FORD MONDEO 2.0 ECOBOOST : Modern Mondeo

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Price: $167,999 with COE

1,999cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select

Power: 240bhp at 5,300rpm

Torque: 345Nm at 2,300-4,900rpm

0-100kmh: 7.9 seconds

Top speed: 240kmh

Fuel consumption: 7.5 litres/100km

There is not too long, Ford dreamed to become which Volkswagen is today - an empire of the motor vehicles made up of several marks supported by synergy and the economies of scale.

It is still unclear why Ford failed in its quest and VW succeeded.

But it was not an entirely futile exercise for America's second-largest vehicle maker. Through its past ownership of Aston Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo, Ford learnt what made premium cars desirable.

And it has brought its wealth of knowledge to bear on recent products. The puny but spunky Fiesta is more fun than the Volkswagen Polo. The Focus ST closely matches the Golf GTI. The S-Max is probably the coolest MPV in town.

And now, the Ford Mondeo is muscling in on Singaporeans' favourite segment: the full-size sedan.

The latest version has the stature and the styling to pull it off. When compared with cars such as the VW Passat, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Mazda6, the Mondeo holds its own quite well - it does not blend in with the rest, neither does it stick out too much.

It has an imposing side profile, sleek and regal, with lines and angles that remind you of the BMW 5-series. Interestingly, both the four- and five-door versions have exactly the same silhouette.

Its high waistline, low-profile LED lights and aggressive Aston Martin-like grille are contemporary design cues that elevate the traditionally staid model.

What speaks volumes, though, is the car's build quality. Its impossibly thin and uniform shutlines, deep gloss paintwork and overall fit and finish of the cabin are on a par with what you see on the Sonata, the current standard bearer in the segment.

But for good measure, Ford has thrown in features that are usually found in a higher segment.

The Mondeo has adaptive cruise control (the best I have sampled so far), autonomous emergency braking, phone connectivity, TFT instrument gauges, keyless access and ignition (with the key being able to store programmed settings), memory seats with automatic easy- access function and an adaptive lighting system.

The full-LED system adjusts the headlight beam angle and intensity to match road contours, ambient lighting, steering angle, distance to the vehicle in front and even wiper speed.

Changes that you do not see include the use of hydro-formed high-strength steel in the A- and B-pillars as well as the roof rails. The car has an integral link rear suspension which, together with new insulation materials, reduces road noise to levels achieved by the Camry, its quietest rival.

Unlike the Camry, though, the Mondeo is a lot more engaging and entertaining at the helm. Its 2-litre turbocharged engine puts out 240bhp - unchanged but now attainable at 5,300rpm instead of 6,000rpm.

Peak torque goes up marginally from 340Nm to 345Nm, but arrives earlier at 2,300rpm instead of 3,500rpm.

And instead of a dual-clutch autobox, the new Mondeo employs a traditional torque converter gearbox that is equally smooth and responsive in any given situation.

The car is the same size as before but weighs about 100kg more on account of its higher equipment level and enhanced insulation.

Yet it is slightly more economical on account of its beefier powertrain being tuned for efficiency rather than peformance. (Clocking a 7.9-second century sprint instead of 7.5 previously, it is still among the quickest 2-litre sedans around.)

At the wheel, the car feels remarkably effortless and confident, sturdy yet comfortable, and sporty in an unobtrusive way. It does not hide its size, but its chassis does a creditable job of minimising the unwieldy traits of a large barge.

The result is a very refined progress, close to what you experience in a performance luxury sedan.

Perhaps if it had a car like the Mondeo 15 years ago, Ford would not have needed to line its stables with all those premium marques it eventually sold.

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