Ford Mustang VS Alfa Romeo 4C
- V8 noise
- Better interior
- Adaptive dampers
- Four-cylinder noise
- Still a poor safety score
- Prices are up
Alfa Romeo 4C
- Startling performance
- Superbly in tune with the road
- Addictive to drive
- Lacking gear
- Rich servicing costs
The Ford Mustang 2018 model is more than just a facelift, this is a comprehensive rework of the brand’s iconic muscle car.
There are big changes outside and in, but the most important ones are to the way the 2018 Ford Mustang drives.
More than just brawn - although there’s plenty of that - this updated Pony Car has a bit more brain about it, too.
We drove the new models in Nice, France, ahead of the Australian launch of the updated Mustang this month.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Alfa Romeo 4C
Nothing could’ve better prepared me for my drive in the 2019 Alfa Romeo 4C than a trip to Sydney’s Luna Park.
There’s a rollercoaster there called Wild Mouse - an old-school, single carriage coaster with no loop-the-loops, no high-tech trickery, and with each ride limited to just with two seats apiece.
The Wild Mouse throws you around with very little regard for your comfort, gently impinging your fear factor by making you consider the physics of what is happening underneath your backside.
It’s an unbridled adrenaline rush, and genuinely scary at times. You get off the ride thinking to yourself, “how the hell did I survive that?”.
The same can be said with this Italian sports car. It’s blisteringly quick, it’s superbly agile, it handles like it has rails attached to its underbody, and it could potentially do brown things to your underpants.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Ford Mustang 2018 update is a substantial one - it’s a marked improvement on a car that needed some attention here and there. It’s more fun, more adept and more muscular a muscle car as a result of the changes. If you’re already a Mustang owner and you’re wondering if the update is worth considering, the answer is ‘yes’.
If it were my money, I’d choose the V8 auto coupe because, when it comes to this sort of car, it’s the bodybuilder of the bunch.
Would you choose a V8 over a turbocharged four-cylinder? Let us know in the comments section below.
Alfa Romeo 4C7.1/10
People might wonder if there’s a reason to buy an Alfa Romeo 4C. It has some great dollar-for-dollar competitors - the Alpine A110 does most of the things the Alfa does, but in a more polished way. And then there’s the Porsche 718 Cayman, which is a considerably more, well, considered option.
But there is no doubt the 4C stands alone, a sort-of cut-price alternative to a Maserati or Ferrari, and nearly as rare to spot on the road as those cars, too. And just like the rollercoaster at Luna Park, it’s the sort of car that’ll leave you wanting another go.
Would you take the 4C over a Alpine A110? Let us know in the comments.
If I had to make a remark about the updated Mustang’s design, it would be that it doesn’t quite look as American any more. That could be good or bad, depending on where your loyalties lie.
The slimmer, broader-looking headlights and the revised front bumper, grille and bonnet all work together to give it a more substantial presence on the road if you’re looking at in your rearview mirror.
Obviously the roofline has remained the same, and the rear end has seen revised LED tail-lights, plus the V8 now has quad exhausts, the EcoBoost now has twin exhausts, and both now get a black diffuser rather than a colour-coded one. The GT model’s wheels remain the same as before - standard issue mesh multi spokes are fitted in 19-inch diameter across the line-up.
There is no doubting that this still looks muscly enough to be considered a muscle car, but the subtle styling changes outside are enough to push it more towards what we’ve come to expect of a modern-day sports car, too. It looks more European, and that’ll either float your boat, or it won’t.
Inside there are some design changes, too. The most important one being the 12.0-inch digital dashboard cluster in front of the driver, which is lovely to look at, offers excellent functionality, and really lifts the ambience of the cabin.
Some of the materials have been tweaked inside, and it feels more plush than it did before - anyone who drove the pre-update Mustang will know that the cabin was a bit low rent, and while this update sees a good stride towards it being better, it’s still not a penthouse apartment inside.
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
Slap a Ferrari badge on it, and people would think it was the real deal - a pint-sized performance hustler, with all the right angles to get plenty of glances.
In fact, I had dozens of punters nod, wave, mount ‘nice car mate’ and even a few rubber-neck moments - you know, when you drive past and someone on the footpath can’t help but forget they’re walking, and they stare so hard they might well collide with the upcoming lamp-post.
