Ford Mustang has been the best-selling sports car in the United States over the last 50 years, and now, thanks to growth in international markets, the iconic pony car is the most popular sports car in the world, according to Ford. Mustang expanded its sales lead in 2016 with more than 150,000 Mustangs sold, according to IHS Markit new vehicle registration data. Overall global sales increased 6 percent over 2015, fueled by international market growth up 101 percent with almost 45,000 Mustang vehicles sold outside the United States.

The base engine in the Mustang has historically been lackluster, but recently Ford dropped the V6 and made the turbocharged EcoBoost engine the standard engine. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine now pumps out 310 hp from 2.3 liters of displacement. The engine’s output is enough to make the Mustang a lot of fun to drive and is a great alternative to the V8.

Our car was equipped with the new 10-speed automatic, which provides quick shifts and works well with the turbo engine. It is not the smoothest transmission, but the shifts are direct and immediate. Even better is that the transmission listens to the driver. In sport mode, the transmission will not downshift or upshift and will listen to your commands, which is a trait that is hard to find.

You can get pretty much the same suspension choices on the four-cylinder Mustang as you can on the V8, which is a great thing. Our favorite is the Performance Package. It only costs $2,500, but includes 3.55:1 ratio rear differential, Torsen limited slip, 255-40-19 summer performance tires, gauge package, heavy-duty front springs, larger brake rotors with four-piston fixed calipers, larger radiator, rear wing, bigger rear anti-roll bar and unique chassis tuning including stability control tuning.

The Performance Package makes the Mustang a fantastic track weapon with so much grip that it is hard to slide the car anywhere outside of a race track. The car feels much nimbler compared to the V8 with about 150 pounds less on the front end. The Mustang has quick steering and the improvements make the car turn in well.

The traditionalists will say that the Mustang has to have that V8 sound to be relevant. The V8 is great, but the four-cylinder provides plenty of power. It was enough that we never once during our time with the car wished for more. The turbo spools up quickly and then you are gone, and with 10 gears to work with, you can easily keep the Mustang in its juicy power band. That really makes you get the most out of the engine. What is different is the sound, and the new sound is more like a sport compact than a pony car. We were totally fine with it, but many others will insist on a V8.

Our bright yellow example always drew a crowd wherever we went. It is an aggressive looking car and is instantly recognizable as a Mustang. Inside, the materials and fit and finish is good but the seats could use more support for cornering. The nicest feature of the interior is definitely the 12-inch LCD instrument cluster that is customizable to suit your taste. You can alter the tach shape, graphics colors, shift light and many other features.

One usually does not think about fuel economy when thinking of a Mustang but the EcoBoost delivers outstanding fuel economy for the amount of performance provided. The EPA rates it at 21 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Your excuse for buying an EcoBoost Mustang can be that you need an economy car and 32 mpg can support your argument.

Further helping you is the base price. While the GT starts out at $35,355, the turbo Mustang can be had for as little as $26,120. Order the Performance Package for $2,500 and you are still under $30,000. That is a fantastic bargain when you consider how much performance you get.

The Mustang has always been a great performance bargain, but now the EcoBoost Mustang shows that you can have a fast car, which can be a blast on the street or on the track, for economy-car money that also gets great fuel economy. No wonder this is the best-selling sports car in the world.

Specifications

Engine: 2.3-liter EcoBoost DOHC four-cylinder
Horsepower: 310 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 350 @ 3,000 rpm
Front suspension: Independent McPherson strut
Rear suspension: Independent multilink
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Axle ratio: 3.55:1 limited slip
Curb Weight: 3,532 lbs.
Base MSRP: $26,120
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Image courtesy of Ford Motor Company