First Drive: Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Convertible

We’ve waited fifty years for the Mustang to arrive in the UK, and now it’s coming it’ll be fitted with a four-cylinder engine labelled ‘Ecoboost’.

Four cylinders and 2.3-litres. On paper that’s hardly the makings of a muscle car, but Ford is convinced it’s what Europe needs.

Right-hand drive versions of the car haven’t been tested yet, but the European spec models are now finding their way here in left-hand drive, and it’s to one of those models that I was handed the keys.

Designed by Brit Moray Callum, the Mustang is a piece of pure Americana; low, wide, long and dramatic, yet with a serious nod to the history of this iconic model. It’s not a retro design as such, looking every bit a modern sports car, but there’s no mistaking that it’s a Mustang in your rear view mirror.

The coupe might be more dramatic with its fastback styling, but the convertible brings a little bit of elegance to the design. More closely resembling the notchback look of the 60s, fold the roof down and it creates an unfussy, sleek appearance.

The roof is slightly more old-school than that on the likes of the Audi TT, requiring the driver to give a handle at the top of the windscreen a hefty pull and twist before the roof peels back electrically. Once it’s back it hides as best it can behind the rear seats, not spoiling the lines of the car at all, but there’s no cover so huge gaps reveal the inner workings.

Not on view is that new engine, a 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder that seems like the antithesis to the classic American V8, but austerity and sky-high fuel prices means there’ll be a demand for the ‘sensible’ engine option – in fact 40% of orders so far are for the Ecoboost model.

Fortunately there’s not much to worry about. Fleet managers will be happy with emissions of 184g/km of CO2 and official combined economy of 35.3mpg, while drivers will be kept entertained by 317PS of power and 434Nm of torque. The Mustang is no lightweight, but it’s enough to propel the car from standstill to 62mph in just under six seconds.

Press the starter button and there’s a traditional four-cylinder noise, but pull away and a booming V8 engine noise starts to come through. Yes, like the Focus ST, the sensible Mustang uses computer wizardry to feed a V8 rumble through the cars speakers, giving the occupants the true American experience that works surprisingly well most of the time. However, when you’re trying hard it’s possible to hear the real engine over the false sound, spoiling the illusion entirely.

When you do drive like that, the Mustang will pleasantly surprise you. The six-speed manual gearbox has a short throw and a reassuring weight to it, allowing you to extract the best from the engine. Despite being turbocharged, there’s no significant turbo lag, so torque is available at all times, and there’s more than enough to get the back end of the car unnecessarily sideways.

Around the bends it’s not as sharp as a BMW 420i (the only thing BMW can offer for similar money) but there’s still plenty of grip. Push really hard and the suspension fails to keep up a little, leading to high-speed cornering being a tad more tense than you might like, but back off a bit and it all comes back under control. Then it’s solid, safe and predictable.

It’ll go on to reach 145mph, but you won’t want to do that with the roof down. As you hit 100mph, a strange aerodynamic force creates a vibration that you can feel through your body, making life rather uncomfortable. Of course, you can only do 70mph in the UK, so perhaps that won’t worry you…

At least at legal UK speeds refinement is suprprisingly impressive. Even with the roof down, conversations are possible without shouting too much. Put the roof back up and the double layer roof with thick insulation keeps the outside world out.

You’ll then get to sit back in the squishy seats (although they’re also very supportive) and enjoy the kit that comes as standard, including dual-zone climate control, leather seats, nine-speaker sound system and Ford’s impressive SYNC2 voice-controlled infotainment system with its eight-inch touch screen. Sat-nav, heated and cooled seats, reversing sensors and camera, and an uprated ‘shaker’ stereo system are part of a £1,795 option pack.

All those goodies are set in a traditional Mustang cabin, with a flash of aluminium, multiple round vents and old-style climate controls. It’s neat and stylish, but it’s a shame the quality isn’t as high as you might like.

A row of toggle switches for driving modes, from sensible Normal to heart-pounding Track change computer assistance and responses, while three steering modes are also available – these just seem to change the level of assistance though, rather than offering any extra feedback.

This is all wrapped up in an excellent value package. The range starts at £29,995, but taking the roof off adds just £4,000 to the price. At £33,995 there simply aren’t any direct rivals. BMW’s 420i is the closest, but is straight-laced and sensible (if, technically, a better car) while the Audi A5 is even more sober and available with just a 170bhp 1.8-litre engine for the same money.

Nothing else can get close to the emotional appeal either, and that might just be enough to sway a buyer anyway. Yes, its rivals are sharper, more frugal, and better built. But they’re not a Mustang. It’s a three-star car with five-star appeal.

Model Tested: Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Convertible
Price: £33,995
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo petrol
Top speed: 145 mph
0-62 mph: 5.8 seconds
Power: 317 PS (313 bhp)
Torque: 432 Nm (319 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 35.3 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 184 g/km
VED Band: I / £225 per year
Car insurance group: 43E
Kerb weight: 1,715 kg
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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