Ford Mustang 2020 review: GT auto
It's loud and obnoxious, but you can't help but love its V8 charm. The Mustang continues to be a pillar of Ford Australia's success in 2020.
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The 2020 Ford Mustang line-up has been refreshed and revamped, and there’s a new addition to the ranks. Well, sort of.
The existing entry-level 2.3-litre EcoBoost Mustang has been given a new name: it’s now the Mustang High Performance 2.3L, and the one you see here is the Fastback coupe, though there is a Convertible version, too - if that’s what you’re after.
It looks more aggressive than the existing four-cylinder, with a number of styling changes that mean more people will confuse it with the V8 Mustang. Until they hear it, that is.
And with that new suffix attached to its name, of course there is a bit more power than before.
So is the four-cylinder Ford Mustang something you should consider if you’re in the muscle car mindset? Read on to find out.
The 2020 Ford Mustang update saw prices rise across the board, and the High Performance 2.3L models are now more expensive, too.
The Fastback automatic tested here, for instance, has an MSRP list price of $54,490 plus on-road costs. That’s $3000 more expensive than the manual version of the coupe, and $1000 more than the 2019 equivalents.
As mentioned above, you can get the four-cylinder Mustang as an automatic convertible as well, and that’ll cost you $60,790.
The standard equipment list includes 19-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli rubber, auto on/off LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, LED tail-lights, a variable exhaust system with quad tips, rain sensing wipers, puddle lights (with Pony projection), and a number of design highlights specific to the 2.3L model. More about that in the design section below.
Other gear fitted as standard includes dual zone climate control, heated and cooled leather front seats with electric adjustment, leather steering wheel, leather gear knob, keyless entry with push-button start, LED ambient interior lighting, illuminated scuff plates, heated and power folding wing mirrors, and a 12-inch digital dash cluster with configurable displays.
For all Mustang models there’s an 8.0-inch Sync3 touch screen multimedia system with sat nav, USB connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and smartphone mirroring tech (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). The media unit is hooked up to a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 12 speakers.
All Mustang models come with adaptive cruise control and auto high beam lights, and there’s an array of safety-focused driver technology aids which you can read all about in the safety section below.
There are a few options available, and our car had the Recaro leather front sports seats ($3000), and the adaptive MagneRide suspension ($2750) was also fitted to this car. Other choices include a number of accessory dealer-fit design packs, and Lustre nickel alloy wheels ($500).
Colour choices (or colors if you follow FoMoCo speak) for the 2020 Mustang include a few new hues such as Twister Orange and Grabber Lime. Those, along with Shadow Black, Kona Blue, Velocity Blue (our test car’s colour), Rapid Red, Magnetic (grey) and Iconic Silver will all add $650 to the price. There are only two no-cost options for colours: Oxford White and Race Red.
You might also be interested in what it costs to get into a V8 Mustang - and you’ve gotta pay an extra $12,200 to get an auto ($66,690). That’s a lot, but check the resale values of Mustang models and you’ll see that as an investment, not a waste of money.
You can’t confuse a Mustang for any other car on the road. That’s intentional.
With its iconic muscle car looks, signature tail-lights and menacing slim headlights flanking a broad grille, it’s an intimidating model no matter which engine is under its sculpted bonnet.
It is a substantial vehicle in terms of dimensions, measuring 4789mm long (on a 2720mm wheelbase), 1916mm wide and 1387mm tall. That’s longer and wider than a lot of family-friendly SUVs. But boy, does it pull off its size well.
The Mustang High Performance 2.3L gets a few distinct features when it comes to the design, including a model-specific grille finish, 19-inch wheels with a machined finish, accented bonnet strips in “Magnetic” grey, and those finishes extend to the mirror caps and rear spoiler.
You can option to have the exterior trim finishes without grey highlights, at no extra cost. But no matter what colour trim elements you opt for there will be model-specific badges on the rear and the fenders.
