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

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

Think of American cars and huge V8 coupes may come to mind. Of these, the Ford Mustang has always been one of the most iconic muscle cars, but a completely different Mustang sits alongside the coupe and convertible. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is an electric SUV with a long 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; five times as many Mach-Es were sold between January and September 2021 as V8-powered Mustangs.

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 (for now, at least), the company has finally started selling its latest model to UK buyers. The Model Y is an SUV based on the Tesla Model 3 and shares the majority of its parts. It will appeal to many, including those who can’t stretch to the much more expensive Tesla Model X. Having a hatchback tailgate and a slightly raised driving position should mean the Y appeals to UK customers.

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Electric SUVs are becoming more common - you might also be checking out the Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW iX3, Volvo XC40 Recharge and the Kia EV6 - 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. The Mustang does get admiring glances, however, while the sheer number of Model 3s on the road may mean the Model Y blends in.

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. Standard equipment includes 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 running Ford’s newest SYNC 4 system. 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, even if it’s only really suitable for children due to a lack of headroom.

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 under four 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 315 miles.

There’s more choice in the Mustang; you can pick from a 70kWh (usable) model with 254bhp, or a 91kWh 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 6.9 seconds, or around six seconds in all-wheel drive versions. A range-topping Mach-E GT hits that speed in 4.4 seconds. With a wider variety of models, there’s an estimate of between 248 and 379 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 show starting prices of £54,990 and £64,990 for the Long Range and Performance models respectively.

At the time of writing, Mach-E starts at £42,530 for a standard-range rear-wheel-drive model with the 70kWh battery. Upgrading to the bigger battery costs £5,050. The AWD model starts at £50,850 or over £58,000 if you choose the 91kWh battery option. The range-topping GT model costs £66,280. 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, but not in terms of production and quality. Ford’s cheaper pricing helps the Mustang Mach-E win this comparison.

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

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