It really is a head-turner. So why does it only get an 8/10? Well, there are some elements of the design that make it less user-friendly than some of its rivals.
For instance, the step-in to the cabin is enormous, because the carbon-fibre tub sills are huge. And the cabin itself is pretty tight, especially for taller people. An Alpine A110 or Porsche Boxster are much more amenable for day-to-day driving… but hey, the 4C is markedly better than, say, a Lotus Elise for ingress and egress.
Also, as smart as it still looks, there are elements of Alfa Romeo design that have moved on since the 4C launched back in 2015. The headlights are the bit that I dislike most - I had a real thing for the spider-eyes lights of the launch edition model.
But even if it isn’t unmistakably Alfa Romeo, it’s unmistakably a 4C.
Even so, there is reasonably good usability on offer… at least for those in the front seats. The front features decent door-pocket storage, a pair of cupholders, a covered centre console bin, and a reasonable glovebox - but there’s not much loose-item storage for easy access to phones, wallets and the like.
There are elements to the cabin that just don’t make sense, like the monodirectional toggles for the drive mode and steering mode controls - why can’t you flick them up and down? It’s a silly and frustrating, oversight.
It’s simpler if you don’t think of the Mustang as a four-seater. Technically that’s what it is, but even toddlers or young children would be cramped back there, with limited head, knee and toe room, and no storage to speak of whatsoever. There are ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and top-tether points as well, if you want to try driving your kids around in one (perhaps you don't like them).
At the very least, those back seats fold down if you want to make it a two-seater with a massive boot space. Even without them folded, the boot capacity is good: it has 408 litres of luggage volume.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
You can’t get into a car this small and expect a lot of space.
The dimensions of the 4C are tiny - it’s just 3989mm long, 1868mm wide and only 1185mm tall, and as you can see from the pictures, it’s a squat little thing. The Spider’s removable roof could be great for you if you’re tall.
I’m six-feet tall (182cm) and I found it to be cocoon-like in the cabin. You feel almost as though you’re tying yourself to the tub of the car when you get into the driver’s seat. And getting in and out? Just make sure you do some stretches beforehand. It’s not as bad as a Lotus for ingress and egress, but it’s still hard to look good clambering in and out of.
The cabin is a cramped space. There’s limited head room and leg room, and while there is reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, the seat only has manual slide and backrest movement - no lumbar adjust, no height adjust… almost like a racing bucket. They’re hard like a race seat, too.
The ergonomics aren’t terrific - the controls for the air-con are hard to see at a glance, the buttons for the gear select take some learning, and the two centrally-mounted cup holders (one for your double-shot mocha latte, the other for a hazelnut piccolo) are inconveniently positioned exactly where you might want to put your elbow.
The media system is rubbish. It’d be the first thing to go, if I bought one of these, and in its place would be an aftermarket touchscreen which would: a) actually let you pair to Bluetooth; b) look like it was from sometime after 2004; and c) be more fitting for a car of this price tag. I’d upgrade the speakers, too, because they’re poor. But I can totally understand if those things don’t matter, because it’s the engine you want to hear.
The materials - aside from the red leather seats - aren’t great. The plastics used are similar in look and feel to what you find in second-hand Fiats, but the sheer volume of exposed carbon-fibre does help you forget those details. And the leather pull straps to close the doors are nice, too.
The visibility from the driver’s seat is decent - for this type of car. It’s low, and the rear window is small, so you can’t expect to see everything around you at all times, but the mirrors are good and the forward vision is excellent.
Price and features
The 2018 Ford Mustang range sees a bump in pricing across all models in the range. Here’s a rundown on the price list for the model line-up.
The EcoBoost four-cylinder coupe with the six-speed manual still starts below $50k - just. The list price is $49,990 plus on-road costs. The 10-speed automatic version of the coupe lists at $52,990. That price is up $4000 on its predecessor.
The four-cylinder convertible models bring a fairly sizeable premium, with the 10-speed automatic version listed at $59,490. There’s no manual soft-top available. That price represents at $4500 jump on the pre-facelift model.