Inside the design between all models in the range is largely identical, but you won’t feel like you’re in something familiar if your usual ride is a Ranger. This is a purpose-built and designed muscle car, with plenty of sporting, strong intent inside and out.
You don’t buy a Mustang for practicality. But if you’re single or in a couple without kids, this could be a very practical option.
It has four seats, but the back ones are nearly useless in terms of space. I tried to sit behind my own (182cm) driving position, and it was close to impossible - I didn’t have enough headroom, toe room or leg room to sit there for more than a few minutes. If those in the front seats are shorter, yes, it’ll be fine for a little longer.
And access to the back seats isn’t great. The door openings are small, and the bulky front seats - optional full-leather Recaro sports seats in this tester - don’t electronically slide forward when you tilt the backrest. A little thing, but annoying all the same.
If you do manage to squeeze someone in the back, they won’t be well catered for. There is no storage - no cup holders, map pockets or bottle holders at all. But the rear seats do fold down 50:50 to allow easy boot access.
You might even find yourself folding the seats down to allow for extra boot space - though the standard cargo space is 408 litres when not expanded, which is easily enough for a week’s worth of luggage: we fit all three suitcases in the back (124L, 95L, 36L) without hassle. That boot capacity is more than most hatchbacks and even some SUVs.
But you know what’s annoying? There’s no boot release button on the boot lid. It's hidden down near the numberplate, and that means it's just a bit harder to get to if your hands are full.
What about up front?
Those Recaro seats are big and pretty but don’t exactly hug your curves like proper racing seats would. And if you option them, you have to forego comforts like seat heating and cooling - which is standard for the standard seats. It was cold when I drove the Mustang, and your precious tester missed seat heating terribly; plus there’s no steering wheel heating either - you get that in the Fiesta ST, at half the price.
I also found it a bit difficult to find the right driving position, and I was frustrated by the over-shoulder blind spot.
I was also disappointed at the storage on offer. There’s a covered centre console, sure, and a pair of cup holders - but they’re in the middle of the armrest between the front seats. The section in front of the gear-shifter leaves a bit to be desired as there is no usable storage. There’s a USB port and you can sit your phone there, but trust me - it won’t stay there very long. Additionally, there are cavities in the doors which aren’t big enough for a bottle and a little bit awkwardly positioned and shaped.
Also a little awkward are the climate controls - the majority of it is managed by buttons below the screen, though the air direction - which vents you want blowing - is through the screen (unless you have the demister on).
The media screen itself is mostly good - Ford’s Sync software is mostly pretty good, with easy menus and decent graphics. I was using Apple CarPlay for the entire time I was in the Mustang, and had no issues at all. There’s Android Auto too, of course.
The Ford Mustang High Performance 2.3L models run a, you guessed it, 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost turbo-petrol engine with 236kW of power (at 6200rpm) and 448Nm (at 3800rpm).
That’s more than the existing 2.3-litre model - as you’d expect, of a High Performance model. The old version offered up 224kW and 441Nm, but the horsepower engine specs have been upped thanks to the fitment of a larger turbocharger.
All Mustang models are rear-wheel drive. And in terms of performance specs, the four-cylinder model certainly lives up to the badge. But, believe it or not, Ford Performance - a high performance brand in its own right - still hasn’t published a 0-100km/h time for this car!
Ford US has previously stated the High Performance tune should offer a 0-60mph (or 0-96.5km/h) time in the “mid four-second range”, but to me that seems extremely ambitious, given the existing 2.3L model had a claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.5 seconds.
Want to know the V8 specs? Read our 2020 Mustang V8 review.
The claimed combined cycle fuel consumption for the Mustang 2.3L High Performance model with the auto transmission is 9.6 litres per 100 kilometres.
On test, across a mix of enthusiastic driving, urban testing and boring highway stints I saw a return of 11.5L/100km - which, it’s fair to say, was a bit above what I expected.
Fuel tank capacity for four-cylinder models is 59 litres. That’s two litres less than the V8s, but they use a lot more fuel.
