Congratulations for getting this far into the story. By advancing beyond the headline, you identify yourself as one of those who do not believe that a Mondeo badge is the motoring equivalent of the big black cross they used to slap on house doors during the Black Plague.
Now we've got past that, let's get on with discussing ins and outs of owning what Shed believes to be the best model of the best generation of Mondeo, namely the ST220 version of the 2000-2007 Mk 3. Folk who have been through the whole Mondeo ST thing, from ST24s through ST200s to the ST220, will usually agree that the 220 is the one to have. It's not just the fact that it had more power than any of its predecessors, or that it had all the equipment you'd ever want as standard fit, including big, supportive electrically adjusted heated leather Recaro seats.
It's the all-round package of performance, handling and, especially in the most popular hatchback version or the estate with its self-levelling suspension, surprising practicality. Either of those could be loaded up with everything a modern family might need before breezing them across a continent - albeit at fuel consumption figures that would make the driver of a 2019 sporting family car go white. The driving position and visibility are great, and good lock on the steering makes parking easy.
Today, you can add jaw-dropping value to the list of ST220 plus points. With MOT'd ST220s now popping into our £1500-and-under Shed of the Week feature, as one did only last month, you've got to ask yourself what's happening. Part of the answer to that lies in the anti-Ford and anti-Mondeo sentiment referred to in the opening paragraph. That distaste is hard to justify in the ST220's case, as its road test history paints a picture of a car that could stand up to and beat just about all of the contemporary opposition.
With 217bhp at 6150rpm and 206lb ft at 4900rpm, it ran to 151mph (or 155mph in later facelift form), with a 0-60 time of 6.8sec using a slow-running stopwatch or, more realistically in the low sevens, matching the 7.2sec times of a Vauxhall Vectra GSi or a Honda Accord Type R. In silver, even with the lovely multispoke alloys, an ST220 can merge into the background, but in Performance Blue, or even better Panther Black with red leather - legend has it that only 36 saloons were made in that colour scheme - it really pings. These are still very handsome cars.
Ford dropped a clanger by selling the more exciting (and £2000 cheaper) Focus RS at the same time as the ST220, making the Mondeos harder to shift in period than they should have been, but the 220s are now beginning to attract that slow, sly sort of attention from people who are good at spotting money-makers but who don't want anybody else to spot them.
Don't expect to make a fortune on an ST220 just yet, though. As PHer Hub recently commented, 'they are probably more Sierra XR4x4 than RS Cosworth in status and desirability'. And of course real value very much depends on the quality of the car. There's no point slapping yourself on the back for finding a £995 ST220 if it needs three grands' worth of work doing to it. Setting all 'it's a bit council' prejudices aside, the ST's cracking engine and chassis definitely qualify it as an interesting used buy. But are there any terminal and/or ruinously expensive horror stories lying in wait? Let's have a look.
BODYWORK & INTERIOR
Rust is a perennial threat, especially on the door bottoms of earlier STs which legend has it were incorrectly sealed at the factory, causing water to pool inside with inevitable consequences. The brown stuff appears at the seam where the inner door joins the outer skin.
Ford got a reputation for playing hardball with shocked Mondeo owners who were reporting this problem on cars as young as four years old. They would often refuse to replace doors if there was no paint inspection stamp in the service book, as (Ford claimed) this invalidated the 12-year anti corrosion warranty. That was a difficult one for owners to remember when there was no section in the service book for paintwork check stamps.
Even if owners were sharp enough to prod the dealer into inspecting the paint and getting an electronic record of that put somewhere in the system, they would often find a charge had been added to their bill for the work. Many doors ended up being repaired rather than replaced, a course of action that irked dealers as they knew the problem would almost always return to pester them later.
You might find corrosion in the 220's wheel arches and around its windscreen, but the later cars are less prone to it than the facelifters that came along in late '04/early '05. Brake pipes rust, but if you can find any 15 year old car without a mention of brake pipe rust on its MOT history then you're a better man than Shed.
