Mondeo – the car that helped define an election

Last September, Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Cortina.

It was a significant car because it arrived as prosperity was growing - suddenly its distinctive segmented rear lights were everywhere.

What few people realise is that the current Cortina equivalent, the Mondeo, is 20 years old this month, giving it a production run as long the Cortina's. Despite that, both the hatch and the estate still rate as What Car? Magazine family model best buys.

While the Cortina gave wider mobility, it was the Mondeo that played a central part in the 1997 General Election, possibly the first time a car has defined a particular, and vital, voter demographic.

Labour set out to target Mondeo Man. Back then, Mondeo was still the darling of the fleets but later Ford dropped out of the expensive game of buying market share and left that mega-discount minefield to competitors.

Mondeo, Ford's first world car, has kept to the familiar formula of growing with each generation so the current model is bigger in every dimension than the old Scorpio that was Ford's previous executive flagship.

Mind you, compared with the painted metal interior and plastic seats of the original Cortina, the current Mondeo probably offers more than a Rolls-Royce could have provided in the 60s and its technical specification is mind-blowing.

Drive the latest Titanium X models - we've just been getting about in the estate with this trim and the 2.0 TDCi diesel engine pumping out 161 bhp - and you realise how sophisticated cars have become without going anywhere near the premium brands bracket. And, indeed, why should you go there when this large, spacious, and comfortable Ford can pamper you for much less money?

There's generous space in the modern Mondeo, enough for five adults to sit without becoming over-familiar. The estate also has masses of load space whether as a five or two seater - few people who shouldn't really be considering at least a Tourneo Custom will find the Mondeo estate's 1,680 litre capacity too restricting.

Of course, one of the beauties of modern Fords is that they are great to drive. The company puts a lot of emphasis on chassis development and, as a result, its cars generally handle well but also enjoy good ride composure.

Too many cars these days have gone from soft and smooth to harsh and jarring. The Mondeo has firmness as a ride feature but is not unpleasant or uncomfortable. In fact a trip of more than 400 miles in a day across a variety of West Country routes and involving long hours on the move was actually refreshing - fun even.

The Mondeo's eager 9.1 second 0-62 mph time and 134 mph top speed can certainly rush you between speed camera appointments but maybe of more use is the hefty 1.8 tonne towing capacity of the six speed manual car and 2.0 tonnes that the Powershift auto will bring. Caravanners will find this a car well suited to their lifestyle.

Even at 20 years old, there's more life to come in the Mondeo. A refreshed version, looking similar to the current car, arrives soon, but in the meantime this Mondeo, and the great deals you can get on it, make the delay for the new car hardly worthwhile.

Car: Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Titanium X estate

Does it fit your ego...

0-62 mph: 9.1 secs

Top speed: 134 mph

Bhp: 161 @ 3750 rpm

Torque: 251 lb ft @ 2000 - 3250 rpm

...and your wallet...

Price: £26,545

Combined: 53.3 mpg

CO2 emissions: 129 g/km

Insurance Group: 22

Best bits: comfortable; capacious; capable.