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Headline:FastSaloons.com ST220 Test ReportDate:09/09/2002
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:  
FastSaloons.com Road Test
Road Test 5 - Ford Mondeo ST220
6th - 9th September 2002 (3 days)
Distance travelled 128miles
The ST220 arrived at 10am clothed in Black Panther paintwork. I was sort of expecting a silver car, as every new car is silver these days. However in Black it looked good. It suits the car's shape and adds to the subtle aggressive style. The car is actually brand new and has just been washed following it's 79mile trip to me. The car wears 16 spoke, 18inch alloys which are standard and fill the arches well.
The cars skirts and lowered height makes it look instantly crediable. The Fog lights are highlighted with a silver ring.
The two exhausts poke out of the rear at either side of the car clearly signals this cars potential.
First outing is a couple of hours later. The engine does not sound too impressive on startup, it does not roar and just settles down to a quiet idle. Revving the engine produces more noise but again not that impressive. I feel a little bad that the car is brand new and that the engine will be tight. However in the interests of the site I won't let this bother me, too much.

Initial impressions are that the car's ride feels soft and bumps are absorbed well, with little fuss. This differs from the Subaru WRX and Alfa GTA which both feel harder - with the Alfa being the hardest. The steering also feels very light and gives you a slightly remote feeling. The gear change is light too - but works well with gear changes slotting in well. The clutch and brake pedals are also a lot lighter to push than I'm used to in the B10.
The Interior feels spaceous and the black leather Recero seats are firm and hugging. The driver gets an electric seat which is great. The seat adjusts well and the driving position is therefore comfortable. The steering wheel's spokes are finished in silver and adds to the sporting feel. The dials on the dash are silver with a silver ring around them. The lettering is red and green and it gives you the sporty impression.

The cars dash is finished in smooth black high gloss finish which looks good.
The first test run is a collection of roads A, B and dual carriageway. I know the roads well and it should give me an opportunity to push the car (and me). The first point of order is that it is by now raining heavily. The engine has had a chance to warm up and is still quiet as I potter along at low revs. I get a clear road and open things out I drop the car into second and let rip - the wheels momentarily spin until the traction control reigns the spin in. The cars engine sounds good under load building above 2,500 - 3000. The car revs well upto its max (6900rpm). The car accelerates deceptively and I find I am already over the speed limit. On the dual carriageway I push it right into forth and easily reach unacceptable speeds.

Cornering is very good despite being front wheel drive and having 226bhp. The Steering although light works well and you soon feel comfortable driving fast. Deliberately pushing the laws of physics - say driving around a midsized roundabout a number of times, sees the electronics intervening but not too much - this allows the car to maintain the corner without obvious understeer. Even in the wet this system works well and I was impressed. Even hard prods on the accelerator are handled - with the car only slightly getting out of shape. Whilst a smooth approach meant you could corner very cleanly.
Ride is good and whilst it is soft there is not much roll and the car can change direction well. The only downside on the ride front was on B roads where the wheels seemed to scrabble around on the uneven surface - which made the front end of the car feel a unsettled.

The weak point for me was brake feel and although the car does stop the overall experience is slightly less than reassuring. I not sure if this can be attributed to the EBA (Electronic Brake Assist) which is designed to reduce emergency stopping distances by reinforcing the driver's braking effort. Or if it is just brake feel - but I felt this did detract from the rest of the car. I found the top part of the brake had little effect and in traffic meant i had to press harder than I expected - the alternative was hitting the car in front. On the flip side emergency braking is good with the ABS kicking in effectively.

Overtaking the car works well - although the it is worth dropping down a gear for the full-force acceleration. The car is fun to drive and does provide a good compromise between fast driving and relaxed cruising, which is important for a car in this class.

The weather on the second day was not much better but we did manage to get some shots of the ST and some joint shots with the B10. As both cars are black they look good together and the ST is not upstaged in the looks department.
The second test run Unfortunately, it started raining again which curtailed the photo session but did present another opportunity to test out the handling in the wet. The steering again suprised me and does give the car a reassuring feel. I also found the car performed better when I pushed it. Due to the weather and traffic the second test run was not too long.

The cars onroad presence is quite good and whilst people didn't move aside as readilly as they do when I am in the B10. The car does get looks. Currently the ST is a rare site on the road, in fact this car is the first I had seen. Parked up back at the house my neighbours were impressed with the car and asked about it. The ST badge itself has respect and as far as I can tell the car lives up to the name.

Early Designs/ Brochure images
Test Results
Top speed in Gears (based on Speedo only)
2nd Gear 67mph 3rd Gear 95mph 4th Gear 125mph (5th Gear 151mph claimed)

The third test run Was done in tandem with the B10 and gave us an approach to test the ST's straight line speed. To begin with it allowed me to test the ST's low speed in traffic behaviour. The car is quiet and easy to drive slowly, my only issue was with the position of the accelerator pedal at 40mph which made my ankle hurt. Moving the seat partially remedied this. (I'm 6'1). The electric seat meant it was easy to move the seat but I would have prefered to have not needed to move the seat at all.

On the open road again the ST again proved itself to be fast and in a short acceleration run against the B10 fair relatively well. Off the line the ST struggled to keep up with the B10 - I was a bit suprised as I usually struggle to get the B10 going hard in first gear - I usually leave it 2nd before give it full juice. So either my wife is better at sprints (could be true - and possibly a factor in her being my wife in the first place) OR the ST also struggles to get power down in 1st. Even with the electronics on the wheels spin in 1st (peculiarly more in the dry). In fact push hard I managed to spin the wheels in 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
Handling wise I tried a few more roundabout tests and found that the car behaved equally well in the dry as it had done in the wet the first day. In addition fast left - right bends were also dismissed easily.

Grip was good (apart from the spinning off the line), the car has Continental Sport Contact 2 255 40R18 as footware. Obviously the tyres were brand new so should grip well, but sometimes the tread doesn't suit the car. In this case the tyres seem inline with the rest of the car.

Verdict

The ST220 offers a good compromise between practicality, comfort and performance. The car is not difficult or distinctive to drive slowly - but on an open road the sum of it's parts add up to an entertaining and safe package. The car looks after the driver and thus can be enjoyed with confidence.

At 21,745 the ST220's rivals include : Alfa 156 2.5V6 (20,550); Audi A4 2.4 Sport (21,590); BMW 320i SE (22,880) Honda Accord Type-R (21,495); Jaguar X-type 2.0 V6 sport (22,245); Lexus IS 200 sport (21,205); Mercedes C-class 200K classic (21,495); MG ZT190 (21410); Peugeot 406 3.0 V6 Exec (21,695); Renault Laguna V6 24v (19,960); Rover 75 2.5 V6 connoisseur (21920); Saab 9-3 2.0t Vector (21,595); Skoda Superb 2.8 30v V6 Elegance (21,550); Subaru Impreza WRX (21,495); Vauxhall Vectra 3.2 V6 Gsi (20,980); VW Passat 2.8 V6 4motion (22,095); Volvo S60 2.4 T S (22,095).

Of those challengers the real rivals can be narrowed down to the Accord Type-R, MG ZT190, Subaru WRX and Vectra Gsi. Of these I have only driven the WRX and out of the two the Mondeo felt more special - it also felt faster. The subaru has so much grip and traction (thanks to 4wheel drive) that it feels slow (or least feels like it should go faster) in fact that it is where the Sti (and at least an extra 4.5k) comes in.

TopGear reviewed the ST220 against the MG, Accord and Vectra and found that the ST was the best. An on the basis of my test I would not dispute that.


Finally I would like to thank Ford's Mondeo team for loaning us the car.









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