Ford’s newest diesel powerful, efficient

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Ford’s newest diesel powerful, efficient

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The exterior and interior designs of Ford Mondeo. The car offers inflatable rear seatbelts that automatically expand like airbags in a collision to protect passengers (bottom left). Provided by the company

The diesel sedan market in Korea is led by the Germans - BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volkswagen. But U.S. carmaker Ford is attempting to challenge their dominance with its latest model, the Mondeo.

The Korea JoongAng Daily took the midsize sedan for a spin from Gangnam, southern Seoul, to the Unification Observatory in Paju, northern Gyeonggi, and back again.

The Mondeo was previously sold in Korea as the gasoline-only Fusion, but the model was unsuccessful and the company changed its name when it rolled out the modified diesel version in March.

At a glance, the Mondeo’s exterior may seem familiar to Koreans who have seen the Fusion. Its low-cut front end hints at American muscle cars of the past, but from the side the model has an Aston Martin-like sleekness. The rear resembles Renault Samsung’s small SM3 sedan.

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One of the most significant changes to the interior is the control of the air-conditioning system, which has been changed from a touch screen to buttons to reflect consumers’ complaints about the Fusion.

The new Mondeo has a turbo charged 2.0-liter TDCi diesel engine that provides high torque at low RPMs, making the car powerful and responsive. The 180-horsepower engine has a maximum torque of 40.8 kilogram-meter and a fuel efficiency of 15.9 kilometers per liter, which the company said can climb to 18.2 kilometers per liter on the highway. It has a fuel-efficient six-speed dual-clutch transmission, and its auto start-stop system saves 5 to 10 percent on fuel while driving in the city, according to the company. Its Active Grille Shutter also improves efficiency by reducing air resistance during high-speed driving - a feature that the company said it is only added to Mondeo among its mid-size diesel sedans.

The overall driving performance was quite satisfactory. The car’s design is modern and elegant, but the low-slung body presents a potential hazard driving around Seoul, with the city’s speed bumps, narrow parking lots and alleyways. The company seemed to be aware of this - before loaning the car to the reporter, a company official shined a light over every nook and cranny of the vehicle to demonstrate that there were no scratches, and that any test-drive damage would not go unnoticed.

The diesel engine was powerful and the paddle shifts on the steering wheel made high-speed driving a joy. As soon as you touch the pedal, the car Ford introduced as a family sedan immediately leaps into action.

The company labels it mid-size, but considering its size and weight, consumers could consider the model a large-size sedan. By comparison, Hyundai’s mid-size Sonata LF is 1,460 kilograms and the Mondeo is 1,678 kilograms. Hyundai’s large-size sedan Grandeur is 1,691 kilograms.

One thing Korean consumers might not enjoy about the model is the noise it generates while accelerating, which is noticeably louder than its German rivals like the BMW 5 Series.

The Mondeo also provided some noteworthy safety options. Its inflatable rear seatbelts automatically expand like airbags in a collision, and its adaptive LED headlamps illuminate blindspots by shining in the direction the steering wheel turns. Other features include Lane Keeping Aid, which alerts the driver if he or she drifts from their lane, adaptive cruise control and an electronic parking brake.

Korean consumers, however, will likely be drawn to its fuel efficiency and price. The fuel efficiency is a bit better than the Hyundai Grandeur diesel (13.8 kilometers per liter) and its rival Volkswagen Passat (14.6 kilometers per liter), but is lower than BMW 520d (16.1 kilometers per liter), the best-selling 2.0-liter diesel model in Korea.

Mondeo is offered in two trims, the 17-inch wheelbase Trend and 18-inch Titanium. The Trend is offered at 39.9 million won while the Titanium runs 43.3 million won. It certainly is tempting consumers interested in Korean sedans like the Genesis, which tops 40 million won, and BMW 5 Series at around 60 million won.

The biggest concern is whether Korean consumers will recognize Ford as a premium import brand. Can Mondeo change the Koreans’ long-held perception of American cars as gas guzzlers? Whether or not this is possible, the Mondeo is definitely a competitive car that improves the variety of imported car options with its reasonable price and fuel efficiency.


BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.k]

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