From £33,7057
Entry-level four-pot Ford Mustang handles well and isn’t without its combustive charms, but its 'consolation prize', half-measure aura still lingers

What is it?

The inimitable Ford Mustang ‘pony car’ in 2018-model-year, entry-level, four-cylinder turbo form – and driven in the UK for the first time in that particular specification. Having brought us Brits an official factory-built, right-hand-drive Mustang for the first time in 2015, Ford has this year updated the legendary Mustang’s styling and equipment tally, and applied some tweaks to its engines and suspension.

Ford has also introduced the option of a 10-speed automatic gearbox available for both 2.3-litre four-cylinder and 5.0-litre V8 engines – although it’s the 2.3-litre manual we’re testing here.

Compare it with its pre-facelift equivalent and you may wonder how Ford has managed to update both engine and transmission, and yet can have allowed peak power, combined fuel economy and carbon emissions all to slip backwards – the engine’s headline output falling from 313bhp to 286bhp.

The explanation, as you probably won’t be surprised to read, has everything to do with the way that the European emissions testing regime has changed since the introduction of the pre-facelift Mustang; because the Mustang’s real-world performance is almost entirely as it was.

What's it like?

Ford’s midlife update to the Mustang’s styling is a fairly discreet but successful one, adding sharply drawn visual attitude to the car’s exterior while also lowering the car’s bonnet and reducing aerodynamic lift at the front axle for better high-speed stability.

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The facelifted car’s probably easiest to identify by its revised front and rear bumpers, or by the twin vents that have been added to the bonnet. It looks a bit more tailored than its forebear, fitting into its European surroundings slightly more effortlessly than its predecessor – as you might expect of a car that’s maturing in showrooms and needs to begin to appeal in a more rounded way.

Ford’s efforts to add a sophisticated note to the car’s interior don’t succeed quite as well. Soft-touch materials now appear on the doorcards and centre console, while one or two higher-quality fittings feature here and there – but not widely enough to make a telling difference to an ambience that’s still a way off equalling the perceived quality of an Audi TT or Porsche 718.

The Mustang’s cheap-looking minor switchgear and its shiny low-level mouldings still betray the car’s American working-class roots pretty starkly. While the car’s new digital instruments are welcome for the flexibility they bring to the dashboard, meanwhile, they’re not in the same league as the latest digital displays from Audi, VW and Mercedes for graphical allure.

Having pressed the car’s glowing engine start button, it does seem odd not to feel the rotational fidget of a heavy crankshaft spinning into life, or to hear the delicious rumble of Detroit iron animated by your right foot. So much of the Mustang’s charm as a driver’s car flows from its dominant and effusive V8 that to take it away seems, at first, like removing the car’s greatest selling point. But at length you’ll find that the four-cylinder Mustang’s got very respectable performance, and plenty of sporting character of its own too – handling better in some ways than its bigger-engined sibling.

It helps, to begin with, that Ford’s 2.3-litre four-pot doesn’t sound so ordinary under the bonnet; it has an offbeat thrum that often makes it, at times, more redolent of a five-cylinder motor than an inline four. It’s responsive, too, and pulls hard enough through the middle of the rev range to make fairly light work of the Mustang’s kerb weight, delivering hot hatchback level in-gear thrust that’s more than enough to make the car fairly quick from point to point.

The Mustang’s size and mass make themselves more apparent in the way the car rides and handles than in the way it accelerates – but even here, the four-cylinder car might have an advantage over its V8 sibling. Though we didn’t have a current V8 for back-to-back comparison, the 2.3-litre Mustang had a nimbleness about its handling that you don’t expect to find in such a large car, and which we haven’t always found in bigger-engined Mustangs tested previously.

Turning crisply and feeling lighter on its feet than you might expect, the car corners quite keenly: a change that might owe as much to Ford’s midlife suspension revisions (retuned dampers, stiffer anti-roll bars, new rear suspension bracing) as it does to the relative weight of its engine compared with a V8. It feels balanced, lively and engaging, as you’d hope any rear-driven coupé would, and has a well-met blend of power and outright lateral grip.

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The car rides well enough, although without the deft close body control or clever meeting of comfort and poise of some of its European sports car rivals.

Should I buy one?

Even though it’s now available through official channels with a steering wheel on the correct side of the car, the Mustang remains the kind of car you’d probably own once, and enjoy enormously while you had an itch to scratch.

That being the case, it’d be a mistake only to half-commit and end up with this four-cylinder version, because it doesn’t conjure a driving experience of the same memorable and dramatic sense of occasion as the V8 does.

In terms of both its performance and its handling appeal, the Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost is good enough to pleasantly surprise those who do see fit to decline the bigger engine. I’m just not sure either are a good enough reason to do that.

Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost specification

Where Middlesex Price £36,645 On sale now Engine 4 cyls in line, 2261cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 286bhp at 5600rpm Torque 325lb ft at 3000rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1662kg Top speed 145mph 0-62mph 5.8sec Fuel economy 31.4mpg (NEDC combined) CO2 199g/km Rivals BMW 420iKia Stinger 2.0 T

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Bavariajohn 29 September 2018

Excellent touring car

May I add that in terms of car appeal it attracts an amazing amount of positive interest and comment wherever I go in the U.K. and on the continent,  ugh more so than any previous ‘prestige’ car I have owned.

