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Ford Mustang EcoBoost 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
6.8
Is the four-cylinder Ford Mustang EcoBoost's biggest selling point that it looks almost identical to its V8-powered brother? Or is it a shining star in its own right?

Ford Mustang. The name just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? It’s one of the most evocative and best-known models in the automotive kingdom, and the decision to sell it properly in Australia – after a couple of false starts – has proven to be a boon for Ford Australia. And after a whirlwind 18 months of sales, Ford can finally catch its breath and actually provide dealers with stock that isn’t pre-sold.

The V8-powered GT has been by far the biggest seller, but the four-cylinder EcoBoost version we’re testing here has its own merits – not least of which being that it looks almost identical to its bigger-engined brother.

Is a four-cylinder, turbocharged Mustang a sacrilege, though? Or can it show the V8 a thing or two?

Ford Mustang 2017: Fastback 2.3 GTDI
Safety rating
Engine Type2.3L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.3L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$36,000

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Being given the gig to design a new Mustang must fill a designer with equal amounts of pride and terror. Over six generations, some iterations have been more hit than miss, but the latest car manages to capture the elements needed to bring the essence of the original into a new era.

Its pumped guards, long bonnet, fluted sides and raked windscreen are unapologetically muscle car, while the view of the twin-creased bonnet from behind the wheel is arguably one of the coolest in today’s motoring world.

The headlight treatment brings the Mustang into the new decade, while its taillights and swooping rear silhouette celebrate more recent generations of the car. Overall, the effect is still head-turning a year after launch – and key to the success of the EcoBoost is that it doesn’t look dissimilar to the V8-powered GT.

The headlight treatment brings the Mustang into the new decade. The headlight treatment brings the Mustang into the new decade.

In fact, different exhaust outlets and smaller front brake rotors are the only telltale signs you’re missing four cylinders. It even shares its black 19-inch rims with the GT.

On the inside, it’s perhaps not quite as convincing. The shape of the dished three-spoke steering wheel with its prominent horn pad and the twin-tube instrument cluster is inspired by days long gone - but it actually works very well.

The twin-tube instrument cluster is inspired by days long gone. (image credit: Tim Robson) The twin-tube instrument cluster is inspired by days long gone. (image credit: Tim Robson)

The excess of chrome trim contrasting against a drab dash panel isn’t great, though, while the piano key switches below the multimedia screen are poorly marked and a bit at odds with the rest of the centre console.

American car makers lag behind their counterparts from… well, pretty much everywhere when it comes to finishing interior design details, especially when it comes to the small things like switchgear graphics.  Sure, there’s a retro thing going on with ‘revolutions per minute’ and ‘ground speed’ markings on the instruments, but when a Hyundai i30 has nicer interior graphics, the time has come for Ford to lift the bar.

And buttons! So many buttons! Festooned on and around the steering wheel, centre stack, around the light switch…  it’s like a switch factory exploded inside the car.

There are so many buttons it’s like a switch factory exploded inside the Mustang. There are so many buttons it’s like a switch factory exploded inside the Mustang.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

For front seat passengers, the Mustang is a cool rig. Comfortable buckets are slung low in the car, and are generously proportioned. They’re not overly supportive when it comes to hard cornering, but nearly 1000km of driving during our week with the car proved that they were more than comfy.

The two cupholders are decently sized, but you’re not getting any kind of bottle in the tiny, hard-to-access door pockets. A shallow lidded bin hides a USB port and can hold wallets and phones, but there are precious few other places to stash stuff.

The Mustang's front seats are comfortable and generously proportioned. (image credit: Tim Robson) The Mustang's front seats are comfortable and generously proportioned. (image credit: Tim Robson)

Rear-seaters are not very well catered for in terms of knee and foot space, though the two seats are beautifully trimmed. The backs can also be lowered to increase the Mustang’s 408-litre boot capacity, but the aperture will restrict your ability to load big items. 

Even though the are two ISOFIX mounts in the back seat, it would be such an ache to get little wrigglers in and out that you’d almost be tempted to call a babysitter rather than load them in.

There are two ISOFIX mounts in the back seat of the Mustang. (image credit: Tim Robson) There are two ISOFIX mounts in the back seat of the Mustang. (image credit: Tim Robson)

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

At $45,990 before on-roads (plus $2625 for the six-speed auto), the EcoBoost is up to $11,500 cheaper than the GT, while other two-door, rear-drive competition comes from the four-cylinder Toyota 86 GTS ($36,490), Subaru BRZ Premium ($34,490) and the Nissan 370Z ($56,930).

It’s reasonably well-specced for the money, too, offering leather trim, automatic lights and wipers, keyless entry and push-button start, along with Ford’s 8.0-inch capacitive Sync 3 multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

Ford’s 8.0-inch capacitive Sync 3 multimedia system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Tim Robson) Ford’s 8.0-inch capacitive Sync 3 multimedia system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Tim Robson)

Unfortunately, the current Mustang misses out on virtually every modern driver aid that’s on the market at the moment. Though Ford Australia isn’t saying so officially, expect the MY18 version to benefit from tech inclusions like AEB, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The longitudinally mounted 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder engine uses a single turbocharger to generate 233kW at 5600rpm and a healthy 423Nm of torque at 3000rpm.

It’s not very vocal – like, at all – but the big capacity four is a smooth, punchy and pugnacious unit that does a great job of propelling a relatively big car.

