Tesla Model Y vs Ford Mustang Mach-E: specs comparison

Two fast, stylish electric SUVs are due in 2020; we compare the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E

Think of American cars and huge V8 coupes will probably come to mind. Of these, the Ford Mustang has always been one of the most iconic muscle cars, but a completely different Mustang will join the coupe and convertible later in the year. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is an electric SUV with a large electric range and quick acceleration, and a similar price to petrol-engined Mustangs. It may sound sacrilegious to put a Mustang badge on an electric SUV, but it’s attracted plenty of interest; the high-spec First Edition model is already sold out.

Tesla was the company that made electric cars cool. It showed an EV could be desirable and, importantly, able to travel similar distances to petrol and diesel cars. Now that most of its production issues seem to have been ironed out, the company is about to launch its fourth model. The Model Y is an SUV based on the Tesla Model 3 (the two cars are said to share 70% of their parts) and will appeal to many, including those who can’t stretch to the much more expensive Tesla Model X.

Best electric SUVs to buy now

Electric SUVs are becoming more common - you might also be checking out the Kia e-Niro, Volvo XC40 Recharge and the forthcoming Volkswagen ID.4 - but these two premium American models will be close rivals. Here’s how they compare:

Exterior

If the Tesla Model Y seems familiar, it’s because so much is shared with the Model 3 - both the front and rear ends, for example, while even the basic shape looks similar. Because it’s an SUV, the Model Y gets a higher ride height and a taller roofline than the Model 3. Its sleekness helps aerodynamic efficiency and the overall look is a clean one.

The Mach-E gets three vertical tail-lights and a Mustang badge, but little else is shared with the coupe and convertible. We see more similarities with the Model Y, like the swooping bonnet, bulging rear wheel arches and a coupe-like shape - helped by the actual roofline painted black to try and hide it. There are fake air intakes and slashes everywhere, gloss black wheel-arch extensions and a moustache-like surround where the grille would be, but these touches just make the styling seem a little fussy compared to the Tesla.

Interior

Just like the exterior, the Model Y’s interior is carried over almost completely from the BMW 3 Series-rivalling Model 3. The cabin is dominated by a 15-inch touchscreen from where you’ll control most aspects of the car. There’s no screen in front of the driver, for a cleaner look and to make it easier for the production line to switch between left- and right-hand drive. It’s likely to feature a similar equipment list to the Model 3, in which case you’ll have heated power-adjustable front seats, sat nav, internet access and streaming, and a tinted panoramic sunroof.

Ford has obviously taken a leaf out of Tesla’s book with the Mach-E. Rather than the SYNC 3 system fitted in most new Fords, the centre console is replaced by a portrait 15.5-inch screen. Just like its rival, you’ll have to adjust the climate control, use the driver assistance tech and much more through the screen, but there is a screen where the dials would be, and there are physical buttons on the steering wheel. However, these (and all the other switchgear) seem to have been lifted from the Ford Fiesta, which might not be what you’re expecting in a car that costs twice the price.

Practicality

The Model Y is 60mm longer, 70mm wider and 183mm taller than the Model 3, so there’s much more leg and headroom in the second row of seats. We’d expect it to offer more than the 3’s combined 425-litre luggage space, and the Model Y is more versatile thanks to an optional third seating row. Ford’s electric SUV, on the other hand, is a strict five-seater, and the 402-litre boot is reasonable but not impressive. In fact, it’s six litres smaller than the Mustang coupe’s boot, although it is a much more usable shape. A 100-litre washable ‘frunk’ under the bonnet aids practicality.

Performance, range and charging

As is the Tesla way, there are Long Range and Performance versions of the Model Y. Here, both are all-wheel drive (thanks to an electric motor on each axle), and even the Long Range version hits 0-60mph in just 4.8 seconds, on the way to a 135mph top speed. Choosing the Performance boosts these figures to a mere 3.5 seconds and 150mph respectively, but it’s still said to manage 298 miles on a charge when you’re not driving so fast. Long Range versions manage 314 miles.

There’s more choice in the Mustang; you can pick from a 75kWh model with 254bhp, or a 99kWh model with either 281 or 332bhp - and either rear- or all-wheel drive. Ford says the entry-level Mach-E will hit 0-62mph in “under eight seconds”, or “under seven seconds” in all-wheel drive versions. A range-topping Mach-E GT, due in 2021, will hit that threshold in under five seconds. With a wider variety of models, there’s an estimate of between 260 and 370 miles on a charge, depending on which you buy.

While no longer free, buying a Tesla Model Y gets you access to the company’s Supercharger public charging network. These were our best-rated chargepoints in 2020, thanks to their speed, ease of use and reliability. Using these, you can add 168 miles of range in 15 minutes, and we expect the Model Y to be the same as the Model 3 in accepting other chargers. The Mach-E also has fast-charging; up to 73 miles can be added in 10 minutes and recharging to 80% takes under 45 minutes.

Prices and specifications

Tesla seems to change its pricing on a whim, but the latest figures suggest starting prices of $48,000 (around £38,000) and $61,000 (£48,000) for the Long Range and Performance models respectively. A 230-mile Standard Range model, due to join the line-up next year, will be closer to £30,000.

At the time of writing, Ford says the Mach-E starts at £40,330, but we expect that prices will be adjusted slightly before the car goes on sale. The AWD model is about £6,000 more expensive, while the GT model due in 2021 will be costlier still. All Mach-Es get a panoramic sunroof, LED lights, heated front seats, a hands-free tailgate and a 360-degree camera.

Verdict

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is only Ford’s second electric car (after the poorly received Ford Focus Electric), and it seems like the company has really jumped in at the deep end. Tesla, itself a relative newcomer in the world of car manufacturing, is more experienced in EVs, and it shows. Cleaner styling, better performance and a slightly more upmarket interior mean the Tesla Model Y is our pick for now.

Read our guide to the best electric cars on sale or see the best new cars coming in 2021.

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