The “Mondeo Man” who Tony Blair famously courted during the 1997 General Election could be found on suburban driveways, polishing his car and wondering whether he should vote Conservative now he was moving up in the world.
If Ed Miliband had targeted a similar demographic ahead of this year’s election, perhaps he might have converted more of the so-called “shy Tories” who won the Conservatives a majority. But the phrase needs updating: Mondeo Man of yesterday is now more likely to go for something flashier. “BMW 3 Series Man” may not have the same alliterative ring, but it is a more accurate reflection of the desires of today’s aspirational classes. Image, after all, is everything.
Just as Labour will now attempt a radical image change, Ford is attempting to boost sales by going upmarket with its new Vignale sub-brand. You could think of Vignale as a new top-spec trim level (much like Ghia back in the Blair era), but the US carmaker insists it’s more than that.
Vignale customers get extra-special treatment. They get a “relationship manager” as well as 24-hour customer support via a freephone number. This extends to emergency breakdown cover, servicing tailored to your busy schedule and Ford will even collect and deliver your car when it needs a service (freshly cleaned, of course).
The Vignale range will only be sold in special “Ford Store” dealerships, along with the likes of the Mustang and hot RS models. Around 55 of these will be open in the UK by the end of the year, mostly in metropolitan areas. Vignale buyers get a special area of the showroom, shielded from lesser customers with furniture by the same designers who made the car itself.
And, for an extra charge, dealers can detail your Vignale a few years down the line to make it as good as new. Perfect for second owners (who also benefit from Vignale perks).
The first Ford to get the Vignale treatment is the Mondeo, with the S-Max to follow in 2016.
I went to Rome to try out the Mondeo Vignale and found... it’s still very much a Mondeo. Sure, the metallic brown paint (“Nocciola” in Vignale lingo) of our test car was lovely, but there’s nothing bespoke about the bodywork. And it’s more than acceptable to drive, just like the regular Mondeo (unless you’re considering going for the hybrid, but the less said about that the better).
The interior feels like a regular Mondeo, apart from the premium leather splashed around the cabin. If anything this makes the plastics look cheaper than they do in the regular version; areas like the centre console, glove compartment and door bins haven’t been touched.
Even the radio is the regular Sony 12-speaker sound system. Buyers looking for a truly premium experience have every right to expect a brand like Bose. Also, there are few Vignale emblems around the cabin. A minor thing, but it could help set it apart from the standard Mondeo.
Ford insists it isn’t going after premium brands with its Vignale. It would say that, if only to save embarrassment when it fails to take on mighty BMW. The Ford Mondeo Vignale is a perfectly competent car, but no more so than the regular model. Claims that this is an upmarket lifestyle choice just don’t add up.
Think of it as a top-spec Mondeo, and it makes a bit more sense. But it isn’t worth the £4,500 premium over the Titanium equivalent.
Fortunately Ford has realistic expectations for the Mondeo Vignale in the UK, only expecting to sell around 2-3,000 a year. At least that should make it pretty exclusive. Let’s hope the next Labour leader doesn’t target Vignale man, otherwise another crushing defeat could be on the cards.
THE FACTS: FORD MONDEO VIGNALE 2.0 DURATORQ TDCI 210
0-62MPH: 7.9 secs
TOP SPEED: 145mph
CO2 G/KM: 130g/km
MPG COMBINED: 56.5mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★☆☆☆