lock, walk away because you could be landed with a big bill for replacement of the pump or the rack as a whole.
Estate versions tend to be filled with cargo on a regular basis, and the boot fixtures and fittings can often bear the brunt of such a high-pressure business lifestyle.
Unless such an example is a serious bargain, walk away, because there will be a much better alternative just a scan of the classifieds away.
If you’re after a bargain-priced tow car, you could do a great deal worse than look at a Mk3 Ford Mondeo, especially the estate model.
The 2.0 TDCi 140 version is definitely the sweet spot in the range because of the way it offers strong, punchy performance, a comfortable, quiet and relaxed driving experience, and vast space for people and their belongings.
It’s also extremely well equipped, and has a pleasing aversion to fuel stations.
You will, therefore, not be surprised to learn that our pick of the range is the 2.0 TDCi Estate Zetec. After all, it can carry five people and all of their caravan holiday gubbins, and is stable when towing. It’s also good to drive solo.
The model we'd avoid is the 1.6 Edge. It struggles to haul the Mondeo even when unladen, so you'd have to work the engine hard if you wanted to tow with it. Fuel economy will be accordingly poor.
What you need to know
The 2007-2014 Ford Mondeo is now available for between £1200 and £10,000. However, while you could pay a four-figure sum that starts with a ‘1’, it’s unlikely you’ll want to, because such cars are likely to have suffered a hard life and will have a seriously large number on the odometer.
You’d be far better to go for a Mondeo that has been built after the 2010 facelift, because these cars got even more equipment, a smarter interior and much-enhanced engine efficiency.
A budget of around £8000 will net you a low-mileage Zetec or Titanium-spec diesel with a comprehensive paperwork file.
Here are some useful figures (for a 2008 Ford Mondeo TDCi Estate):
- Kerbweight 1611kg
- 85% match 1369kg
- Towing limit 2000kg
- Nose weight limit 90kg
If you want to fit a towball, according to quotes from PF Jones, a Witter flange towbar is £106.56, while a Witter detachable towbar costs £184.80 (fitting extra).
What about servicing? An interim service will cost £150.28 and a full service will be £204.39, according to Servicing Stop.