What is it?
The latest iteration of Montgomery's venerable D-segment car, the SV100.
While shrinking rapidly, the large family car sector still attracts a large number of buyers, and is perhaps more important to Montgomery than it is to any other mass-market carmaker: from the founding FS15 to the well-regarded FC series and the four subsequent iterations of the SV100, the D-segment car has represented the core of Montgomery's range.
Which means the new SV100 has to be good, or else Montgomery will risk losing its core consumer base.
What's it like?
First impressions are of a big, imposing vehicle; this isn't surprising given the roughly 90mm increase in length over the old car. However, what is perhaps most striking is how low and planted the new SV100 looks. Both aggressively flared wheel arches and a relatively low roofline (about 50mm lower than the new Mondeos) contribute to this feel, and in our eyes it lends the car a distinctly rakish look.
Of course the styling itself is also responsible for the SV100's new-found dynamism; showcasing Montgomery's new 'Layered Tension' design theme, many of its cues hint at those of future models. It's certainly bold, with swoopy creases and a distinctive face helping it stand apart from its rivals. It's an altogether refreshing change from the previous model, which many accused of aping the Mk3 Mondeo. Although chrome trimmings are kept to a minimum (in fact, with the exception of the top-drawer LX model, they're entirely absent), the SV100 looks upscale in a way the old car could never hope to achieve. Some may not like it but Montgomery are betting that most will.
Inside, the upscale impression continues. The tops of the dashboard and doors are trimmed with plush soft plastics, as expected these days, and there's a flair to the design here absent in previous SV100s. The Driver-Machine Interlink (DMI) knob, which primarily controls satnav functions, takes some getting used to but after some practice becomes easier to use. Chrome and aluminium trim are used liberally, but not to the near-tasteless extent seen in the Ford. Move down a bit and the materials get a bit harder and cheaper (admittedly in places most owners will never see), but overall the cabin has a more premium feel than just about any rival short of VW's Passat.
Also notable is the abundance of space; thanks to ultra-thin front seats and an expansive 2860mm wheelbase, the SV100 feels spacious in the front and positively cavernous in the rear, although headroom may be tight for taller passengers.
While quality was a significant priority for Montgomery, the primary goal with the new SV100 was to improve efficiency and dynamics. To this end they employed extensive use of high-strength steels in the car's construction and obsessively scrutinized every component for potential weight savings. And we do mean obsessive: even the stereo speakers and rear-view mirror were trimmed down. While these savings are miniscule on their own, they appear to have added up, for despite the SV100's increased size it weighs about 10kg less than before (11-12kg depending on the model if you're into specifics).
At 1466kg our 1.8-litre turbodiesel model is a not insignificant 161kg lighter than the equivalent Mondeo, and with a smaller but more powerful engine delivers better performance. However by class standards performance is only average, with a quoted 9.7-second jaunt to 62mph (though economy is excellent at 51.4mpg). On the road the SV100 feels noticeably livelier than the old car, with eager throttle response.
It's the handling characteristics that really impress, though. The steering is exceptional; you can thank Shannon, who donated their acclaimed rack-and-pinion design, for that. It's light, contributing to the car's agile feel, but not numb; in fact it is perhaps more communicative than any other rival. In some ways the steering is almost too grittily feelsome, and contrasts with the car's refined nature to a degree some may find unsettling; we, however, are not complaining. Body lean was nicely restrained on our conventionally-sprung model. We have yet to drive an SV100 equipped with the available active anti-roll bars, which are claimed to completely eliminate leaning in turns, but the standard car is impressive as it is.
Should I buy one?
It certainly makes a strong argument. The new SV100 is exceptionally spacious, very well-built and drives with an alacrity most rivals would kill for. In virtually every respect, this car is a match for the new Mondeo; the D-segment wars are about to get alot more interesting.