Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
Where could Ford go after the iconic Sierra? A car that had spawned so many stunning touring cars and on-road powerhouses from Cosworth is not an easy thing to follow. That was the pressure that was laid on the European arm of Ford in 1992. Not only had the new car to succeed in that replacement mission, but it was also to become a "world car" with versions sold everywhere, even in the important home market in the US. The name Mondeo just added to the pressure, it's an adaptation of the Latin "mundus" which literally means world... Fortunately it was an instant success, spawning a series of dominant saloons and estates that still refuses to budge. So successful has the evolving Mondeo been that the US-model became the same thing eventually (although still badged Fusion rather than Mondeo). The Mondeo is now a true World Car. Now the Mondeo has received a stylish upgrade, this is the Mondeo Vignale – ready to take on the next step up in the car market.
We all know what the Mondeo looks like now, that Aston Martin-esque grille, the taught lines that arrived with the previous model and the cool rear with a snazzy-fonted Mondeo badge. It's the inside that the Vignale sets itself apart from the rest of the range. Ford wanted to step into new territory with Vignale, attacking more normally well-appointed machines with an all-options-added assault. Into the Mondeo come laser-cut leather with diamond stitching, a soft touch instrument panel and its all stuck together by hand giving everything that little extra sense of finesse over the standard model.
"Our" Vignale came fitted with the slightly less powerful version of Ford's two-litre TDCI diesel motor, producing 180PS through a six-speed manual gearbox. There is a 210PS version available too but this is the bigger seller. As you expect from any Ford it's much more fun to drive than a boring family saloon, although the latest Mondeo is perhaps a little more grown-up than the older models – a legacy of the true world car it has become. There are no mechanical changes to the Vignale over the standard model, which is a good thing in reality given that the Mondeo is engaging to drive yet perfectly at home cruising around already. The latter is probably the more important feature for Vignale, given that this car will be more bought for a style boost over a standard Mondeo than because the buyer wants a peppy sprint across the country.
As with our recent drive of the Edge Vignale, you have to salute Ford for stepping into bold new territory. The Mondeo Vignale is a £5,000 premium over the standard car, for which people will expect more than just a large options list. Fortunately, the Vignale delivers on this upgrade, managing to bring its cabin up to the standard of the rivals it expects to take on. We would spec it with the more powerful motor and the automatic 'box, but most will go for the 180 and not be disappointed. If this is the first set of cars Vignale can offer us, then we're excited to see what they do when they really get their eye in!