The V8-powered GT coupe with a six-speed manual transmission lists at $62,990, while the 10-speed automatic version comes in at $66,259. Those prices represent $5500 and $6639 jumps, respectively.
The Mustang GT convertible 10-speed auto is listed at $74,709 - a huge $8793 lift over the existing model.
Across the board, Ford is justifying the increases with big additions to the standard equipment list.
The biggest update is the addition of a fully digital instrument cluster - a 12.0-inch screen with configurable layouts and displays, which is a standard-fit item across the board. Still offered is Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync 3 media screen with sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, and there’s now a 12-speaker Shaker audio system, too - the pre-facelift model had a nine-speaker stereo.
All models sold in Australia will also be offered as standard with a new adjustable sports exhaust system, which includes a quiet-start function so you don’t annoy the neighbours (and who doesn't think of Mustang buyers as kind, considerate types?). The loudness is adjustable depending on which drive mode you select - Normal, Sport+, Track, Drag Race, Snow/Wet and My Mode, the latter of which is a customisable setting, also new to Mustang. The steering can still be configured in Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.
Visually separating the two models are different wheel designs, but all Mustang models come with auto headlights, auto wipers, keyless entry and push-button start, new LED headlights, heated seats and a heated steering wheel (which is new to the Mustang - the heated seats aren’t). Recaro seats are optional on the GT only ($3000).
There’s an array of active safety kit added across the range, too - read about that in the safety section below.
There are some key optional extras that buyers can choose from. A set of OTT (yes, it stands for ‘Over The Top’) stripes can be had in black on any model ($650), or white on the Fastback only ($650) There’s also a rear spoiler for the Fastback ($750), and Recaro leather seats ($3000).
The EcoBoost model can be had with 19-inch Lustre Nickel alloy wheels ($500), while GT buyers have the option of 19-inch forged alloys ($2500).
All models can be equipped with the MagneRide adaptive suspension system at a cost of $2750.
As for colours, there are a few to choose from, including the new hero colour, Orange Fury, plus Kona Blue, Lightning Blue, Magnetic grey, Race Red, Royal Crimson (dark red), Triple Yellow and plainer options like white and black.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
Look, no-one considering an Italian sports car is likely to be wearing their common sense hat, but even so, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is an indulgent purchase.
With a list price of $99,000 plus on-road costs, it isn’t affordable. Not considering what you get for your money.
Standard inclusions consist of air conditioning, remote central locking, heated electric door mirrors, leather sports seats with manual adjustment, a leather-lined steering wheel, and a four-speaker stereo system with USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. It’s not a touchscreen, so there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and there’s no sat nav… but the thing about this car is going the fun way home, so forget maps and GPS. And there’s a digital instrument cluster with a digital speedometer - believe me, you’ll need it.
The standard wheels are a staggered set - 17-inch at the front and 18-inch at the rear. All 4C models have bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights and dual exhaust tips.
Of course, being the Spider model, you also get a removable soft top and you know what’s neat? You get a car cover included as standard, but you’d want to put it in the shed, as it takes up a bit of boot room!
Our car was even further up the pay scale, with an as-tested price of $118,000 before on-roads - it had a few option boxes ticked.
First there’s that beautiful Basalt Grey metallic paint ($2000), and those contrasting red brake calipers ($1000).
Plus there’s the Carbon & Leather package - with carbon-fibre mirror caps, interior bezels, and a stitched leather instrument cover panel. It’s a $4000 option.
And finally, the Racing Package ($12,000), which includes a staggered set of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels with a dark paint finish, and those wheels are fitted with model specific Pirelli P Zero tyres (205/40/18 up front, 235/35/19 at the rear). Plus theres the sports racing exhaust system, which is awesome, and a racing suspension setup.
Engine & trans
There have been power and torque increases across both the four-cylinder turbo and V8 naturally aspirated engines.
The 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo EcoBoost engine now produces 224kW of power (down from 233kW - apparently due to a new way of calculating the peak power output!) at 5400rpm, but torque is bumped to 441Nm at 3000rpm (it was 432Nm). It is rear-wheel drive, as you’d expect, and it has the option of a six-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The 5.0-litre V8 engine has seen power and torque bumps, too. It now produces 336kW of power at 7000rpm (up from 306kW), and torque is rated at 556Nm at 4600rpm (previously 530Nm).
