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Steering, suspension and comfort

In a class whose handling aspirations are modest, the greatest compliment we can pay the Mustang Mach-E is that it is recognisably ‘Ford’ in the way it goes down a road. Perhaps, if you squint, even recognisably ‘fast Ford’, particularly in rear-drive format, where the chassis goes without the stability provided by the AWD model’s front-axle electric motor.

A two-tonne-plus electric crossover it may be, but it’s one willing to look beyond the deadpan neutrality cherished by the likes of the Polestar 2, and one comfortable with even a little yaw, which is achievable with surprisingly little commitment from the driver, particularly in the wet.

High centre of gravity is really felt on downhill, off-camber corners and the lack of feel in the steering becomes uncomfortable

On relatively narrow tyres, there’s a playful side to the car’s dynamic disposition that stands it out among peers, which generally do little to build on the natural rear-drive layout that electrification often brings.

None of which is to say that Ford has gone overboard here. At 3.7 turns lock to lock, the steering is quite lazily geared, even by the standards of the class, and the off-centre response is tuned for confidence rather than outright response. A fair amount of body roll is also permitted, although the Mach-E rarely feels ‘loose’ to an uncomfortable degree because the rate of roll is well matched with the elastic motion of steering, particularly at the kind of speeds you would typically manage along an interesting B-road. Making good progress therefore feels natural.

Admittedly, you’re left with a car that’s more poised than agile, and one that never shakes off its weight or softness, but the Mach-E does generate an enjoyable sense of flow and possesses reasonable accuracy – qualities shared with the ‘proper’ Mustang. As one tester put it, there’s enough bite, accuracy and interest here that keener drivers might seek the Ford out in the same way that you might take Jaguar’s I-Pace over an Audi E-tron, or the Mini Electric over the Peugeot e-208.

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A revelation? Not quite. There’s still too much weight and too little steering feel here for the Mach-E to ever truly get under your skin. The RWD merely does the basics well, and trades some all-weather traction and stability for freer dynamics.

We had an interesting time on Millbrook’s Hill Route, mostly because it was wet. You can’t rely on the Mach-E’s steering to tell you anything particularly useful, and yet the car seems to generate more front axle grip than you think it might, because this RWD example’s tail could be brought into play almost at will.

Ford even seems to have been deliberately conservative with the accelerator response, to avoid shocking the chassis and bringing about unintended instability. The more subtle elements of throttle adjustability are unsurprisingly non-existent.

In fairness, the Mach-E is much like the ‘real’ Mustang in this sense: it’s no great communicator, but willing to mess around and happy to keep you on your toes, albeit with a higher centre of gravity and more weight transfer. We suspect there’s a reason why you can trim the traction control intervention but can’t switch off the ESP.

Comfort and isolation

There are some exceptionally refined electric crossovers around, but they tend to sit in the more expensive, upper echelons of the category – the likes of the E-tron and EQC, with prices that start with a seven.

In the sub-£50,000 clique, the standards remain rather a lot lower in terms of sheer rolling refinement, and no manufacturer seems to have yet cracked the code.

The Polestar 2, Tesla Model 3, Mercedes EQA: all are quiet enough on the move but also have that slightly reactive ride quality that hybrid or ICE alternatives at this price generally manage to avoid, although the recent ID 4 does seem to have made good progress. Tuning suspension to compensate for anything up to 500kg of batteries clearly isn’t easy.

On its passive dampers, the Ford does nothing to raise the average score of the class. In fact, it probably lowers it a touch. Ride quality isn’t outright harsh (how, you might wonder, could it be with those 60-section tyre sidewalls and suspension rates that permit plenty of roll during cornering) but it is constantly busy, and faintly coarse, as though the 18in wheels are proactively hunting out blemishes on the road. Only on perfectly surfaced stretches can the chassis settle and the Mach-E finally shows the polished, loping high-speed gait we want from this kind of car.

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In terms of acoustic isolation, wet roads made direct comparisons difficult, although at a 70mph cruise, our microphones showed cabin noise to be one decibel louder than that of the stiff-chassised VW Golf R, which doesn’t reflect brilliantly on the Ford.

Given the money being asked, and the Mustang name, we’d also want more sculpted front seats, which would not only offer more support than the flat-ish standard-fit items but would surely prove more comfortable over distance, too.