Ford Mustang - First

Drive

Ford Mustang, front action
Ford Mustang, side action
Ford Mustang, rear action
Ford Mustang, front static
Ford Mustang, rear static
Ford Mustang, two cars
Ford Mustang, old and new
Ford Mustang, engine
Ford Mustang, cabin
Ford Mustang, dashboard
Ford Mustang, classics
Ford Mustang, badge

IT has taken half a century and produced some entirely forgettable models along the way, but the Ford Mustang is finally available in proper European trim, with right hand drive - and it's been worth the wait.

The sixth generation of a Mustang that sparked demand for a new kind of car when it first appeared in 1965 can now be yours from £30,995.

That buys a properly American-made Mustang (of course!) but without the mighty V8 engine under the bonnet that produced the thunderous soundtrack made famous by Hollywood and Steve McQueen.

Still, with 145mph on tap and zero to 62mph in 5.8 seconds it's no slowcoach. Clever electronics even generates a synthetic soundtrack that does a good impersonation of the real thing.

This Mustang-lite (a relative term with such a large machine) also uses a bit less fuel (35.3mpg officially but 27mpg on my drive) and looks every American inch the real deal.

When sales settle down after the initial rush, with more than 3,500 Mustangs on order or delivered in the UK to date, this 2.3 EcoBoost with four cylinders and 313bhp is expected to take around half of all sales.

But at the moment the rush to satisfy a demand that's been building for 50 years means most Mustangs come with the pukka 415bhp 5.0 litre V8.

Drive one and you know why from the first gentle push of the throttle; here is a car that's effortlessly fast - with 155mph and 4.8 seconds to 62mph available without hesitation.

If the official 20.9mpg looks like a reason to shun the real deal, consider the 23mpg the car returned over the same route as its slighter sibling.

A real world four mpg advantage will not deter anyone who relishes the genuine throb of eight big cylinders at work.

Neither will a price difference of £4,000 that makes the 2.3 EcoBoost look almost a giveaway at £30,995 but the full fat 5.0 Fastback a steal for £34,995 (even if the first year's road tax is an eyewatering £1,100).

That buys a car that comes loaded with kit, from Brembo front brakes, limited slip differential, xenon headlights, nine speaker sound system, power adjustable front seats, rear view camera and a switch to tame the rear wheels on slippery roads or sharpen the car's reactions when you feel a bit sporty.

The interior is clearly built with price in mind and the plastics on show will not worry Audi, or even Kia for that matter. No complaints about the superb front seats, perfect driving position and crisply clear instruments.

There is a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with an automatic transmission for £1,500 behind either engine, and it is important you try both before putting down your deposit.

They make more of a difference to the way this new Mustang behaves than even the engine choice. The manual box links your right foot to the nerve centre of the car and makes it feel so much more connected than the slightly diffident auto.

As big a difference is available for an extra £3,500 in the handsome shape of the Mustang convertible, which weighs a bit more than the fixed-roof fastback and, predictably, shimmies gently on bad roads thanks to the lack of a rigid roof.

It's powered hood vanishes neatly in seconds and there is actually a fraction more leg room in the rear than offered in the fastback. Neither cars' back seats are adult friendly though, but perfectly suited to a couple of growing nippers, who are unlikely to complain as they out-cool their schoolmates.

The convertible loses a little boot room but either body style has more than enough space for a fun car with a mildly serious side when there's shopping to be carried.

A fraction wider than, say, a Land Rover Discovery makes the Mustang a machine that needs some care on country roads but the further it went the narrower it seemed - always a sign of a car that keen drivers will enjoy.

Proper all-round independent suspension helps too, even if it strays on the harsh side of firm on some of our worst road surfaces.

Still, on most roads, most of the time this new Mustang will have a proud new owner pleased as punch that a piece of American motoring folklore has finally crossed the pond properly.

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