The extra power is good, no doubt about it. But the extra noise of the V8 is what was most enticing about it. More on that below.
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
The Alfa Romeo 4C is powered by a 1.7-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces 177kW of power at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2200-4250rpm.
The motor is mounted amidships, and it is rear-wheel drive. It uses a six-speed dual-clutch (TCT) automatic with launch control.
Alfa Romeo claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest cars at this price point.
Mustang models sold with the 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo model are more efficient, as you’d expect. The six-speed manual coupe is claimed to use 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the 10-speed auto coupe model has a claimed consumption of 9.5L/100km.
The convertible version with the EcoBoost uses 9.5L/100km with the standard 10-speed auto.
As for the V8 coupe, the six-speed manual uses a claimed 13.0L/100km, while the 10-speed auto helps drop consumption to 12.7L/100km. The V8 auto convertible claims an identical figure as the fastback: 12.7L/100km.
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
Claimed fuel consumption for the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is rated at 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, so it’s no miser.
But, impressively, I saw real-world fuel economy of 8.1L/100km, over a loop that included urban, highway and ‘spirited’ driving on twisty roads.
I spent the most time in the V8 model, and it wasn't so much the extra power and torque that was noticeable, as the extra noise. If you were blindfolded and sat in the new Mustang, you might think you’re sitting in a ‘70s yank tank - there’s a delightful burble at idle (a little more pronounced in the auto) and it gets even better the faster you go.
In fact, the 10-speed auto V8 was the standout vehicle I drove. The logic of the transmission is brilliant - if you suddenly stab the throttle the auto will downshift three or four gears in the blink of an eye - and I mean that literally, because you can barely perceive it via the display on the driver information screen; it happens that fast.
The shifts aren’t always smooth - there can be a perceptible thunk through the cabin at times - and while that may not be the most refined experience, it’s actually pretty rewarding as a driver to get that sort of feel-able feedback.
The manual version of the V8 feels more relaxed - I’d even go as far as to suggest it’s a bit lazy. The auto just does a better job of making use of the grunt on offer.
The multi-mode sports exhaust - with Quiet, Normal, Sport and Race Track settings - was a set-and-forget feature on my test. It was in Sport, because - while there might be a perceptible difference on a track - it was identical in ‘regular’ driving.
Another new addition helped transform the drive experience - the MagneRide adaptive dampers. They may be optional on all models, but it seems that if you want a muscle car that handles corners and bumps adeptly, it’d be money well spent.
The magnetic ride control system can adjust each corner up to 1000 times per second, and while you’d have to be some kind of superhero to perceive that, there is no denying that the system does a terrific job of isolating cabin occupants from rough surfaces below, while also helping the Mustang corner with more sporting intent than I remember the previous one possessing.
The steering is trustworthy, with good feel and a nice linear and progressive sensation to it when you’re changing direction. The Mustang does have a big turning circle, though, so making tight moves in parking spots can be a bit of a task.
I also had a drive of the EcoBoost engine and its new 10-speed auto, and found it felt more tense and eager to please than the V8, particularly the V8 manual. It’s noticeably lighter at the front end, meaning it feels more keen for hard driving in corners.
Try as it might, though, the four-cylinder simply can’t match the V8 for fitting the image of the Mustang. It is good to drive, but it just doesn’t sound as good, or as Mustang, and therefore doesn’t make you feel as good as the V8 model does.
Alfa Romeo 4C9/10
I said that it’s like a rollercoaster, and it really, truly is. The air doesn’t quite rush through your hair as much, sure - but with the roof off, the windows down and the speedometer constantly edging towards licence suspension, it’s a real hoot of an experience.
It just feels so tight - the carbon-fibre monocoque chassis is rigid and super stiff. You hit a cats-eye and its all so sensitive, you could mistake it for having hit an actual cat.
Alfa Romeo’s DNA drive modes - the letters stand for Dynamic, Natural, All Weather - is one of those proper examples of this type of system done well. There’s a marked difference between how these different settings operate, where some other drive modes out there are more sedate in their adjustments. There’s a fourth mode - Alfa Race - which I didn’t dare sample on public roads. Dynamic was enough to test my mettle.
