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BMW 2 Series Coupe M235i vs Ford Mustang

Fordโ€™s Mustang coupรฉ is officially coming to the UK. Itโ€™ll need more than a growling V8, however, if itโ€™s to beat the BMW M235i

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Fifty years โ€“ thatโ€™s how long British buyers have had to wait to buy a Mustang with the steering wheel on the right side. Well, the wait is finally over, although our friends on the Continent get the all-new model first, which is why our first chance to try it on UK roads comes in left-hand drive form. There are two versions: a 2.3-litre four-cylinder and the full-fat 5.0-litre V8 that weโ€™ve got here, which is expected to sell better.

The BMW M235i may be smaller than the Mustang, but offers similar performance for similar cash. So, which of these rear-wheel-drive coupรฉs is the better buy?

The contenders

BMW 2 Series Coupe M235i

It might be down on power and cylinders, but the M235i is just as rapid and great to drive.

Ford Mustang V8 GT Fastback

After 50 years, Ford's iconic muscle car is finally about to be offered in right-hand drive.

What are they like to drive?

Very different. The Mustangโ€™s V8 has the lazy, unstressed feel of an old-school American muscle car, and itโ€™s strong enough to easily get the Ford rolling in second gear. The Mustang never feels slow but, that said, its most prodigious shove comes when you rev the engine past 4000rpm, at which point it pumps out a V8 growl.

The M235iโ€™s turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder canโ€™t match the power and torque of the Mustang, but the car is so much lighter it doesnโ€™t need to. When you put your foot down thereโ€™s a momentary delay as acceleration picks up, but the engine pulls well from 1300rpm. It sounds very different but the higher-pitched, racier note is almost as compelling.

Both cars are closely matched in a 0-60mph sprint and for in-gear acceleration in the first four gears. However, the BMW pulls harder from low revs in its top gears, which makes high-speed overtakes easier and more relaxing.

The M235i has the slicker gearchange, although the Mustangโ€™s is not unpleasant. The Fordโ€™s stubby, short-throw gearlever feels great in your hand, too.

Neither carโ€™s steering offers much traditional feedback and although both have buttons to vary the assistance, the BMWโ€™s is always more consistent. Its steering is also quicker, which helps to make the M235i feel much more agile along winding country lanes.

Despite it being no wider than a Mondeo, youโ€™re always more conscious of the Mustangโ€™s size on narrow roads, a feeling that can hinder progress.

When the road opens up, the โ€™Stang offers plenty of thrills, although it isnโ€™t as easy to drive on the limit as its rival. Its taut suspension doesnโ€™t deal with mid-corner bumps as well as the more composed and better-balanced M235i, although it does at least keep body roll in check. If the road is wet, you also need to be particularly careful when accelerating out of corners because the Mustang tends to call its stability control into action quite early, which makes it feel nervous.

Our M235i had the optional (ยฃ515) adaptive dampers fitted, which sharpen the handling and improve the ride by allowing you to stiffen or slacken the suspension at the touch of a button. Select the stiffer Sport setting and thereโ€™s not much to choose between the two cars โ€“ both are firm and a little unsettled on patchy surfaces. However, when you switch the BMW to Comfort it instantly softens and becomes less tiresome on bumpy roads.

The Mustang is the quieter at speed, though, with less wind noise and, surprisingly, less road noise.

What are they like inside?

Both cars offer plenty of space up front, and loads of seat and steering wheel adjustment, so no matter what your build, youโ€™ll be able to get comfortable. However, the Mustang edges ahead with full electric seat adjustment, including lumbar support. The BMW is slightly hampered by offset pedals.

The Mustang feels airy inside, thanks to its wider front cabin and more open cockpit design; this contrasts with the more cosseting and wraparound feel of the M235i. The BMW looks modern and businesslike, whereas the Mustangโ€™s 1960s-themed styling is that bit more interesting.

Despite its retro ambience, the Mustang has a centrally mounted touchscreen infotainment system, although itโ€™s a faff to use compared with BMWโ€™s excellent iDrive. The BMW also comes with sat-nav as standard. This costs ยฃ795 on the Mustang, although it includes an upgraded sound system as well.

