A stunning six-pack
Glamour model: Ford Mustang
A successful businessman neighbour recently celebrated a milestone birthday, his 50th. The glamour meter of our road instantly went up a notch, when a new Ford Mustang appeared on his driveway. Hired for the occasion? No, he chortled: “It’s my birthday present, from myself!” Canny choice. Ford’s American muscle car is a beautiful beast, a visual six-pack of a car, now in its sixth generation and newly facelifted to tauten its sinews and refresh its appeal.
This is the latest incarnation of a model that famously featured in one of the greatest film car chases of all time, driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt. Originally launched in the mid-1960s, the Mustang has become an American icon, lusted after around the world. Yet it was only three years ago that it was first produced in right-hand-drive and began making a glamorous inroad into the UK car market.
The recent changes include a sleeker bonnet line, and new “aero curtains” in the front bumper to channel airflow past the front wheels and brakes. The body looks a little more sculpted, there are stronger headlights, and the V8 model now has two pairs of tail pipes. An upgrade to the auto transmission takes it from a not-well-regarded six-speed auto to a much superior 10-speed shift.
The Mustang comes in a choice of two engines, the smaller of which is a four cylinder, 2.3 litre, turbocharged Ecoboost petrol unit that is swift – 0-62 mph in 5.8 seconds – and civilised, with the advantage of a £5,500 price saving over the full-fat V8 Mustang. Purists, though, regard it as a bit of a cissy alternative to the eight-cylinder, five-litre model, which boasts a sprint time of 0-62 mph in 4.3 seconds in the auto version. Hence the V8 accounts for 70% of UK-bought Mustangs.
Driving the big V8 muscle car is aural heaven, with that rich booming engine note that prickles your spine when you goad the throttle. The Mustang has the tactile feel of a big hunk, but manageably so. The engine has huge punch, with a glorious surge of power as you accelerate and seamless delivery via the excellent new auto box. Ford has added a “My Mode” programme that lets you set the car up to suit your personal choice.
New Mustang prices start from £36,645 for a 2.3 Mustang Fastback coupe, and from just over £40,000 for the convertible with the same engine. The V8 Fastback kicks off at £41,745.
Better name, better nature
Business savvy: Kia Ceed
It is just over a decade since South Korean car maker Kia started gaining a foothold in Europe, with a budget car range that sold more on price than performance. One of its milestone models was the bizarrely named cee’d, eccentrically spelled with a lower case c and a ridiculous apostrophe. It was an acronym, for Community Economic Europe with European Design – with one e replaced by punctuation. Thankfully the new Ceed’s name has now been normalised.
Now in its third generation and morphed into a car that no longer has to rely on bargain basement pricing to woo buyers – although the seven-year, 100,000 miles, fully transferable warranty is a bonus – the Ceed has become a rational alternative to the mainstream big players of Focus and Golf. Kia quality is now well up there with them and brand image has benefited from decent design and good engineering. The tiger nose grille has become a distinctive Kia identifier.
This new Ceed is the same length as the previous model. but has been re-sculpted to increase boot size and give the car a slicker style. Inside, it has had a major makeover. Old scratchy plastics have been upgraded to pliant surfaces, seat comfort is improved and all the techy features, from touchscreen and connectivity to electronic driver aids, are well up with the mainstream rivals.
Driving calibre has taken a distinct upward step, too. Apart from a slightly choppy ride over coarser surfaces, the Ceed is really very good to drive, nicely refined and low-fatigue over a distance. Is it up there as a driver-pleaser with the pack leaders in this size of hatchback, the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf? Maybe not quite, but very close.
The business savvy choice and likely best seller in the range is a 1.4 litre T-GDi petrol model, priced from just under £22,000. With a manual gearbox, it has a 0-62 time in 8.6 seconds, a combined economy figure of 52.3 mpg, and 132 g/km CO2. Prices start from £18,295 for a sweetly performing one-litre T-GDi with manual gearbox and base trim, and rise to £26,850 for a range-topping 1.4 petrol with dual clutch auto transmission. Diesel models start from £19,545 for a 1.6 manual, with 74.3 combined mpg and the lowest CO2 output at 99 g/km.
Photos: ©Sue Baker