If a front wing is damaged and you think you're going to be stung a fortune for an ST220 replacement, worry not, because the wings from the much less rare ST-TDCi model are identical. Dark-coloured cars do show up stone chips and the headlight washer covers have been known to fly south for the winter when the washers are switched on. The key operation of the Mk 3 Mondeo bonnet might have been a good idea if Ford had specified something other than solder for the construction of the lock mechanisms and the utterly horrid mini-Brussels-sprouts-stalk thing masquerading as an ignition key.
At the back of course is the famously droopy Mondeo rear bumper, usually remedied by copious amounts of gaffer tape. Again there was a dealer notice about this, but there's not much evidence of many dealers taking notice of it. The lacquer on the plastic boot trim piece holding the Ford badge can fall off, and if your ST220 is a hatch, mind how you open it in heavy rain if you want to keep your shopping dry.
The Recaro-chaired interior of an ST220 is one of its most appealing features. It's lovely, especially with the red leather, but the heated seat elements routinely fail and cost between £350 and £500 to sort.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
Some say that the V6 Duratec engine was originally developed by Porsche who then it sold to Ford. Others say that it came to Ford via its Mazda connection. Whatever the truth may be, it's a very nice engine that likes to rev. These chain-driven units are generally solid but engine work can be awkward as the Duratec is a pretty tight fit in the bay. if you plan on extracting its performance (ie revving it), pay attention to the oil, both the quality and the amount that's in there.
Small oil leaks on Duratec V6s are not rare. Hopefully it's just a leaking sump pan gasket - a cheap fix. With luck, the undertray that protects it will have fallen off as removing and replacing it isn't much fun. Oil can also escape via the rocker cover, but if the oil is weeping out of the drain holes in the gearbox bellhousing, that almost certainly means the rear crankshaft seal has gone.
Although a new seal is only a tenner or so, fitting it is a six-hour job that could easily land you with a four-figure bill, including the parts (and the new slave cylinder that you're recommended to change at the same time). You might be inclined to soldier on with an existing leaky seal, and you can do that to some extent, but you'll be running the risk of killing the clutch.
Main bearing failure was reported at 60,000 miles by PHer Cambs-Stuart 'despite twice-yearly oil changes and various gasket replacements'. Like any modern engine with narrow oilways, it will pay you to use light-grade synthetics. If you choose to let the car look after itself in the oil department, well, reconditioned engines are about £1600 fitted.
On the transmission side, early cars had a five-speed gearbox, with 2003-on cars upgrading to an excellent Getrag six-speeder which improved high-speed cruising economy. Those early gearboxes have been known to stick in (or bounce straight out of) 5th, which can be a problem with either a maladjusted cable, the gear selector housing or the selector forks.
If you're buying a 220 with 80-100k miles or more on it, you'll ideally want to see that the clutch and dual-mass flywheel have been replaced as these are not the best components ever made and replacing them is an engine-out job that can cost you as much as £1500. If there's stuttering on a second gear pull away from 0mph it probably means that the flywheel's days are numbered.
MAF sensors go and idle air control valves 'moose', which is meant to describe the sound some of them make when sitting in hot traffic. Buying a new IACV (£30 to £60) will sort it, but not permanently. A ticking noise at idle when warm can be an issue with the intake camshaft bearing caps. Ford issued a technical service bulletin about this. Erratic idling caused by splitting breather hoses causing is a £20 fix. Cracking expansion tanks and rads are a bit dearer to mend. Refitting the engine cover can sometimes dislodge the hose for the coolant reservoir, causing it to rub on the belt pulley and create a hole in the hose.
Problems can arise with fuel pumps, starter motors and the alternator. That last one can necessitate a new section of loom to the battery. If you ever fancy changing the spark plugs, fill you boots with the front three, but to get at the back three you have to remove the airbox, throttle body and inlet manifold.
The standard Magnex-developed exhaust is disappointingly or conveniently quiet, depending on the patience threshhold of your neighbours. If they're sportingly inclined, a Milltek or JP Exhausts replacement will up the awesomeness quotient. PH experience suggests that the Milltek sounds great at revs but doesn't drone at a steady speed. You will sometimes hear a different noise, a rattle most like, if one of the heat shields is on the way out, usually as a result of a rotting mounting point.
