Not exactly a bargain, but plenty of muscle for your money
- Decent value for money
- Straight-line performance
- Americana image
- V8’s muscle
- Feels bulky on UK roads
- Handling lacks finesse
- Patchy interior quality
- V8’s thirst
It’s rare that the name of a car transcends beyond automotive enthusiasts into popular culture, but the Ford Mustang is one such vehicle. You can thank decades of cameos in Hollywood films for that.
Somewhat ironic then that it’s taken Ford over 50 years since the original ‘Stang made its Stateside debut to make a serious effort to import them here – and in right-hand drive.
Yes, there are thousands of older Mustangs already in the UK, the vast majority of them privately imported, although Ford had a half-hearted official channel back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This time it’s for real. Ford sells the Mustang in two guises: the Fastback – read coupe – reviewed here, and a Convertible.
Mustangs are physically large compared with their European and Japanese rivals such as the Audi A5 Coupe, BMW 4 Series Coupe, Infiniti Q60, Lexus RC and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, but the packaging is poor, resulting in a cramped cabin and a not especially commodious boot.
But to compare it directly with those models seems a little unfair, since the Mustang appeals to a different type of car buyer. It’s an entertaining, light-hearted and characterful car, which means vehicles such as the BMW M2, Mercedes-AMG A 45 and Audi RS 3 Sportback also come into the equation.
American image, engineered for Europe
Mustangs coming here feature some European-specific engineering modifications to make them go, stop and turn better than their predecessors.
America gets a wider range of powerplants, but here there is just a pair of engines to choose from – the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged Ecoboost with 317hp (down to 290hp from the 2018 facelift), similar to the unit fitted to the Focus RS, and a 5.0-litre V8 with 416hp (uprated to 450hp in 2018) on tap.
Clearly the former is the more efficient of the pairing, with promised economy nudging 35.3mpg and CO2 emissions a reasonable 179g/km. But who buys a muscle car for economy and efficiency? Turns out not many people, with the around two-thirds of Mustangs ordered with the larger engine.
In performance terms, the 2.3 Ecoboost manages the 0-62mph sprint in 5.8 seconds, its brawnier sibling in 4.8.
A six-speed manual gearbox, with a meaty throw, is the more popular transmission, although the six-speed auto feels aligned with the car’s American ethos.
Ford Mustang Fastback: 2018 facelift
Ford updated the Mustang in 2018, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice on first inspection. There’s a new front bumper, a bonnet featuring some menacing-looking vents and new LED headlights. Keener spotters will also notice that the shape of the front wings and rear light graphics have also subtly altered. However, it’s under the skin where the bigger changes have been applied.
In addition to the power output revisions, a 10-speed automatic gearbox replaces the old six-speed transmission, and you can now specify some highly impressive optional magnetic adaptive suspension.
This also allows for two new drive modes – Drag (which softens the rear suspension for the best-possible launch) and My Mode, which allows the driver to configure a set-up for the car for their own requirements. Normal, Sport, Track and Snow/Wet modes remain the same.
Ford has also used the facelift as the opportunity to install driver-assistance technology, the Mustang now featuring active lane-departure assist along with adaptive cruise control and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection.
Inside, a 12-inch LCD instrument display sits behind the steering wheel and can change its colour theme based on the drive mode you select.
If you’re worried that it’s still too expensive to run, Ford has announced a hybrid version of the Mustang will be introduced in 2020.
Small range of Mustangs available
It’s very un-Ford-like, but the Mustang Fastback comes in just two regular trim levels – and each is specific to the engine.
Both offer a high level of kit, though, so no matter which Mustang you go for you’ll enjoy 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control and Ford’s Sync3 multimedia system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (the earlier Sync2 system was fitted until 2016).
For those wanting to behave like a hooligan the V8 is the only choice, though. Here you’ll discover the Line Lock and Launch Control systems that allow you to perform burn-outs with ease and accelerate as quickly as possible from a standstill.
Limited edition Mustang Bullitt an instant sell-out
Just 350 examples of the Mustang Bullitt were allocated to the UK and each was pre-sold even before it was price listed in autumn 2018.
Launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film Bullitt, featuring a 1969 Mustang GT350, the special edition has had an effective makeover so that it resembles the style of the movie car, including dark green paint, de-badged bodywork, gloss black alloy wheels and additional chrome detailing.
Not that it's noticeable in how it drives, but the Bullitt also benefits from a 9hp power increase from its 5.0-litre V8 engine courtesy of a revised air intake and other minor mechanical enhancements. It certainly sounds throatier than other V8 Mustangs.
The Parkers Verdict
On paper, the Ford Mustang Fastback is outclassed by its more established German and Japanese rivals in almost every regard: it lacks cabin space, it feels cheaper inside and it’s woefully inefficient in comparison with them. About the only thing it appears to have going for it is how much performance you get for your pound.
Yet the Pony Car’s greater than the sum of its parts. It oozes charm and brash charisma, it makes kids point and mouth ‘wow’, and although it’s dynamically beaten by the opposition on a winding B-road, you’ll get out at your journey’s end with an enormous grin on your face.