The Mustang is one of America's greatest ever motors. The model that kick-started the muscle car movement.

It's an icon, it's unforgettable, and now, for the first time ever, it's available in the UK with a right-hand drive layout.

I've wanted to drive one for years, and recently I got the chance - with one caveat. There isn't a fire-breathing, OAP-scaring 5-litre V8 under the hood of this particular road warrior.

Instead, it's rocking the same 2.3-litre engine you'll find in the Focus RS hyper-hatch. Which means (shock horror) it's turbocharged, to save the planet as well as deliver more horses when pedal meets metal.

A fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly American muscle car? Isn't that some kind of Paradox?

I hit the mean streets  of South East London to find out.

MUTED MUSCLE

Let's get this out of the way early. No, it doesn't roar into life like you've hopped into the lion's enclosure at the zoo and yanked on Mufasa's tail. There's still a growl, but you're not going to get noise complaints from the neighbours.

That doesn't mean there's a lack of power, though. Far from it - that engine is still pumping out more than 300bhp. It's just that you don't really feel it until you're ticking over 2000rpm. This doesn't leave you much room to rev before it's time to shift into the next gear, but it still translates to some rapid acceleration on the road.

The idea is to combine the Mustang's signature styling with an engine that won't drink your wallet dry. In the week I spent with it, I just about averaged 25mpg. Admittedly that was with a lot of stop-start city driving, and a fair bit of country road adventuring in Sport+ mode, so perhaps some more restrained driving would help improve things a little more.

But that kind of defeats the object of a muscle car, doesn't it? If you're not flooring the throttle at every green light, you're doing it wrong. At least this way you won't be stopping for fuel every 100 miles.

You can spec the 'Stang with an auto gearbox, but that would be just plain wrong. The 6-speed manual 'box in my loaner felt much more natural. It's tempting to stick to first and second, so you've got an excuse to put your foot down whenever there's clear road in front of you - without entering licence-losing territory.

It'll hit 0-62 in about six seconds, which is plenty fast enough for a hulking machine like this. In the corners, though, it feels every bit the big and heavy car that it is. Power in the wrong place and you'll easily send the back out, even with traction control switched on. It's fun, absolutely, but less so when it's actually you having to foot the bill for new tyres.

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DEVIL IN THE DETAIL

It's great to see Ford taking inspiration from the classic 60s and 70s Mustangs again - there's no mistaking that bolting horse logo, angry front face and angular rear windows for anything other than true American muscle. Especially when you've got one in your rear view mirror.

Get up close, though, and it's all surprisingly sleek. There are curves and smooth lines instead of sharp angles, and my dark silver example was positively stealthy compared to the bright red and yellow colour choices that make up the rest of the range. Not a racing stripe in sight, either.

You still get aggressive front and rear diffusers, an imposingly long bonnet complete with bulge (even if the Ecoboost engine doesn't need it) and twin exhausts, which put out a reassuringly aggressive note when you put your foot down. There's a bit of electronic assistance making it sound even better from the driver's seat, sure, but it still put a smile on my face.

Oh, and the illuminated Mustang logos that beam out of the door sills when you unlock the car at night? Brilliant. Or tacky. I can't decide.

There are other, more practical things to think about, though. The lack of a rear windscreen wiper might be fine in sun-drenched California, but it's hardly ideal in rain-soaked Romford.

EXPECTATIONS DASHED

Take your mind off the road for a minute, though, and you'll see how Ford has managed to pack in so much car for so little cash. It's all a bit sparse inside the cabin.

The plastic switches are a real turn-off, as is the steering wheel. The padding beneath the leather is just too soft, giving way as soon as you apply a firm grip. It's jam-packed with buttons, too. Some are useful, sure, but others could have been shifted to the centre console.

It's another reminder you're not actually in Steve McQueen's '68 'Stang, but actually a 21st century evolution of one.

After a few hours of stop-start motorway queueing (thanks, M25) I really started hating where Ford has stuck the gearstick/handbrake combo, too. You've got to reach right over to grab the handbrake, and the gearstick could have been just that little bit higher. Ditch the cup holders, Ford -  I'd rather shift faster than have a Big Gulp within arm's reach.

Electrically adjustable seats are a bonus, but you're going to have to learn where that enormous bonnet ends before you'll be able to park with confidence. There's no way to see over it, even if you spend 20 minutes trying every available driving position. The reverse parking camera is optional, but really, don't skimp out on it.

Some extra attention to materials would have made all the difference, but as it stands everything feels just a little too cheap.

OUT OF SYNC

I'm going to contradict myself a little bit here, but bear with me. Packing the Mustang full of 21st century tech would go against pretty much everything the muscle car stands for, and yet it still feels like something's missing when you start playing with the infotainment system.

That's mainly because that central touchscreen is running SYNC 2, Ford's aging and soon-to-be-replaced system that feels like a relic compared to more modern, more responsive systems from the likes of Audi. Ironically apt for a car like this, but frustrating to use.

It's slow to respond to taps, especially when it comes to setting the satnav, and while I had my phone hooked up over Bluetooth in a matter of minutes, there's no Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

The dashboard is a similar story. The tiny screen covers the basics, but you're not going to use the G-force measuring, lap-counting Track apps for your daily commute and it doesn't display useful things like driving directions or local speed limits.

The way everything lights up blue at night is divisive, too. Some people will love it, but I'm not a fan. It all feels a bit too Fast and Furious. You can change the ambient lighting in the footwells, door wells and centre console to other colours, but then they won't match the dash.

Ford Mustang 2.3l Ecoboost verdict

When is a muscle car not a muscle car? When there's not a hulking 5l V8 motor under the bonnet, but a 2.3l turbocharged Ecoboost engine instead.

That's the Mustang in a nutshell, really. It's ultimately a compromise with the Ecoboost engine on board.

Interior quality is no better than what you'll find in a Fiesta or Focus, the infotainment system is desperately in need of an update (seriously, SYNC 3 can't arrive soon enough) and you'll never be able to pull up to a traffic light again without wannabe Vin Diesels trying to race you in their pimped-out Citreon Saxos.

You also can't appreciate how tight some of London's roads are until you've driven one of these down side streets filled with double-parked cars, while a double-decker bus barrels towards you in the other direction.

Why am I prepared to forgive a few of these discretions, then? For a very competitive price, you've got something that's almost as quick as the V8, with the exact same head-turning styling, but with fuel economy and a tax bracket that won't require a second mortgage to keep on the road.

There's something special about driving a Mustang, and there's no denying the grin plastered on my face whenever I got behind the wheel. It's more skimmed milk than full fat but, in the end, calcium is calcium, right?

Tech Specs 
ENGINE
2.3l Ecoboost Turbo
TRANSMISSION
6-speed manual
POWER
313bhp
TORQUE
432Nm
0-62MPH
5.8sec
TOP SPEED
148mph
ECONOMY
35.3mpg (combined)
CO2
179g/km
Stuff says... 

Ford Mustang (2016) first drive review

Still guaranteed to turn heads, even without a V8 exhaust growl, but makes too many compromises in the cabin
from
£31,745
Good Stuff 
Live out those US road trip fantasies on the M25
2.3l turbo-charged engine still has grunt
As tail-happy as you'd expect from an American muscle car
Bad Stuff 
Ecoboost isn't all that eco for city driving
It's a bit of a wide load, feels huge on UK roads
Interior quality and tech needs a lot of work