When it comes to sports coupes priced at around the £35,000 mark, buyers are currently spoiled for choice. We’re comparing three contenders – the Audi TT, the BMW M235i and the Ford Mustang GT – all of which approach the job of being a two-door coupe from very different perspectives.
Ford Mustang vs Audi TT vs BMW M235i prices
The Audi TT is available with a number of different power outputs, petrol or diesel engines, and both front-wheel drive and Audi’s famed quattro four-wheel-drive system. Before options, the TT quattro in this test costs from £34,195, but prices go as low as £27,150 for the entry-level model, and climb to £39,245 for the TTS.
The M235i – now replaced by the slightly more powerful M240i – sits just over the £35,000 budget. The Mustang just undercuts the BMW, with prices for this GT model from £34,995 – a bargain considering the massive engine on offer.
Ford Mustang vs Audi TT vs BMW M235i – styling
Ever since the first-generation TT wowed us with its concept-car looks back in 1998, the little Audi coupe has been considered a design classic. The latest version sports the same squat dimensions and sharp body creases helping it look arguably the most modern car here.
The BMW’s upright shape could almost be considered a two-door saloon rather than a traditional coupe and, as a result, is much less likely to turn heads than the Audi. The styling additions from M Sport help to add a subtle dose of menace though – a bodykit is mated with 18-inch alloy wheels and blue brake calipers to set the M235i apart from lesser models. It’s easy on the eye, but might be just a little too subtle for some.
Subtlety will never be a criticism levelled at the Mustang, however. For one, it’s big – it’s more than 60cm longer and nearly 10cm wider than the TT. Then there’s the detailing itself, which takes inspiration from the original 1965 icon, yet ramps up the aggression to 11. It’s easily the most attention-seeking car of this trio – whether you consider that a good or not is up to you…
Ford Mustang vs Audi TT vs BMW M235i – interior
The TT features one the best interiors to come from Audi – high praise indeed. We’re big fans of the way the air conditioning controls are beautifully integrated into the air vents via digital displays – a £495 option – and the fantastic Virtual Cockpit featuring a standard-fit 12.3-inch TFT screen replacing traditional dials.
Continuing the BMW’s exterior theme, the cabin is much more staid than the Audi’s design. Gorgeous steering wheel and some subtle M badges aside, there isn’t much to make it feel truly special. Build quality is excellent though, and its iDrive infotainment system is the best setup on the market being both the slickest and the easiest to use.
The Mustang can’t compete with the other two in terms of quality, with plenty of cheap-feeling plastics spoiling the feel. It looks great though, in a typically all-American way, and the galloping mustang logo on the steering wheel adds a sense of occasion.
Ford Mustang vs Audi TT vs BMW M235i – practicality
As the smallest car here, the Audi is also the least practical. Even short adults will feel like they’ve been folded in half to make their way into one of the two rear seats, with headroom in particular being very poor. Accept that you’ll never cater for more than two, and you can fold the rear seats away to increase the 305-litre boot to a handy 712-litre space.
The BMW is the most accommodating car of the trio. The rear seats can cater for two adults for shorter journeys without much complaining, while in-car storage options are also the most plentiful here. Child seat installation is easy thanks to isofix mounting points that are simple to locate. The boot measures 390 litres and has a reasonably wide opening.
Considering the size of the Mustang, rear seat passengers might feel a little cheated when it comes to space. Blame the sloping fastback roofline that limits headroom. Though the 408-litre boot is slightly larger than the BMW’s, the smaller opening makes it less usable in the real world. Storage space inside isn’t great, either.
Ford Mustang vs Audi TT vs BMW M235i – engines
True to form, the three coupes not only take radically different approaches from the outside, but under the bonnet, too. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo sitting under the bonnet of the Audi TT is the least powerful here. Thanks to that four-wheel-drive system, however, it leaps off the line to deliver a 0-62mph time of 5.3 seconds.
The BMW boasts two extra cylinders, another turbo and an extra litre of capacity to produce 326hp – 96hp more than the Audi. The BMW is faster but, thanks to the need to heft around an extra 190kg, the difference isn’t that much – it reaches 62mph from rest in five seconds dead.
The Mustang is more powerful still. Its comparatively huge 5.0-litre V8 pumps out a whopping 416hp and is accompanied by a fantastic muscle car soundtrack. Like the BMW, it sends its power to just the rear wheels, and cracks the benchmark 0-62mph dash in 4.8 seconds.
The penalty for that power and noise is ruinous fuel consumption. An official 20.9mpg figure means the Ford lags well behind both the BMW’s 34.9mpg and the Audi’s 43.5mpg.
If you’re happy to burn money at the petrol pumps, why not burn away the Mustang’s rear tyres in a cloud of smoke too? The Ford’s ‘Line Lock’ feature brakes the front wheels while allowing the rears to spin up in an almighty burnout – gloriously immature.
Ford Mustang vs Audi TT vs BMW M235i – driving
As the relative lightweight of the trio, the TT is the most agile here. It delivers fantastic traction, while the low-slung driving position instantly gets the driver in the mood for enthusiastic driving. It all adds up to a car that’s very easy to drive quickly along a country road – perhaps too easily for driving enthusiasts who might want to feel more a part of the action.
The M235i, on the other hand, feels just a little bit more rewarding. That extra power combined with the rear-wheel drive layout makes the BMW the more exciting car to drive quickly. Best of all, all you need to do is ease off the throttle and it’s just as easy to potter about as a typical family hatchback.
The Mustang takes the mildly hairy chest of the BMW and replaces it with a full-on curly wig. That isn’t to say it’s as scary as Mustangs of old – it has a great balance and solid composure through corners – but lacks the last level precision compared to the Audi and BMW. It’s enormous fun, though and will oversteer gratuitously if provoked.
Ford Mustang vs Audi TT vs BMW M235i – verdict
The Audi is the choice of the fashion-conscious, but that doesn’t mean it lacks substance. It’s great fun to drive, can hang onto the shirt tails of the other two in a straight line despite its deficit in power, and it’s the cheapest to buy and run, too.
The Mustang, by contrast, is loud, brash and lovably silly. If you’re the sort of person who likes to announce your arrival in a cloud of tyre smoke while whooping wildly, the Mustang is perfect. It lags behind the other two in terms of cabin quality, fuel consumption and outright practicality but it has absolutely bucketloads of charm thanks to its bonkers engine.
The BMW manages to offer a fantastic compromise between the two. Offering the greatest blend of performance, practicality and fun among this trio, it’s a brilliant all-rounder not only in this company, but among many cars costing around £35,000. It’s a worthy if narrow winner here.