Review: Ford Mustang and Ecosport

This 2+2 Fastback has been Tango-ed but has all the punch of Steve McQueen's wheels
This 2+2 Fastback has been Tango-ed but has all the punch of Steve McQueen's wheels
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That orange thing outside your house: what was it?” This was said with a hint of bemusement by a Range Rover owner who clearly has not kept up with the evolution of America’s famous muscle car. We were drinking in the lofty Le Vieux Cygne, where the conversation returned to other matters which are unimportant in the context of this page.

The orange thing was a Ford Mustang, though the famous F word is nowhere to be seen outside or inside the car. On the front there is a silver horse, on the back a big GT badge. On the side, the notation 5.0. The horse is repeated on the steering wheel boss, and in after-dark puddle lights when the doors are opened. The numbers indicate it has the five-litre V8 engine. The throb and burble and roar and such V8 aural accessories tell you it is not the 2.3 four-cylinder turbo model.

The Duracell colours of the Ecosport are a hint that a full petrol tank goes a long way

The Duracell colours of the Ecosport are a hint that a full petrol tank goes a long way

This smaller engine is no slouch, producing 286bhp and 324lb ft of torque. The V8 produces nearly 444bhp and 390lb ft of torque. Both have a six-speed manual gearbox or a 10-speed automatic. Ten speeds indeed.

The 1965 Mustang created a new class of car – pony cars – with a short rear and long bonnet and it made history when Steve McQueen drove one in the 1968 film Bullitt. Its best-known rival is the Chevrolet Corvette, from 1953. Both marques have dedicated museums in America.

The Mustang went through a few decades of dreary body styles until the revival of its original shape this century. The current car was updated this year based on the sixth generation from 2015. That model brought right-hand-drive steering.

The 2+2 Fastback coupé has just about enough room in the back for adults desperate to have a ride. Why wouldn’t they? This legend of the petrol-head era is glorious. It is a supercar which is absurdly affordable and entirely practical. It has a decent-sized boot which can be extended into the cabin by folding down the rear seats. The suspension refinement is amazingly good. Road noises are low, suggesting good engineering and insulation. Even the engine and exhaust are muted at gentle throttle openings. After that it can get very loud.

My demonstration model had the manual gearbox, prices from £42,745. The automatic box is an additional £1,600. The 2.3 Mustang is around £5,000 cheaper. A slightly more powerful and bespoke Bullitt V8 costs £48,145

The cabin has a “smart” information display. It adjusts to match the driving mode chosen – from normal through sport+, wet and snow to track and finally drag strip. Fantastic. The car’s “MagneRide” suspension (£1,600) adapts to match your choice. You can also vary the exhaust sound, from quiet to track. There is a personal setting which remembers your choices.

The 2018 updates included the all-digital dashboard which you’ll like, a lower bonnet with meshed vents over the snarlier face. Driven gently, this is a gentle car. Push it harder and there’s still enough tail-end snap, even in “normal” mode, to bring a shiver of panic. The other thing you’ll learn to manage is the engine’s response. In too high a gear it can feel lazy and when overtaking a couple of downshifts may be necessary.

On the road it was great fun. For the planet, these sort of cars are taking a toll. Ford quotes 277g of CO2 and nudging 23mpg for the manual V8. The trip computer gave a rosier report – with 30mpg seen on some journeys. The 2.3 engine’s official data is 199g and 31mpg.

Verdict: Loved it.

From the mighty to the mouse. Ford’s Ecosport is a town & country baby SUV, with raised ride height and a stoutly styled body. “Designed for the urban jungle – built to escape it” is the slogan. When it tottered into the UK five years ago it was encumbered with a spare wheel on the rear door. That has now been deleted for the UK but it is why the rear door is still side-hinged. The model originated in Brazil. Ours came from India but the car was a sales dud.

This latest model is based on the Fiesta and is built in several countries. Ours comes from Romania. It looks better, rides better, and has the latest in-car technology in a brighter dashboard. The side-hinged back door is its Achilles heel. It sticks out a long way when open and is hinged on the left which means you have to walk round the door from a nearside kerb to load and unload. You are also vulnerable to passing traffic. The parcel shelf is an ergonomic muddle, too.

Seen here is the sporty ST Line in bronze over black – a Duracell as one wag observed. It has visual presence with the beaky roof spoiler and 17-inch wheels but the sports suspension exacerbates road noise and interference. Its saving grace was the 123bhp, one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine which returned 40 to 46mpg. Cost: £21,245 plus £495 for metallic paint. Range starts at £17,845 and automatic from £19,745. Diesel: 1.5 from £19,385. Diesel all-wheel-drive from £23,480.

Verdict: Likeable despite its flaws but much competition in the sector.