The Ford Mondeo (first generation) is a mid-size car that was produced by Ford, beginning on 23 November 1992, with sales beginning on 22 March 1993. It is also known as the Mk I Mondeo; the 1996 facelift versions are usually designated Mk II. Available as a four-door saloon, a five-door hatchback, and a five-door estate, all models for the European market were produced at Ford's plant in the Belgian city of Genk. In December 1992, Autocar published a section on the Mondeo, and how it would conquer rivals.
Intended as a world car, it replaced the Ford Sierra in Europe, the Ford Telstar in a large portion of Asia and other markets, while the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique replaced the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz in North America. Despite being billed as a world car, the only external items the Mondeo shared initially with the Contour were the windscreen, front windows, front mirrors and door handles. Thus, the CDW27 project turned out not to be a true world car in the sense that the original Ford Focus and newer Ford developed under the "One Ford" policy turned out to be—that being one design per segment for the world. The first generation Mondeo was replaced in 2000, by the larger second generation; in the United States and Canada, the Countour/Mystique were replaced by the Fusion and fourth-generation Taurus and fourth-generation Sable.
Instigated in 1986 (just before its Sierra predecessor received a major facelift), the design of the car cost Ford US$6 billion. It was one of the most expensive new-car programmes ever. The Mondeo was significant as its design and marketing were shared between Ford USA in Dearborn and Ford of Europe. Its codename while under development reflected thus: CDW27 signified that it straddled the C and D size classes and was a "world car". The head of the Mondeo project was John Oldfield, headquartered at Ford Dunton in Essex.
A large proportion of the high development cost was due to the Mondeo being a completely new design, sharing very little, if anything, with the Ford Sierra. Unlike the Sierra, the Mondeo is front-wheel drive in its most common form, with a rarer four-wheel drive version available on the Mk I car only. Over-optimistically, the floor pan was designed to accept virtually any conceivable drivetrain, from a transverse inline-four engine to a longitudinal V-8. This resulted in a hugely obtrusive and mostly disused bellhousing cover and transmission tunnel. The resulting interior front of the car, especially the footwells, feel far more cramped than would be expected from a vehicle of this size. The Mondeo featured new manual and automatic transmissions and sophisticated suspension design, which give it class-leading handling and ride qualities, and subframes front and rear to give it executive car refinement. The automatic transmission featured electronic control with sport and economy modes plus switchable overdrive. The program manager from 1988, and throughout its early development, was David Price.
By 1989, Ford had confirmed that it would be launching an all-new front-wheel drive car to replace the Sierra within the next four years, although it had not yet decided whether the Sierra name would continue or be replaced, with some subsequent reports even hinting that the Cortina name could make a comeback, having being axed in 1982 when replaced by the Sierra. Several prototypes were tested that year, but the launch of the Nissan Primera in 1990 prompted Ford to made a number of major alterations to the final product, as it saw the new competitor from Nissan to be the benchmark car in this sector, having previously identified the Honda Accord as the class leader.
The car was launched in the midst of turbulent times at Ford of Europe, when the division was haemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars, and had gained a reputation in the motoring press for selling products which had been designed by accountants rather than engineers. The fifth-generation Escort and third-generation Orion of 1990 was the zenith of this cost-cutting/high-price philosophy, which was by then beginning to backfire on Ford, with the cars being slated for their substandard ride and handling, though a facelift in 1992 had seen things improve a little. The Sierra had sold well, but not as well as the all-conquering Cortina before it, and in Britain, it had been overtaken in the sales charts by the newer Vauxhall Cavalier. Previously loyal customers were already turning to rival European and Japanese products, and by the time of the Mondeo's launch, the future of Europe as a Ford manufacturing base was hanging in the balance. The new car had to be good, and it had to sell.
It was finally unveiled to the public on 23 November 1992, although sales would not begin for another four months. Only at this stage had Ford confirmed that the new car would feature a completely new name, with press reports frequently referring to the "new Sierra", which would soon be on sale until the announcement that the new car would be called the Mondeo.
Safety was a high priority in the Mondeo design, with a driver's side airbag (it was the first ever car sold from the beginning with a driver's airbag in all of its versions, which helped it achieve the European Car of the Yeartitle for 1994), side-impact bars, seat belt pretensioners, and antilock braking systems (higher models) as standard features. Other features for its year included adaptive damping, self-leveling suspension (top estate models), traction control (V6 and 4WD versions), and heated front windscreen, branded Quickclear.
The interiors were usually well-appointed, featuring velour trim, an arm rest with CD and tape storage, central locking (frequently remote), power windows (all round on higher models), power mirrors, illuminated entry, flat-folding rear seats, etc. Higher-specification models had leather seats, trip computers, electric sunroof, CD changer, and alloy wheels.
During its development, Ford used the 1986 Honda Accord and in the later stages the 1990 Nissan Primera as the class benchmarks that the CDW27 had to beat.