Bavariajohn 29 September 2018

Excellent touring car

I have owned a Mustang Ecoboost for 2 years and 13000 miles. I bought it as a long distance touring car because of its large interior and boot size, and forwent the 5.0 V8 for reasons of range on a relatively tiny tank. I have previously owned a number of Jaguar XKs, XKRs and an Aston Martin Vantage, and prefer the Mustang to all of them. It is as fast as the XK 5.0, whilst being roomier and nicer to drive. On both these counts it leaves the Vantage standing. OK, so it doesn’t make as much noise as a V8, but then I don’t have time to roar up and down tunnels with the windows open. OK, it isn’t as plush as the Jag, but then it cost two thirds as much to buy new. When the time comes I will buy another Mustang ecoboost. Smaller, more efficient engines are the future. V8 gas guzzlers are increasingly irrelevant from a performance standpoint, (note very positive reports on the Jag F type 2.0 litre) and posing outside the pub in a 5.0 litre beast is a 5 minute wonder, evidenced by the very short average ownership of such vehicles.

pushtheprincess 7 August 2018

Please Autocar, stop using 'perceived quality.'

Much as i love Autocar, i desperately wish they would stop saying 'perceived quality', they use it in almost all articles to the point of being meaningless. Essentially quality is based on people's opinion, we perceive a heavy sounding door as being high quality, even though a heavy door makes the car slower -  so to make a differentiation between perceived and actual quality is almost meaningless. In which case to use the term percevied quality everytime is verbose, and also in grave danger of pretention. It comes across as if you are saying, that i know better, and that it is only perceived quality and not actual quality.  I am not saying that there is never an occasion when you might make an observation that something appears to be high quality but actually isn't, but that isn't the usage they are making, they are simply replacing the term quality with the phrase perceived quality.

I apologise if this is slightly ranty, but i have had a San Miguel and most of a bottle of Cava, for no particularly good reason, but seriously there are editors and that they let this go year after year, strikes me as remarkable, i don't understand how they can't see how it appears. Am i the only one? As an aside i also love the way that the autocar reviewers spend ages commenting on the elegance and stylishness of the design, but whenever you see a photo of them in a car they are in the sort of jeans and top you could buy for a tenner on market stall in Bury. It does tend to make you think that they don't really care about design and style, except in so far as it relates to a status item such as a car.

I shall now finish the bottle of Cava, and do something more productive. 

eseaton 7 August 2018

Good post. Have more cava,

Good post. Have more cava, and carry on. I've joined you.

So, I reckon with a 2.3 four, this is a 1 star, totally pointless, car.

With a 5.0 eight, up to 4.5 stars. Desirable for is good points, and endearing for its crudity.

I have just bought an Isuzu pickup for the farm. I love it, and prefer driving it to any of the courtesy cars I have driven from my Mercedes dealer but an absurd margin.

jason_recliner 8 August 2018

pushtheprincess wrote:

pushtheprincess wrote:

Much as i love Autocar, i desperately wish they would stop saying 'perceived quality', they use it in almost all articles to the point of being meaningless. Essentially quality is based on people's opinion, we perceive a heavy sounding door as being high quality, even though a heavy door makes the car slower -  so to make a differentiation between perceived and actual quality is almost meaningless. In which case to use the term percevied quality everytime is verbose, and also in grave danger of pretention. It comes across as if you are saying, that i know better, and that it is only perceived quality and not actual quality.  I am not saying that there is never an occasion when you might make an observation that something appears to be high quality but actually isn't, but that isn't the usage they are making, they are simply replacing the term quality with the phrase perceived quality.

I apologise if this is slightly ranty, but i have had a San Miguel and most of a bottle of Cava, for no particularly good reason, but seriously there are editors and that they let this go year after year, strikes me as remarkable, i don't understand how they can't see how it appears. Am i the only one? As an aside i also love the way that the autocar reviewers spend ages commenting on the elegance and stylishness of the design, but whenever you see a photo of them in a car they are in the sort of jeans and top you could buy for a tenner on market stall in Bury. It does tend to make you think that they don't really care about design and style, except in so far as it relates to a status item such as a car.

I shall now finish the bottle of Cava, and do something more productive. 

Not really.

Perceived quality is subjective. It seems, for example, that many people perceive soft plastic dash board mouldings with silver plastic trim to be high quality. Actual quality is more objective, and refers to design and construction of a standard that is fit for purpose and, more or less, isn't likely to go wrong. That's simplifying things, I know, but it does illustrate the very real difference between perceived quality and quality.

Aerial 8 August 2018

Why don't they apply that?

I think i see what you mean (i like the originl post, more Cava and comment please) but Autocar has for years banged on about squishy VW plastics as a sign of "quality" whilst deriding offerings from the East but fail to go into any detail about DSG lawsuits the world over, emissions, below-average reliability ratings. I know they can't bite the hand that feeds them but now they fail to mention interior quality now that VW has rolled it back, just look at the Polo GTI review just released.

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