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Review: the four-cylinder Ford Mustang Ecoboost (2015-2017)

£32,790 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£32,790
Brake horsepower
317bhp
Fuel consumption
35.3mpg
0–62 mph
5.80s
CO2
179g/km
Max speed
145Mph
Insurance Group
41E

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The Ford Mustang has finally made it to Britain, then.

It has, and more than that, this one’s trying to blend in. Not visually, clearly, but ecologically, economically.

This one’s the 2.3-litre Ecoboost, with a four-cylinder turbo packing out the space under that long bonnet.

I’m not sure about this, so there’s a few questions I want to answer: does the Ecoboost give you the full Mustang experience? Do you actually need the V8? Is it a credible car for British and European buyers?

So where are you going to start?

With running costs. I know, get me. So say you’re choosing between 2.3 and V8. You’re looking at the numbers and thinking ‘hmm 35.3mpg plays 20.9mpg, no contest’. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case of the irrelevance of the European fuel cycle being so clearly expressed this side of a hybrid.

The Ecoboost may play the emissions game better, but in daily driving, actually using the turbo, you get 28mpg. The V8? Well, that actually betters the claims. You should get 23mpg pretty happily. So a 5mpg difference between the two, not 15.

However, the tax man sees it differently. He trusts those emissions figures implicitly, so in the first year the 179g/km 2.3 will cost you £355, and £230 in subsequent years. The V8, which the fuel chappies say puts out 299g/km, will cost you £1,120 this year and £515 next. Ouch. Over three years that’s £2150 in car tax, versus £815.

I’m having the 2.3, then.

No you’re not, because you’ve got more taste than that and the first criteria when buying a Mustang cannot be: ‘it’s cheaper to tax’.

And besides, the V8 isn’t anything like as far behind for fuel costs as you thought it would be, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s not going to be much between the two for insurance and lease costs, certainly less than the £4,500 price difference would suggest.

I reckon the V8 will have the stronger residuals, will be the more desirable used car.

Are you saying it’s better than the 2.3?

Yes.

Simple as that?

Yes. Okay, let me explain. If you apply subjective criteria, the 2.3 isn’t bad at all. It really isn’t. It’s fast (0-62mph in 5.8 seconds) and hauls hard at all the important points in the rev range, for starters.

It also rides much better than I thought it would, holds itself together around corners, feels positive, is comfortable enough, and treads a neat line between sporting and cruising. It’s better than I thought it would be, doesn’t feel out of its depth at all, and actually feels engineered for European tastes.

But…

Wait, I haven’t finished with the good stuff yet. It’s good value – for the same money as an entry-level BMW 420i you get an extra 130bhp and 89lb ft of torque, you get to 62mph 1.5 seconds quicker, and you have a standard kit list that extends to rear view camera, six-way power seats, dual zone climate, an 8-inch touchscreen. And you get to tell people you drive a Mustang.

And it looks like one, too – angry headlights, recessed grille, that bonnet, those flanks. It couldn’t be anything else. So it says a lot about you. If you drive an Audi A5 or BMW 4-Series or Mercedes C-Class Coupe or something, you’re normal, probably work in a service industry on a light industrial estate in a provincial town. But drive a Mustang in the UK and people assume you’re one of those people that keeps cowboy boots in what they refer to as the trunk, and heads to line-dancing classes after work.

And that limits the audience. I think that audience is big enough to swallow all the cars Ford can bring to the UK to satisfy the considerable demand, but the question is whether Ford is happy for the Mustang to play such a stereotypical role.

Because, as I’ve already said, when you put all that aside, you’re left with a good value, honest and capable coupe. It would be a shame for Ford to let that be undermined by people seeing nothing besides a yee-haw coupe and drawing the conclusion that it’s as cumbersome and irrelevant as they imagine, when actually, it’s not.

Are you still on subjective criteria?

Probably gone a bit off topic. Where it falls short is as what we might call ‘a class act’. Inside and out it’s not as refined and acceptable in polite society as a Merc or Beemer. It’s not as slick to use, the control interfaces aren’t as pleasing, the cabin design is clumsy and so are the plastics.

But you know what? I’d test drive a Mustang 2.3 before I bought a BMW 420i or A5 or C200 Coupe, just to see. If you’re in that position, I’d urge you to do the same. Because I think you’d be surprised. So yes, in answer to one of the questions I laid out at the top, it is a credible car for UK buyers.

You’re not going to take this long to answer the other questions are you?

No. So, say you’ve done your road tests and you’ve come away thinking, ‘you know what, the Mustang is the one for me’. Well, the rest of your thought process should not involve the numbers ‘2.3’.

Because there’s a problem with the Ecoboost. It’s called the V8. Now, in everyday driving, I don’t doubt the 2.3 is as fast – in fact it’s less likely to get caught out at the bottom of the rev range – but if you’re going to have a Mustang, and by definition, at least theoretically embrace line-dancing, you might as well have the right one, the one that makes The Right Noise.

I had hoped the 2.3 would be the car that made sense in Europe and that you’d be able to forgive the whole four cylinder thing. But when you stride up to those long flanks, slump into the soft seats and press the start button… you don’t want penny-pinching, apologetic, the-tax-man-made-me-do-it noises. You want big, ripe, woofly ones.

You must have known the 2.3 would sound plain, though?

Of course, but I wasn’t prepared for how marked the discrepancy actually is, how unsuitable it sounds. Maybe it’s just me, maybe if you’re less aware of woofling V8s it won’t bother you as much. But the 2.3 is a Mustang with a charisma bypass.

So be good to yourself. Don’t stop halfway on your journey into the American Dream. Have the V8. It’s cooler. It burbles at start up and trembles at idle.

The Mustang is good. It works better than I expected in the UK. But it deserves a V8.

Images: Barry Hayden

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