The turbocharged, 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder engine, generates 233kW/423Nm. (Image credit: Tim Robson) The turbocharged, 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder engine, generates 233kW/423Nm. (Image credit: Tim Robson)

Shipping standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, our tester came equipped with the $2625 six-speed auto; both are offered with a limited-slip diff as standard. Interestingly, the auto is slightly shorter geared in its final drive ratio than the longer-legged manual.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

We used 54 litres to cover 532km of mixed terrain driving in the EcoBoost, giving us a real world combined fuel economy figure of 10.1 litres per 100km, against a dash-indicated average of 9.8L and Ford’s claim of 9.3L/100km.

Its 59-litre tank does need 95 RON as standard, which will increase ownership costs. 

What's it like to drive?   8/10

It’s no surprise to learn that the vast majority of Mustang sales to this point – 6200 last year, and already more than 6000 to the end of August this year – have been for the V8 version. Let’s face it, if you’ve lusted after a ‘Stang for the past decade, you’re going to get the best one you can.

The four-cylinder EcoBoost might give away 73kW and around 100Nm to the V8, as well as a lot of aural theatre, but it gives the coupe a sense of agility that’s not found in the 90-odd kg heavier GT. All of that weight is removed from over the front axle, too, instantly imbuing the EcoBoost with excellent steering feel and communication.

Aussie-spec Mustangs are fitted with a raft of sporting bits and pieces as standard, including stiffer front springs, a thicker rear swaybar (which, conversely, helps the front end turn into corners better), extra bracing and a limited-slip diff.

It rides firmly and with a lively, up-on-its-toes demeanour that some passengers might find a little tiring, and I’m not convinced that the dampers are all they could be when it comes to controlling those firm springs – but the Mustang is a two-door sports car, and a busy ride often comes with the territory.

With 233kW and 432Nm from the 2.3-litre four-potter, there’s plenty of urge across the rev range to keep the Mustang’s groove on.

It does have a tendency to stay perched in the top half of its suspension travel, though, and it could stand to be a little more supple and controlled.

With 233kW and 432Nm from the 2.3-litre four-potter, there’s plenty of urge across the rev range to keep the Mustang’s groove on, and the six-speed auto works well in standard mode to keep the car in the right ratio.

The auto’s sport mode, however, is pretty average. It does very strange things to the shift pattern at light throttle, making it awkward and clumsy around town. It can be overridden with steering wheel-mounted paddles, but honestly, plain old ‘D’ works perfectly well. 

Thanks to its decently sized front brakes with four-piston calipers, independent rear suspension, that limited-slip diff and a nice long wheelbase, the EcoBoost is definitely the pick of the two Mustangs when it comes to driving dynamics.

One thing, though; a 12.2m turning circle is ponderous and annoying in a large van, and is doubly so in a rear-wheel-drive sports car.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   2/10

Ah, yes… quite a touchy subject, this. As it stands, the Mustang GT fastback is rated at two out of a maximum of five stars from ANCAP; even though the EcoBoost is listed as ‘unrated’, it’s important to note that the two cars are identical apart from their drivelines, so the same criticisms of its safety performance should be levelled.

This score is derived from Euro NCAP data, which mauled the Mustang’s poor safety standards for rear seat passengers – and this is a function of design and construction. It scored just 32 per cent for child occupant protection, which is pretty atrocious in this day and age.

It also scored poorly in the area of safety assist, which covers driver aids and items like seatbelt warning lights.

The Mustang GT fastback is rated at two out of a maximum of five stars from ANCAP.

The Euro NCAP body has just awarded the Mustang an extra star by virtue of Ford adding its pre-collision assist system with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, AEB and lane keep assist to overseas cars – but Aussie cars currently aren’t fitted with any of this tech. 

As sure as eggs are delicious with salt, the 2018 Australian-spec Mustang will also get this technology.

Again, I’ll mention that the rating technically only applies to the GT, but it’s semantics – the score came from poor body design and specification, not from what’s under the bonnet.

It is worth noting that ANCAP awarded the tiny soft-top MX-5 with a maximum five stars, but I'll leave it to you to decide which you'd rather have an accident of any kind aboard. 

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Ford sells the Mustang with a three-year, 100,000km warranty that can be extended at a cost.

It also offers a fixed price service program across the Mustang’s suggested 12-month/15,000km service interval period, with five years of servicing costing $1850 in total. That’s pretty good for a turbocharged sports car.

As mentioned, the EcoBoost needs a diet of 95RON fuel at a minimum, which will increase running costs over the car’s life.

Verdict

The EcoBoost is the thinking-man’s Mustang. For all intents and purposes, it looks identical to the more expensive GT, and it gives nothing away to its burlier brother in real-world driving.

And if you dropped a couple of grand of those savings on judicious suspension tuning, the Mustang EcoBoost – already pretty handy in the corners – will leave the GT in its wake on the right road.

However, the issues surrounding the Mustang’s safety must be factored in if you’re considering using the rear seats. Even acknowledging that the V8 was the car test by the safety bodies, body construction, seat arrangement and safety aid fitment don’t vary between the two cars, and it’s a very poor score for a modern car.

Safety status aside, would you go for a turbo Mustang over a V8 version?

Pricing Guides

$46,990
Based on 657 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$36,000
Highest Price
$55,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.3 GTDi 2.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $38,720 – 45,540 2017 FORD MUSTANG 2017 2.3 GTDi Pricing and Specs
GT 5.0 V8 5.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $42,990 – 55,990 2017 FORD MUSTANG 2017 GT 5.0 V8 Pricing and Specs
Fastback 2.3 GTDI 2.3L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $37,859 – 39,990 2017 FORD MUSTANG 2017 Fastback 2.3 GTDI Pricing and Specs
Fastback GT 5.0 V8 5.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $39,885 – 55,990 2017 FORD MUSTANG 2017 Fastback GT 5.0 V8 Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Design7
Practicality6
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety2
Ownership8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$36,000

Lowest price, based on 60 car listings in the last 6 months

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