I’m going to say this first and foremost: the Mustang is made to be a V8. It needs a V8 to feel right. I’ve driven the V8, I know it feels better than the four-cylinder.
The Mustang High Performance is exactly that - a high performance car with plenty of speed and surprising agility, but it’s just not quite right. It just doesn’t feel like a Mustang should.
The 2.3-litre turbo engine is very strong and offers plenty of pulling power. The power delivery is linear, with very little lag from a standing start - and there’s a Drag Race mode for launches if you find yourself at the strip.
The 10-speed automatic transmission helps with that smooth progress. It’s decisive and shifts quickly, and in Sport mode you even get a reassuring thump as it upshifts under hard acceleration.
But at times - usually in sedate driving - it can be too busy. There are 10 gears to use, after all, and I really think eight would be more than sufficient. It can hold gears longer than you might expect, or shuffle between lower gears more regularly than is probably necessary. It just feels a little confused.
There’s also Race mode, which is definitely the pick for hard driving. It will hold gears more sensibly, allowing you to explore the ability of the engine even more.
But I still think it’s stupid that the drive mode switch only operates one way through the menus – so you can’t go from Sport back to Normal without going through Sport Plus, Drag Race, etc.
For my driving I used a mix of those modes, but no matter which I chose I struggled to come to grips - quite literally - with the steering of the Mustang.
It is direct, and you can feel some vibration from the road surface through the tiller, but it’s got a weird vagueness that makes it hard to judge when you’re driving it with intent. It feels quite light over the nose because of the way the steering behaves, and that can make it feel questionably balanced in the bends.
I know that when I’ve driven the V8 version it definitely felt more natural in the way that steered. Maybe I’d prepared myself for a nose-heavy experience, and even if I did, I preferred it.
All that said, however, the Magneride adaptive suspension is very well sorted, offering decent ride compliance for the most part, and altering its manners depending on the drive mode.
I noted one or two moments of skittishness at the rear when encountering mid-corner bumps in Sport mode, while over straight road sections in Normal mode the suspension dealt well with potholes and pockmarks. Of course you’ll feel sharp edges at lower speeds, but what sports car doesn’t?
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
This might be the point at which you decide: “Hmm, maybe the Mustang isn’t for me.”
That’s because it has a lacklustre ANCAP crash test safety rating - it managed just three stars when it was tested in 2017. Its score was rightfully pegged back by its rear occupant protection for side and frontal offset crash scenarios for both adults and children.
That isn’t to say that it lacks safety tech or inclusions. It comes as standard with auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (5km/h to 80km/h), front collision warning, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and adaptive radar cruise control (but it’s not full-speed cruise, as it cuts out at 20km/h).
Missing is blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear AEB, front cross traffic alert, and driver attention alert/fatigue monitoring.
Despite its small body, there are eight airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and dual knee), and there are two ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the rear, as well as two top tether points for baby seats. Though given the crash score, you mightn’t want to put anyone you love in the back.
The company also has a capped price servicing plan with maintenance due every 12 months/15,000km. And for each maintenance visit for the first four years/60,000km for MY2020 Mustang models, the service costs are pegged at $299 per visit. That’s exclusive of things like brake fluid (every 24 months - $135) and other consumables like brake pads and wiper blades.
As you may know, Ford will also offer you a service loan car, and it updates your sat nav maps when you come in for servicing, too. And if you abide by the company’s rules, there’s up to seven years of roadside assistance available.
The Ford Mustang High Performance 2.3L is neither a true muscle car, nor a sports car. It is a stylish and speedy two-door, but it never feels like a brutish beefcake, nor a scalpel-sharp sports coupe.
You mightn’t care about that. And I can understand why you’d choose the four-cylinder over the V8 - it’s considerably cheaper, better on fuel and still gets a lot of equipment. However - and this chorus will be familiar to those who are fans of the Mustang - the V8 is just a better option. Spend the extra money.
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