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Used test: BMW M235i vs Ford Mustang

A used BMW M235i is an excellent buy for its six-cylinder sophistication, but can the V8 brawn of a pre-owned Ford Mustang beat it?...

Used test: BMW M235i vs Ford Mustang

The Contenders

BMW 2 Series coupé M235i

List price when new £35,075
Price today £19,000*
Available from 2014-present

Though it's down on power, the M235i is also cheaper to buy 

Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 GT

List price when new £33,995
Price today £27,000
Available from 2015-present

It's an icon across the pond, but is the Mustang a driver's car?

*Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

The Ford Mustang is no stranger to the silver screen. Since its 1964 birth, the pony car has starred in a plethora of films, from the classic action thriller Bullitt to the sci-fi horror I Am Legend. And in 2015, that Hollywood appeal came to the UK in right-hand drive.

But is it all movie magic – does the Mustang make sense in the real world? The BMW 2 Series Coupé would argue that its M235i better suits day-to-day life, while also catering for your inner thrill seeker. Its six-cylinder engine has plenty of grunt, even if it can't quite match the amount from the Mustang GT's V8. 

Used test: BMW M235i vs Ford Mustang

If you buy either at seven years old, you will save around £16,000 and £7000 off the new car price of the M235i and Mustang GT respectively. A significant difference, we agree, but if you have the money for either, which should you buy? Read on to find out. 

What are they like to drive?

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

Used test: BMW M235i vs Ford Mustang

The M235i’s turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit can’t match the power and torque of the Mustang, but the car is so much lighter that it doesn’t need to. When you put your foot down there’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 just as compelling.

Both cars are closely matched in a 0-60mph sprint and in-gear acceleration in the first four gears. However, the M235i pulls harder from low revs in its top gears, making high-speed overtakes easier.

The M235i has the slicker gearchange, too – although the Mustang’s is not unpleasant – and the stubby, short-throw gearlever feels great in your hand.

Neither car’s steering offers much traditional feedback, and although both have buttons to vary the assistance, the M235i’s is more consistent. It's also quicker, so it helps to make the M235i feel much more agile along winding country lanes.

Despite it being no wider than a Ford Mondeo you’re always more conscious of the Mustang’s size on narrow roads – a feeling that can hinder progress. When the road opens up, the Stang offers plenty of thrills, although it isn’t as easy to drive on the limit as its rival. Its taut suspension doesn’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, making the car feel nervous.

Our M235i had optional adaptive dampers fitted and they 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 there’s not much to choose between the two cars – both are firm and a little unsettled on patchy surfaces. However, when you switch the M235i to Comfort, it softens and becomes less tiresome on bumpy roads. The Ford Mustang is the quieter at speed, though, with less wind noise and, surprisingly, less road noise.

Next: What are they like inside >>

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