Towing a 1250kg caravan behind a 1346kg Hyundai i30 to the south of France earlier this summer convinced me by the time I'd even left the outskirts of Calais that 113 tiny little Korean horses just weren't enough. The speed limit for towing a 'van sur le Continong is a reasonable 130 kph or 85mph in real money, but the i30 imposed its own speed limit of 62mph on a good day so by the time we'd reached the Dordogne a week later the decision was taken.
Now I am a great believer in learning from other peoples' real life experiences so on our return from France I spent a long time researching the reviews on what is termed 'family' or Class C sized cars and the general consensus is that the Mondeo bested everything else by a country mile. The problem is that I retired in January and my rather meagre pension arrangements had not planned for a new car for at least another five years - learning to live on a fixed (small) income is another hard lesson in this rich and exciting life. As well as a strong, heavy car with plenty of grunt to pull my caravan, another important factor in my buying decision is that this would have to be a 10-year car, so buying used was really not an option as one doesn't know how those first 20,000 miles have been covered by the previous owner. And then I came across Ford Direct.
Five-down on the left side of the Ford UK Home page is a little menu item which opens up with this http://www.ford.co.u.../VehicleLocator and from there you reach the Holy Grail, a brand new Ford at used car price. There are basically three categories of vehicles handled by Ford Direct: ex-Motability which are 2-3 years old and can have 20,000+ miles on the clock, Ford's own employee company cars which are generally under a year old with around 7,000 recorded miles and lastly the type of vehicle in which I was interested, namely pre-registered and technically classed as used but in reality brand new. The reason all manufacturers pre-register cars is to try to gain market share in the all-important fleet sales league tables. Since introduction, the Vauxhall Insignia has consistently outsold the Mondeo, which only goes to prove fleet buyers have absolutely no idea about motor cars because they would only have to read AutoExpress, Honest John, What Car? etc to learn quite how bad the Vauxhall really is!
When you have decided on the engine, trim level, colour and price you want to pay (not necessarily connected as we will discuss later) the search begins in earnest – because wherever you might live, even if your postcode is from the dark side of the moon, the vehicle locator will tell you that your choice of car is in Preston, or Brighton or even Aberdeen but in reality it isn't there at all its in a field just outside Gillingham! Although you can order a car from Ford Direct for delivery to your very own front door, what Ford is trying to do is to send you to a Dealer and that is indeed the best option as we shall see later. The other problem with the vehicle locator is that within an engine type and size - I wanted a 2.0 TDCi - it doesn’t indicate power variants. For towing I had decided on the 163PS which has considerably more torque than the 140PS . . . and its faster!
So, initial research completed my wife and I went to the local Ford Main Dealer to try out a Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 163, except we had to make do with the 140 as 163's are rarer than dogs which say more than just 'sausages'. As it happens, the final decision to invest in a new car was made by my bank as a 3.24% ISA had matured a few weeks previously and the thieving so-and-so's offered a paltry 0.9% to roll it over. The next hurdle to be overcome in the Ford Direct version of Monopoly was that you don't necessarily get to own the car of first choice, even if you throw a double six and its showing on the website as being available.
The Dealer version of the Ford Direct website is rather different from what us punters get, I can tell you. Remember the bit above when I said that the choice of trim, colour, engine etc had no real connection to the final price? Well my friendly Ford Main Dealer - and they genuinely were very professional, very friendly and very helpful without applying any pressure – were showing a choice of seven Mondeo Titanium 2.0 TDCi's with the 163PS engine on the Ford Direct screen when we arrived that morning, all with 25 recorded miles but at a range of prices from £16,998 all the way to £17,998. How does that work? its just one of life's mysteries! Anyway, the choice of colours was black, dark silver, light (moondust) silver, moondust silver, moondust silver etc etc. We didn't want black, especially with 'privacy glass' at the back it looks too much like those Co-Op cars which take the rellies up to the Crem although I can see it might appeal to some. We went outside to look at a 140 Titanium in the dark (metallic grey, really) silver which we fancied. Choice made, back inside to the Sales Manager to complete the deal . . . . . but in the five minutes we were looking at the colour of our choice, another Dealer had pressed the Order button and it had disappeared from the screen - so it was moondust silver after all!
Now comes the price bit; we desperately wanted that car, but made out all nonch and got up to walk out when offered it at £16,998. Eventually we settled for £16,500 cash for a car whose list price was £22,795! We were quoted a delivery time of 7 to 10 working days, but it actually arrived in 5 and when it came there were two nice surprises – it had option 5 spoke 18” alloys instead of the 10 spoke 17's at no extra cost, and there were just 13 delivery miles on the clock. The Sales Exec was as surprised as we were but the explanation is that Ford build cars with the most popular options in the hope that anything they pre-register will be more attractive and find a buyer quickly and also since the 2013 facelift doesn't offer 18” they wanted to get rid of surplus stock. My car was built in November 2012, registered on 31st. December 2012 and pdi'd by Fords on 13th. January 2013. The other advantage in buying through a Dealer apart from being able to haggle on the price, is that the car gets three pdi's, one by Ford, another one when it arrives at the Dealership and an inspection and certificate from the RAC. With the Ford full 2 year warranty is RAC membership with caravan recovery included which is a big plus, saving £160 on two years RAC Arrival membership.
We have now covered 1500 miles and the Mondeo is getting run-in in the old fashioned way – gently! The Ford Direct buying experience well exceeded all my expectations, apart from one niggle and that is the Owners' Manual which is quite appalling, but I'll have more to say on that when I write a review on the car itself in a few months time.
Usual disclaimers, I don't work for Fords, nor am I in any way connected with the motor industry, I'm actually a retired photographer. If you are interested in buying a Ford Direct pre-reg vehicle and want more info then do please Message me and I'll be happy to oblige.