If you feel that 217hp isn't enough, you can up that to around 250hp with a Pumaspeed ST250 conversion, which teams a Milltek Sport cat-back exhaust up with a K&N cone filter and a Pumaspeed tuning box for around £1350 fitted.
SUSPENSION & STEERING
Pan Ford all you like but they do know how to give good chassis. PHer Limpet noted that the steering on a £90 '02 Mk 3 Mondeo 1.8 that came into his orbit was much more communicative and better weighted than the steering on his then 15,000 mile BMW M140i.
An ST220 will ultimately move into safe understeer when cracking on but in general the steering and ride are sweet and supple. Wear will affect bottom arms, strut top mounts or drop links, and the springs are known to snap. Eibach replacements were actually an official Ford accessory for most Mk 3 Mondeos, but not for the 220, presumably because Ford didn't want to give the impression that the standard springs needed any improvement. In terms of cost, four Eibach springs aren't far off the price of a single Ford spring, but there is a big (positive) difference in ride and handling with the Eibachs.
Rear subframe bushes seem to go west from as little as 40,000 miles. If you take your ST220 to a Ford dealer they may say that it's a sealed unit and that you need a new subframe as well as the bushes, for another three or four hundred quid. Shed however believes that the bushes are simply glued in and push-fit poly bushes from the likes of Powerflex (other brands are availble) will do the job nicely.
The shocks on the back of the self-levelling ST220 Estate can leak and are more expensive to replace with standard items. Power steering pumps can leak too, as can the high-pressure power steering hose after it's been rubbing against the bulkhead for a few years.
WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES
Lacquer peel affected most if not all of the lovely diamond-cut wheels, which is hardly unusual. Nor was Ford's disinterest in warranty claims. ST220s are understandably heavier on tyres than cooking Mondeos but they also chomp through rear wheel bearings and, to a lesser extent, brake discs. The standard brake spec of ventilated 300mm/280mm discs looked good on paper, but thanks to single-pot calipers it wasn't. In Autocar's Britain's Best Driver's Car 2002 the ST220 came 13th. The feeling was that it would have finished much higher if it had had better brakes for the track testing at Goodwood, where the brakes were practically done after three short outings.
An easy fix is to fit Focus ST 225 front calipers, pads and discs, with an aftermarket pad/disc upgrade at the back. If you're more minted you could look at a set of AP Racing 4-pot calipers and 330mm discs. Master cylinders can leak, and a less than perfect caliper design on pre-facelift cars allows dirt into the handbrake mechanism, which can eventually lead to it sticking on. Facelift ST220s had a different caliper, also used in later Jaguar X-Types. You can retrofit that to your early ST. A too-easy handbrake lift means the cable has seized.
If you're thinking that all Mondeos are poorly built and doomed to die an early death, that's a stereotype you might want to reconsider. Serial PH Mondeo owner Sebring Man took his '04 V6 auto to 291,000 miles, his 3.0 manual to 262,000, a 1.8 to 325,000 and a 2.0 to 380,000. He gets around, that boy.
As a daily driver, they're not the cheapest cars to run. Fuel consumption will vary from the high teens to the low 30s depending on your driving style. Something in the 20s range will be average. Watch out for the road tax too. Pre-2006 ST220s are £325, but later cars will cop for mega-tax which can be over £500 a year. There are around 3000 ST220s registered for UK use at the moment. That number is still dropping, but the rate of drop is slowing up, a good sign that the wheat is being sorted from the chaff. Good cars will start to be preserved and/or restored and values will harden.
ST220s can be spotted for under £1000, but 'buy the best one you can afford' is always a good motto to live your motoring life by. Having done so, you will get nods and gestures from other road users, most of them from other fast Ford users, and most of them positive. In the right colour this is a striking car that's also not German, which for many will be a refreshing change.
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