The steering in Natural mode is lovely - there’s great weighting and feedback, super direct and incredibly in touch with the surface below you, and the engine isn’t quite as zesty, but still offers tremendous response on the move.
The ride is firm but composed and compliant in any of the drive modes, and it doesn’t have adaptive suspension. It is a stiffer suspension setup, and though the damping doesn’t change in Dynamic mode, if the surface is anything but perfect you will tram-track and twitch all over the place, because the steering feels even more dialled in.
In Dynamic mode the engine offers amazing response when you’re at pace, building speed incredibly and before you know it, you’re in licence loss zone.
The brake pedal requires some firm footwork - just like in a race car - but it pulls up strongly when you need it to. You’ve just gotta get used to the pedal feel.
The transmission is a good thing at speed in manual mode. It won’t overrule you if you want to find the redline, and it sounds tremendous. The exhaust is exhilarating!
With roof on and windows up there’s very noticeable noise intrusion - lots of tyre roar and engine noise. But remove the roof and drop the windows and you get the full effect of the drive experience - you’ll even get some "sut-tu-tu” wastegate flutter. It doesn’t even matter that much that the stereo system is so rubbish.
At normal speeds in normal driving you do need to be considerate of the powertrain because it is finnicky and slow to react at times. There’s notable lag if you’re gentle on the throttle, both from engine and transmission, and the fact peak torque doesn’t come on song until 2200rpm means there’s lag to contend with.
It’ll be a difficult choice between this and Alpine A110 and a Porsche Cayman – each of these vehicles has a very different character. But for me, this is the most go-kart like and it is, undeniably incredibly involving to drive.
This is a difficult section to score, because the updated Mustang has a lot of safety equipment, but it falls short on the ANCAP crash test score. It was tested by Euro NCAP in 2017, and managed a lowly three stars, due to poor crash protection for occupants.
At the very least, that’s a step up on the pre-facelift model, which scored just two stars in ANCAP testing in 2017. ANCAP has announced the updated Mustang achieves the same three-star score as Europe (from December 2017 production).
Despite that, the 2018 Mustang comes fitted with a lengthy list of safety gear, including dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags (no curtains on the convertible model). Plus there’s a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam headlights and auto wipers.
So, with all the gear, 6/10 seems harsh. But if you have a crash, the Mustang has been deemed to be less safe for occupants than other cars out there, so it’s a justifiable score.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
You’re in the wrong spot if you want the latest in safety technology. Sure, it’s at the cutting edge because it has an ultra strong carbon-fibre design, but there’s not much else happening here.
The 4C has dual front airbags, rear parking sensors and an alarm with tow-away protection, plus - of course - electronic stability control.
But there are no side airbags or curtain airbags, there’s no reversing camera, there’s no auto emergency braking (AEB) or lane keep assist, no lane departure warning or blind spot detection. Admittedly - there are a few other sports cars in the segment which lack safety smarts, too, but
The 4C has never been crash tested, so there’s no ANCAP or Euro NCAP safety score available.
Ford has recently introduced a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, applicable to all vehicles purchased from May 1, 2018. That’s a nice touch from the brand, which needs to appeal to customers now more than ever.
As with most Ford products, the Mustang has service intervals every 12 months/15,000km, and the company has a capped-price service plan applicable for the life of its cars. Prices can be found on the company’s website, but to give you an idea, the average cost per year for the first five years if you stick within the 15,000km interval bracket works out to $372 for the four-cylinder and $477 for the V8.
If you’re worried about Mustang problems - be it questions over reliability, engine problems, transmission problems or general issues - be sure to check our Ford Mustang problems page.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
If you’re hoping that a ‘simple’ car like the 4C will mean low ownership costs, you might be disappointed in this section.
The Alfa Romeo website service calculator suggests that over 60 months or 75,000km (with service intervals set every 12 months/15,000km), you will have to fork out $6625 total. For a breakdown, the services cost $895, $1445, $895, $2495, $895.
I mean, that’s what you get when you buy an Italian sports car, I suppose. But consider you can get a Jaguar F-Type with five years of free servicing, and the Alfa looks like a rip-off.