WHEN did estate cars become so cool?
The day a man put down a deposit on a kiddie-lugging estate was once akin to automotive castration. Estates performed clumsily and had all the style of a lumpfish.
The youthful exuberance of crisp- handling hatchbacks or roadsters was body-slammed on to the sacrificial altar, carved up as an offering to the gods of slow-cornering and sensible MPG figures.
No more. In fact, the Ford Mondeo estate I’ve been running as a long-term test for the past few weeks looks better than the saloon version, which still looks wearily dull — the kind of car that makes you slow down because it could be an unmarked cop.
And if it isn’t a rozzer, it’s a computer software salesman on his way to a Wolverhampton conference.
Key facts: FORD MONDEO ESTATE, TDCi, Titanium
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel turbo
Economy: 54.3mpg (combined)
0-62mph: 8.1 secs
Top speed: 142mph
Turning circle: 11.6m
It’s astonishing how much less bland the extension of the boot makes the Mondeo.
Granted, mine is in the upper-level Titanium spec, but it looks fit and agile — muscly, with the lantern jawline of a prize fighter and not an ounce of flab.
The 178bhp 2.0 diesel lump sounds quieter than a mouse trying to stifle a fart at his second cousin’s christening
Then there’s the way the 178bhp 2.0 diesel lump sounds quieter than a mouse trying to stifle a fart at his second cousin’s christening.
And the reassuring injection of urgency afforded by the S mode on the auto ’box makes tight roundabout take-offs a doddle and adds enough spice to stave off longing for the Civic Type R you traded in for a deposit.
It even enjoys cornering. For an estate, it handles like a far smaller saloon. Inside the Mondeo, if you didn’t look at the blue oval badge on the control-encrusted steering wheel, you would think you were in a premium machine.
The dash is a sea of sleek piano black trim (which is also wipe-clean if the kids get into the front).
A large Sony colour console dominates the landscape, from which you can control satnav, climate and Apple CarPlay system.
If you’ve got banana fingers like me, you will have moments of frustration when jabbing at the smaller icons. I strongly advise pulling over for anything complicated.
Becoming a parent changes what people want in a car. Large armrest? Check. Multiple USB ports for the youngun’s iPads? Check. Cavernous storage? Check.
And because it’s a long-term test, I’ve been keeping my eye on the economy.
I’m returning 40mpg from a combination of stop-starting through the giant roadblock that is London a couple of times a week, and weekly motorway trips with the 1,600-litre boot fully loaded. There’s a huge irony in the fact that as estates have become sexy and engaging to drive, SUVs have been overtaking them rapidly in terms of sales.
Sometimes I wish Britain would get over its 4x4 obsession. For most, an SUV is a fashion statement rather than the logical choice, and that’s why they are bullying estate cars in the sales fight.
But if you are aiming to join the Baby Club, I urge you to broaden your search if you find yourself speccing up a Qashqai.