Stirling Times - - DRIVEWAY - Matt Calvitto

THE four-cylin­der Ford Mus­tang EcoBoost is the cheap­est model in Ford Aus­tralia's Mus­tang line-up, slot­ting be­low the V8 Mus­tang GT at $45,990.

We tested the EcoBoost coupe, which was fit­ted with the six-speed auto trans­mis­sion.

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 be­hav­iour, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, Ford's lat­est Mi­crosoft­de­vel­oped 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.

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 four­cylin­der en­gine – shared with the Fo­cus RS – that de­vel­ops 233kW and a very healthy 432Nm.

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.

The of­fi­cial com­bined fuel con­sump­tion is 9.3litres/100km, but we found 12ish to be more re­al­is­tic.

Should you wish to do track work, there's a track mode that 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.

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 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.

Front pas­sen­gers should have more than enough head and leg room, al­though those in the back may find head room to be very lim­it­ing.

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.

Ver­dict: We wanted to rec­om­mend the EcoBoost as a cheaper, more log­i­cal al­ter­na­tive to the V8 Mus­tang GT, but that two star safety rat­ing holds us back.

The Ecoboost is a more log­i­cal al­ter­na­tive to the Mus­tang V8 GT.

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