The M235i offers a sense of quality that the Ford simply canโ€™t match. The switchgear has a precise, well-damped action, while the materials are a mix of soft-touch plastics with gloss black and chrome highlights. The Mustangโ€™s metal fascia smartens up the cabin, but thereโ€™s no disguising the cheaper-looking plastics and flimsier-feeling controls.

The BMW is smaller but its rear seats will suit you better if you regularly carry more than one passenger, because theyโ€™ll just about take two average-sized adults. Thereโ€™s a reasonable amount of leg room in the rear of the Mustang, too, but head room is truly terrible.

Both cars are more evenly matched on boot space, though. The Mustangโ€™s boot is slightly bigger and can be made larger still by folding down the standard split-folding rear seats (a ยฃ175 option on the BMW), but the M235i has a wider boot opening with a lower loading lip.

What will they cost?

Company car tax liabilities will be much the same, but the Mustang will cost ยฃ100 more per month to lease. If youโ€™re buying outright, the discounts available on the BMW make it around ยฃ1600 cheaper at the outset. However, at the end of three years the Mustang will claw ยฃ1200 of that back thanks to its slower depreciation.

Itโ€™s cheaper to buy the M235i on finance, too. With a ยฃ5000 deposit on a three-year, 10,000 miles-a-year PCP deal, the BMW costs ยฃ50 a month less than the Ford.

Factor in road tax (which is ยฃ505 each year on the Mustang), insurance and servicing, and youโ€™re looking at an additional ยฃ2100 to run the Ford over three years.

Thatโ€™s not taking fuel costs into account, either. We werenโ€™t able to obtain a True MPG reading for the Mustang, but even if it meets the official claimed 20.9mpg average, youโ€™ll spend a whopping ยฃ3400 more at the pumps over three years.

The Mustang offers more equipment as standard, though. Both cars have Bluetooth, a DAB radio, xenon headlights and leather seats, but the Ford also gets power-folding door mirrors, cruise control, a reversing camera and keyless entry.

The Mustang also has driver and passenger knee airbags, which you canโ€™t get on the M235i, although only the BMW offers automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist as an option (ยฃ390).

Neither car had a Euro NCAP crash rating at the time of writing, but security experts Thatcham have awarded both of them the full five stars for resisting drive-away theft, and four for their resistance to being broken into.

In our reliability survey Ford fared much better than BMW, which languished near the bottom of the table. Both cars come with a three-year manufacturerโ€™s warranty, restricted to 60,000 miles and one yearโ€™s roadside assistance for the Mustang. The BMWโ€™s warranty has no mileage restriction and its assistance cover is active for three years.

Our verdict

The Mustang isnโ€™t perfect, but itโ€™s certainly great fun. It loses out here because it isnโ€™t the polished all-rounder the M235i is, and its hefty running costs compromise it badly as an everyday car.

However, it offers something unique for the money: a real V8 muscle car experience. Buy one as a weekend toy and you won๏ฟฝ๏ฟฝ๏ฟฝt be disappointed but as everyday transport, it makes less sense.

1st

BMW 2 Series Coupe M235i

For Better to drive; lower running bills; more practical; a classier cabin

Against Offset pedals; reliability worries; slightly numb steering

Verdict A coupe you can buy with your head and your heart

2nd

Ford Mustang V8 GT Fastback

For Glorious V8 engine; strong resale values; lots of standard kit

Against Running costs; interior quality; infotainment; rear headroom

Verdict Huge appeal as a weekend toy, but not as an everyday car

BMW M235i

Engine size

3.0-litre petrol, turbo

Price from

ยฃ35,075 (list)

Power

322bhp

Torque

332lb ft

0-60mph

4.9 seconds

Top speed

155mph

Fuel economy

34.8mpg

CO2

189g/km

Ford Mustang V8 GT

Engine size

5.0-litre petrol

Price from

ยฃ33,995 (list)

Power

410bhp

Torque

391lb ft

0-62mph

5.0 seconds

Top speed

155mph

Fuel economy

20.9mpg (claimed)

CO2

299g/km