We’ve already driven the new Ford Mustang V8 GT Fastback coupé, and although it’s not perfect, it’s certainly a fun thing. Sure, its 5.0-litre V8 engine may have a thirst for petrol, but it completely suits the car’s American muscle car image.
Here we have a very different proposition. This is the convertible version, and although you can still order it with that same V8 engine, this one has the smaller 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine for those who prefer to spend less time at the pumps.
If you are wondering what its rivals might be, that’s not a straightforward question to answer. A BMW 420i Convertible is similar in size but slower and more expensive, while the smaller Audi A3 1.8 TFSI Cabriolet is a better match on price, but arguably it doesn’t stand out from the crowd as much.
What’s the 2016 Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost Convertible like to drive?
The engine’s quite quiet, which is normally a plus. However, in a sports convertible, especially one that can be had with a burbling V8, the smooth but rather anaemic sounding 2.3-litre is a bit disappointing. In absolute terms, it’s pretty quick although the six-speed automatic gearbox fitted to this car somewhat dulls the experience.
Compared with the sharper auto ‘boxes fitted to the Audi and BMW, the Mustang’s is hesitant on kickdown and isn’t that responsive if you change gear manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. In our experience, the manual versions of the Mustang are much better.
Being a relatively big car, even the coupé Mustang doesn’t feel that agile compared with its rivals, but it’s still pretty fun to drive. The Convertible isn’t quite as gamey, though. Like the coupé the steering doesn’t give you much feedback, but it seems to have less grip at the front so the nose will wash wide sooner, while at the rear it’s still pretty twitchy. The answer to this may lie in the fact the Convertible, without a fixed roof, is less rigid and also heavier than the coupé, but the Mustang seems more handicapped by this than its rivals.
The reduced stiffness also takes its toll on the ride. This is a firm car over bumps, as you’d expect given its sporty billing, so on shabby road surfaces it bobs about and thuds over potholes. However, the Convertible’s body also shimmies as the wheels traverse the bumps, which isn't a particularly pleasant sensation. Both the Audi and BMW ride more smoothly and flex less.
With the roof up the refinement isn’t too bad, though. There’s certainly more cabin noise coming through the canvas hood compared with a 4 Series, which has a metal folding roof, but it’s perfectly tolerable. When the roof is down you are quite well protected from buffeting, and can just about hold a conversation with your passenger at 70mph.
What’s the 2016 Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost Convertible like inside?
Bar the roof it’s near identical to the coupé. The retro design looks good and certainly offers a change to the more functional interiors of its German competitors. However, you do have to put up with less pleasing materials and flimsier-feeling switchgear, but for the money it’s acceptable.
It’s reasonably well laid out, too, so it’s not difficult to operate. The only exception is the infotainment system, which is considerably less intuitive to use than the BMW or Audi systems. On the plus side, it does come with an 8.0in screen and sat-nav as standard.
Space in the front is good even for tall adults, plus there’s plenty of steering wheel adjustment and all versions come with electric seats and lumbar support. In the back it’s far tighter and certainly less accommodating than even the A3 Cabriolet, so it’s a squeeze for adults and only kids will be comfortable on a longer journey.
The boot is a reasonable size for a convertible, but you’ll struggle to get something bigger than a small suitcase through the narrow aperture, and you can't fold down the rear seats to accommodate longer loads.
Should I buy one?
There's no doubt the Mustang Convertible offers lots for the money being so well equipped, and we managed 35mpg driving very carefully on a short motorway run. Its Audi and BMW rivals will do that easily though, and both have much lower emissions. Bear this in mind if you’re thinking of buying one as a company car, as benefit-in-kind tax will be higher on the Ford.
If you're buying a car for high days and holidays to make you smile, then the Mustang is worth investigating, but we wouldn’t bother with this 2.3 Ecoboost. We haven’t driven the V8 Convertible yet, but if it’s anything like the V8 GT Fastback it’ll have a heap more character, and give you a bigger smile, so try that instead.
Ultimately, though, if you’ll be using your convertible every day and want something that’s easy to live with but still fun to drive, the excellent Audi A3 Cabriolet or BMW 4 Series Convertible will probably suit the majority of buyers better.
What Car? says...
Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost Convertible 6 Speed Auto Engine size 2.3-litre petrol Price from £35,995 Power 313bhp Torque 319lb ft 0-62mph 5.9 seconds Top speed 145mph Fuel economy 28.8mpg CO2 225g/km