The Ford Mondeo helped pioneer standard airbags and even James Bond took it for a spin. Now Mondeo is celebrating its 20th anniversary and more than 4.5m sales in Europe.

"Mondeo has a rich history and a bright future," said Barb Samardzich, Vice President Product Development, Ford of Europe.

"Across two decades, Mondeo has stood for great driving dynamics, surprising technologies, excellent safety and outstanding fuel efficiency."

Mondeo was introduced in 1993 following a five-year, €3.5bn ($4.6bn) development programme.

Mondeo was named European Car of the Year in 1994 and has continued to set standards in its class for two decades.

It has gained awards from across Europe, including here in Ireland, where it won Semperit Irish Car of the Year titles in 1994 and 2008.

The all-new global Mondeo will arrive in Europe in late 2014, featuring further advanced technologies including Ford's award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, which is expected to deliver leading fuel economy.

Also included will be petrol Hybrid Electric Vehicle powertrain; segment-first adaptive full LED headlamps and the European debut of Ford's rear inflatable seatbelts, designed to reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers.

But as often happens when cars reach the end of their design lifecycle, the run-out version has evolved to a very high standard.

An upgraded version of Mondeo was recently launched in Ireland with CO2 emissions reduced by up to 8%. Pricing starts at €23,950, excluding delivery and related charges.

We took the car for a final test and were reminded in no time why it has been so popular.

The ride comfort and handling is near flawless for such a big machine.

Yes, power may be sacrificed with the 1.6 diesel, but it is an economical and refined machine to drive.

On start up the four-cylinder diesel can sound a little coarse, but once underway the five-seat Ford is a pleasure to drive.

Irish Mondeo drivers must still wait for the new, great-looking Mondeo to come next year, but in the meantime this final version has a lot going for it.