There’s a pscyhological point about the Mustang that needs to be discussed before we go any further. Everything about its shape suggests there should be a big V8 engine under the bonnet, and in some cases there is – see previous road test for details. Other Mustangs, like this one, have the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine also fitted to the Focus RS (though in detuned form with 313bhp, around 100bhp less than the V8). In the course of a week I never found it less than surprising and disappointing to hear a four-cylinder note rather than the boom of a V8 when I fired up.
Admittedly, Ford has done what it could to limit the badge. For an engine of its type, the 2.3 EcoBoost has been made to sound very burbly, and at full throttle above 4000rpm it sounds as close to the muscly five-litre as could reasonably be hoped. At lower revs it gives a greater impression of a late-model Saab 96, which I don’t think anyone intended.
Sound quality aside, there’s a lot to be said in favour of the Mustang EcoBoost. For a start, it’s £4000 cheaper. It’s also a lot more economical. Even driving very gently, I couldn’t make the V8 Convertible automatic average as much as 30mpg, though it was quite easy to beat the official combined figure of 22.1. The figure for the 2.3 manual Fastback is 35.3, and in a combination of gentle and quite purposeful motoring I managed 32. Surprisingly, the trip computer said I was well over 40 when burbling along at the same speed as everyone else on busy A-roads.
Mustangs generally have good steering, but the EcoBoost beats the V8 here because there’s less resistance and better turn-in, both things no doubt due to a 65kg weight advantage (assuming the same body style and gearbox) which is probably accounted for almost entirely by the engine. Like the V8, the EcoBoost responds very well to the correct amount of throttle being applied at the correct time in mid-bend. You can feel the back end contributing to the cornering process, but it’s difficult to make the ‘Stang jump out of line unless you’re really careless. Some power is definitely required – if none is going through the rear axle the car feels nervous and uncomfortable.
Generally, the Mustang handles better than it looks, though despite Ford’s claims of sophisticated rear suspension it becomes very unhappy if it encounters a bump while trying to change direction, an event I suppose it’s unlikely to have to deal with in its North American home territory.
The pedal action is impressively smooth, but that can’t be said for the gearchange, which is a bit tractor-like. Clearly the manual box was designed to take a lot more torque than the EcoBoost can provide, and it requires a stronger hand than any of the other major controls.
I liked the car better than I thought I would, and if some employer with a bizarre mindset insisted I choose a Mustang of some sort as my business vehicle I would probably take this one. There would, however, be some concern about safety, which has been a major talking point in recent months.
The Mustang is only the fifth car in eight years to have been given a two-star rating by Euro NCAP (largely because it’s not favourable for rear-seat passengers, though there’s so little room back there it’s difficult to imagine those seats being used). Its 16% Safety Assist is the second lowest, after the 14% for the Renault Trafic van, since Euro NCAP began awarding scores for that back in 2009. There’s talk of Euro-spec Mustangs being fitted Pre-Collision Assist and Lane Keep Assist later in the year, which should help slightly.
Engine size 2261cc
Top speed 145mph
0-62mph 5.8 seconds
Fuel economy 35.3mpg combined
CO2 emissions 179g/km
Towing capacity Not applicable
Euro NCAP (2017) Overall 2 stars Adult occupant 72% Child occupant 32% Pedestrian 64% Safety assist 16%
Information correct at publication date