Entry-level Ford Mustang EcoBoost packs surprising punch and offers decent value
What is it?
What’s it cost?
The Mustang range starts at $45,990 for the Mustang EcoBoost coupe fitted with a six-speed manual and tops out with the Mustang GT convertible with a six-speed auto, which is priced from $65,916 plus on road costs.
We tested the Mustang EcoBoost coupe which was fitted with the six-speed auto transmission, and prices for this version start at $48,490 plus on roads.
Standard equipment is reasonable, you get various driving modes to alter the car’s behavior, satellite navigation, Ford’s latest Microsoft-developed SYNC entertainment system, a punchy stereo, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control and heated and cooled seats.
But it does miss out on stuff like a digital speedo, blind spot monitoring and automatic braking.
What’s it go like?
Yes, I know, I know. It’s a four-cylinder Mustang. And before you slam your fist down on the table and decry “Mustangs should be V8!” be assured that the Mustang Ecoboost packs more than enough grunt. Power comes from a 2.3 litre turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine – shared with the Focus RS – that develops 233kW @ 5700rpm and a very healthy 432Nm @ 3000rpm.
Acceleration is brisk, and in “Normal” mode the engine is smooth and quiet, flick the aircraft-style toggle switch into “Sport” and that purring four-pot develops a deep and angry rumble, and it almost – almost – sounds like a small block V8. The transmission holds gears for longer too, altering the engine’s rev pattern. We liked Sport mode. We had it in Sport mode for most of the time.
The official combined fuel consumption for the Mustang EcoBoost automatic is 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres, but we found 12ish to be more realistic, over a mix of city and open road driving.
Should you wish to do track work, there’s a track mode which dumbs down the electronic driving aids and there’s also a winter mode for low-grip conditions.
You can also select Normal, Comfort and Sport for the steering. Again, Sport is your best bet here. It’s a little heavy, but it gives the most feedback. Comfort felt too numb and vague. Normal. As you as you may have already guessed, sits somewhere in between.
Acceleration is brisk – more than fast enough for most – and the gearbox climbs through the ratios quickly. It does genuinely feel sporty, and the whole experience is very entertaining. The transmission shifts notably harder in Sport, and we found that it held some gears for too long, especially when coasting down hills and this made the engine rev unnecessarily hard.
As for ride and handling, well the Mustang EcoBoost is very much a muscle car rather than a sports car. It feels big, and bulky and doesn’t seem to hide its size particularly well. This was more than apparent when piloting the ‘Stang through tight inner city streets, where the thing felt enormous.
The ride can feel hard too, and can be a little uncomfortable over crappy road surfaces.
Hit an open flowing road, however, and the Mustang EcoBoost is a joy. It’s not particularly clever or sophisticated, but it has a certain charm about it. And despite Mustangs becoming a relatively common sight on Aussie roads, we found our test car got admiring glances wherever it went.
What’s it like inside?
Very American. You can see that Ford has drawn inspiration from the iconic first generation, with the overall shape of the dashboard and there’s a hint of aircraft in there too, with those aforementioned toggle switches.
Ford’s SYNC system is impressively easy to use – although some of the sat nav’s routes of choice were questionable – and we wish the screen was mounted a little higher, so it sat better within the driver’s line of sight. The voice control is excellent though and the stereo is punchy.
Front passengers should have more than enough head and legroom, although those sitting in the back may find head room to be very limiting, and we’re guessing the back two chairs are only for very short trips.
Fit and finish is fine, although some of the materials feel cheap and flimsy and make the Mustang feel like it’s built to a price.
What we like:
- Styling and presence
- Relative value for money
- It’s a motoring icon
What we don’t:
- Two-star safety rating. A two safety rating is unacceptable on a bargain basement Chinese ute, let alone a $50k odd sports car from a manufacturer as a big as Ford. Read more about the Mustang’s crash test results here.
- Lack of active safety equipment
- EcoBoost version won’t have as much street cred as its V8 brother
- Can be hard work around town and a little too tail-happy in the wet
- Interior feels cheap
Sale or no sale?
We desperately want to recommend the Mustang EcoBoost as a cheaper and perhaps more logical alternative to the V8 Mustang GT. We do like it, we do. But that two star safety rating holds us back from recommending it to anyone.