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"So, how is it?"

This question was posed often, usually accompanied by a scoff, by European and Japanese car enthusiast pals, each with a superiority complex. However, their reactions included plenty of wincing, visible discomfort, and quick changes of the subject when lectured about the Mustang's evolution into an authentic driver's car.

Ford has skipped little in transforming the latest Mustang. The styling and cabin have leapt a light-year ahead because engineers launched an all-out attack on slop, softness and slack, leaving the car feeling taut, mischievous and responsive.

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Steering has zero slack. None. Tighten the muscles in one hand, or the other, and it heads in that direction, enabling precise control of a finely-tuned chassis. This Mustang is lower, wider, stiffer, stronger, and fitted with bigger brakes, themselves as quick and precise as the laser-sharp steering. There's extensive use of lightweight materials, and the all-new fully-independent suspension is apparent, whether you're on a leisurely highway cruise, or blasting down a favorite winding backroad. The calibration between ride comfort and handling is a strong asset, and where feel, responsiveness and reflexes are concerned, the latest Mustang hits the mark harder than ever.

Further, with a convertible cloth-top that can be dismissed at the touch of a button, access to all of the above, with the sun gleaming overhead, is on perpetual standby.

The tested Mustang EcoBoost convertible puts a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder to work, producing 310 horsepower. The engine gushes torque, and any prod of the throttle sees it surge ahead with effortless urgency. The clutch feels meaty and offers a hearty bite, and the six-speed shifter is tight, solid and precise – with a just-right level of heaviness. Measured mileage over an 1,800-kilometre test landed at 9.2 litres/100 km. Cars with 310 horsepower don't get much thriftier.

On board, the cabin is smaller than expected. Complaints included small and uncomfortable rear seats, and the engine, which is both the best and worst part of the car. Though potent and remarkably easy on fuel, the EcoBoost mill fails to generate any aural excitement at full throttle. Even opened up, it emits little more than a dull hum.

For anyone who ever thought a Subaru BR-Z would be nifty with 100 more horsepower, or anyone who ever lusted after a BMW 235i but found it too pricey, the Mustang EcoBoost Convertible might be the answer – especially when efficient performance, athleticism, and top-optional cruising are on the wish list.

You'll like this car if ... efficiency, performance, stand-out styling, and an effortless transition between sporty and leisurely driving are priorities.

TECH SPECS

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  • Base price: $35,145; as tested: $37,054
  • Engine: 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder
  • Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive/Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.8 city, 8.3 highway, premium fuel
  • Alternatives: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

RATINGS

  • Looks: An evolved version of one of the industry’s most distinctive designs, the latest Mustang looks aggressive, sleek and menacing.
  • Interior: Effective use of colour, contrast and materials is let down by smaller-than-expected interior room, and cramped rear seats.
  • Performance: Get past the boring exhaust note, and the Mustang EcoBoost Convertible rewards with deep reserves of torque, urgent forward thrust, and pleasing mileage.
  • Technology: Standard equipment includes nothing short of the market’s latest must-haves, including Bluetooth, a back-up camera, a full driver computer, automatic climate control, and more.
  • Cargo: The Mustang Convertible’s trunk space is reduced by the presence of a dedicated storage area for the convertible top. Pack lightly – or use the rear seats for added storage space.

THE VERDICT

9.0

Mustang EcoBoost Convertible ticks all the right boxes: great fuel economy, striking looks, a refined new cabin, a potent engine, a beautifully-balanced ride and sweet handling.

We've redesigned the Drive section – take a look

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