Ford Mondeo hatchback

£20,495 - £32,345

In the 1997 UK general election, Labour's Tony Blair famously targeted 'Mondeo Man' – mainstream people with mainstream cars. As we know, it worked. Now, however, the mainstream family saloon, hatchback and estate car market is dwindling as family buyers turn to compact executive saloons and crossover SUVs in droves.

For the remaining large family hatchback buyers out there, then, the current Ford Mondeo has a pretty tough job on its hands. It's made tougher by the presence of the very classy Volkswagen Passat, as well as the handsome and fun-to-drive Mazda6. Other rivals include the Hyundai i40, Vauxhall Insignia and Toyota Avensis.

The Mondeo is a classy-looking car, though, with a distinctive style and the same slender headlamps and gaping front grille as the rest of Ford's range. Inside, however, things are less impressive – it's failed to keep up with class leaders such as the Passat and its sister model the Skoda Superb in terms of both quality and design.

The Ford has also lost a bit of the sharpness that made it such a fantastic driver's car for so long. It's not bad to drive by any stretch of the imagination and it's certainly much more refined, comfortable and mature than before. This maturity is, however, accompanied by an increase in price – although it's partly justified by additional standard equipment, including advanced safety kit.

There are three trim levels available: Style, Zetec and Titanium. There's also a high-end Vignale version that Ford considers a separate model in its own right that offers more luxury, higher quality interior materials and more exterior chrome trim.

As standard, you get LED taillights, DAB digital radio, climate control, an eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system and cruise control. Our favourite trim level is Zetec, which adds sat nav, automatic headlights, sports seats and automatic wipers – all of which makes the Mondeo feel a little bit more special.

As it's very popular with company-car buyers, the Mondeo offers a host of efficient diesel engines. There's a 1.5-litre and three increasingly powerful 2.0-litres. The 1.5-litre is the most efficient version, managing over 70mpg and emitting 94g/km of CO2. That exempts it from road tax and puts it in the 16% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) bracket.

The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is our favourite, however, as it has useful extra performance. It still manages over 65mpg economy, will only cost £30 a year in road tax and sits in the 20% BiK tax bracket. 

Of the petrols, the best bet is the 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, as it's smooth, powerful and fairly economical, managing 48.7mpg. You can also go for a petrol-electric hybrid version – the only Mondeo to come in a saloon bodystyle – but it's rather expensive (it's only available in the top trim level) and often feels strained, despite having a decent power output on paper.