In a country where sporty, powerful Ford sedans were once as easy to sell as candy floss to a moaning seven-year old child's dad, the Mondeo ST220 should've been a smash hit. But it wasn't. You can blame the Germans. (And, of course, Ford itself)
The Mondeo ST220 had all the right credentials. The British press loved it. It boasted crisp, sporty styling. And underneath the bonnet there was a charismatic 3.0 V6 engine. Cue memories of macho Cortinas with Essex V6s...
Launched in 2004, the Mondeo ST220 was, however, a far more sophisticated offering than its brash forebears. It needed to be. Times had changed, and the dominant players in the performance sedan segment were from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Customers expected their period performance sedans to not only be swift and luxurious, but to also make the neighbours' curtains twitch with brand envy.
Priced at a reasonable R286 035 when new - reasonable because it had just about every possible feature as standard - a neat ST220 these days should cost you no more than around R70 000. That's right... R70k!
Finding one won't be easy, though, because as much as the Ford was big on value and performance, it had the "wrong" badge to compete against its intended rivals. The neighbours would not have been impressed... just, uhm, perplexed.
Nevertheless, if you can find a good, clean ST220, you're in for a treat because it's a genuinely nice car to drive. Its engine delivered 166kW at 6 150 rpm and 280Nm of torque at 4 900 rpm. It made a nice noise, too, without being thunderously loud.
And it certainly wasn't slow, even though it didn't feel particularly aggressive during acceleration testing, if I recall correctly. Instead, its linear power delivery and smoothness resulted in its performance punch (0-100kph in 7.6 seconds and a German-frightening top speed of 250kph) being delivered with a velvet glove.
Personally, I've always liked the ST220's looks. Filling those nicely flared wheelarches are very striking (and very shiny) 18-inch alloy wheels. Twin exhaust outlets sprout from the rear. And there are those subtle, but very effective revisions to the bumpers and sills. Overall, Ford had done well (in my view) to add performance cred to the Mondeo without going the garish route.
The interior changes were even more subtle. Sure, there were smart, aggressively bolstered, leather Recaro sports seats and racy looking instrumentation, but otherwise it was very much standard Ford Mondeo fare in there. It had all the bells and whistles, though, so if you do intend buying one of these make sure those features work.
So if it was so good, why didn't Ford sell more of them here? Well, besides the aforementioned "German problem", the Blue Oval had not exactly been a shining example of consistency in the medium-sedan segment in the years leading up to the ST220, offering vehicles as disparate as the (Mazda-based) Telstar TX5 and (Aussie-sourced) Falcon XR6. By the time the Mondeo ST220 arrived Ford's reputation in this segment was iffy at best.
Shop carefully, however, and you'll get a heck of a lot of car for the money, and one which I think, one day, will receive the recognition (and values) it deserves.