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We salivated over the pictures and spent many an hour daydreaming about what she'd be like in the flesh.

Would it look as Aston Martin-ish, would the sloping roofline give it that sexy coupe-like silhouette and would the interior offer the premium feel that was promised when the dust covers came off the concept at Detroit in 2012?

Global recession and the closure of Ford's plant in Belgium put European production on the backburner - until now.

Almost two years on, the new Mondeo is finally here - and well worth the wait . . . despite the fact that the design has been in our psyche for so long it still looks fresh.

The prominent grille - now a feature on the facelifted Fiesta and Focus - is thankfully not as Aston-ish and the sleek flowing lines take the edges off what is a gargantuan car.

Although it has the same wheelbase as the outgoing model, the Blue Oval engineers have again worked their magic to create limo-like legroom in the rear.

That level of family-friendly practicality continues into the boot which again is huge with 550 litres of luggage space.

This explodes into 1,446 with the seats folded flat, and with a low-loading lip and generous aperture it will accommodate anything from flat-packed furniture to a couple of mountain bikes.

A clever marketing strategy by Ford Ireland will see it available as a five-door only as many previous customers bought the four-door simply because it was cheaper.

Climb on board and the quality design and finish are much improved with the centre console completely decluttered.

The vast array of buttons has been replaced with a simplistic eight-inch colour touchscreen (Titanium model) which is home to everything from sat nav to Sync voice-controlled infotainment system.

Along with the estate version, it will come in two specs - Zetec and Titanium (the entry-level Style won't be in showrooms until mid- January).

The Zetec comes with 16-inch alloys, electric windows all round, Sync voice control, cruise control, leather steering wheel, MyKey (keyless entry) and fog lights.

Opt for the Titanium and you'll get 17-inch alloys, parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, Sync infotainment (with colour touchscreen, sports seats, chrome package and automatic headlights and wipers.

Engine-wise, there will be two diesels - a 1.6 litre TDCi with 115ps and the more powerful 2.0 litre generating 150ps. There will also be a 1.5 litre petrol Ecoboost with 160ps, but again that won't be here until well into 2015.

But it's the drive that made the Mondeo stand head and shoulders above its rivals.

So, how does the new model fare?

Pretty well considering that Ford has gone for a bit more luxury and comfort. Granted, it has lost a bit of its edginess, but the drive dynamic is still there and we were more than pleasantly surprised by the 1.6 litre oil burner.

On paper it looks like it could be a little sluggish and underpowered.

Not so. In fact, there was oceans of acceleration and tonnes of torque. It felt more like 150bhp than just under 120, and when you couple that with the economy of 64mph it will be hard to beat.

Just as well considering the new Passat is on its way in weeks and the new A4 in the spring of next year.

Get ready for one hell of a scrap

The new Mondeo costs from €28,995.

THE blistering 300bhp Golf R now comes with a whopping €9,550 off last year's price - meaning the 3-door rocket starts at just €42,445