£24,795 - £35,370 Price range
35 - 56 MPG
The old Ford S-Max was a practical seven seater that was also good to drive and had sharp styling. This all new model has all the credentials of the old one, but with improvements in every area. Its main rivals are the SEAT Alhambra, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and the S-Max sister car – the Galaxy.
Prices start from £24,795 and if you buy your new S-Max using carwow you can save £2,680 on average.
Interior quality has been improved and the dashboard layout simplified. It’s now centred around an eight-inch touchscreen. However, reviewers note that there are still some hard and cheap-looking plastics. Room for passengers and luggage is huge – even with seven people on board you still have a bigger boot than most small hatchbacks.
The old S-Max was the best car to drive in it’s class and this new model is equally involving. It’s not only fun around twisty country roads, but also comfortable on the motorway – road and engine noise are both kept to a minimum. Diesel engines are the ones to go for as they feel punchy even when the S-Max is fully loaded.
The new S-Max is a bit dearer than its rivals, but every trim level comes with a good amount of equipment. The infotainment screen is standard across the range, as is the SYNC 2 system that lets you connect your phone to the stereo – it can even monitor the driver’s heart rate.
Cheapest to buy: 1.5-litre Zetec petrol
Cheapest to run: 2.0-litre 120hp Zetec diesel
Fastest model: 2.0-litre Titanium X petrol
Most popular: 2.0-litre 150hp Titanium X diesel
One of the main criticism of the old S-Max was the interior quality. Everything was very brittle and the air vents were almost certain to break after a year or two of usage. To address this issue Ford has put the dashboard from the new Mondeo in the S-Max. The quality of the materials and build is much better, but the interior of the Grand C4 Picasso makes it look a little plain.
Ford S-Max passenger space
As with the old model, the new S-Max has seven individual seats arranged in three rows. The middle row can independently slide back and forth and also recline. It has enough room for two adults, but three will notice limited elbow room. The third row is best kept for kids because an adult will find their knees pressed to their chest – the Ford Galaxy is a better bet if you need more space. The third row of seats is very easy to raise and drop, making the £400 optional electric seat-folding system unnecessarily frivolous.
Seats are described by reviewers as comfortable and supportive in all the right areas. Couple that to the range of adjustability to the steering column and the S-Max offers a very good driving position with a good overview of the road ahead.
Ford S-Max boot space
The boot is not the biggest in class, but is still huge and has a usable shape. The low loading lip and flat area when the seats are folded down mean the S-Max can fit a lot of luggage. With all the seats up there is 285 litres of space – more than a Fiesta. With all the seats on the floor the space is a van-like 2,020 litres. That is 169 litres more than what the Grand C4 Picasso can hold. This being a family car there are lots of small cubbies and storage areas for everything from keys to 1.5-litre water bottles.
The way it drove was where the previous model was way ahead of the competition –proving that an MPV doesn’t have to be boring to drive. The new S-Max is just as well loved by reviewers. All of the critics agree that it feels smaller than it actually is – some even compare it to the Ford Fiesta. The new S-Max is fun to throw around a twisty country road, but also surprisingly manoeuvrable around town.
Ride quality is another area where the new S-Max receives good reviews – it is described as remarkably composed. The Ford is very comfortable on the motorway and passengers don’t feel tired after a long journey. Road noise, tyre roar and engine sound are rarely heard in the well-insulated cabin making the S-Max a very capable cruiser.
The new S-Max is offered with a choice of two petrol engines and one diesel in four power levels. A six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option as well as, for the first time, four-wheel drive.
Ford S-Max petrol engines
Starting from a 1.5-litre with 120hp and ending with a 240hp 2.0-litre the petrol range is limited, to put it mildly. The small 120hp engine struggles with the weight of the car and the 240hp one, taken from the Focus ST, is way too thirsty on fuel.
Ford S-Max diesel engines
The diesels on the other hand consume less fuel and have a lot more torque. This means they feel much faster and eager in the real world than the petrols. The most frugal option with 120hp can achieve 56.9mpg and produces 129g/km of CO2. The same mpg and CO2 emissions are expected from the 150hp and 180hp versions. The 210hp twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel is the pick of the range if you want the fastest S-Max. For any other purpose the 150hp and 180hp versions are perfectly suited for moving the car along.
The new S-Max was tested by Euro NCAP in 2015 and was awarded the full five stars.
That excellent score is partly down to the fact that the new S-Max has a lot of safety systems such as tyre pressure monitoring, automatic city braking, Isofix mounting points on all seats in the middle row and self parking. A brand new system is the Ford speed limiter that can automatically set the car’s speed according to the speed limit of the road.
The new S-Max is definitely not the cheapest seven-seater on sale, but it is equipped well for the price. The recommended trim level for a perfect blend of looks and kit is Titanium – it gets satellite navigation, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control and lane keep assist on top of the entry level Zetec’s air conditioning, parking sensors, alloy wheels and eight-inch touchscreen. The top of the range Titanium X gets a different styling kit, bigger wheels and leather upholstery, but it makes the S-Max too expensive to justify.
In terms of running cost the S-Max is behind rivals, such as the SEAT Alhambra or VW Sharan due to higher CO2 emissions. The cheapest to tax is still £110 a year.
Ford S-Max AWD
Out of it’s rivals, the S-Max is the only car to offer optional four-wheel-drive yet so it has a pretty unique trick up it’s sleeve. It’s an electronically controlled system with a default 50:50 power split between front and rear, but can also move around that power depending on the wheels that need it. This results in very reassuring handling on slippery surfaces and improved traction in snowy conditions. The drawback is the AWD S-Max is costlier (£1,500 more), less fuel efficient (52mpg vs 56mpg) and slower (0-62mph in 12.1s vs 10.8s) than an equivalent front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre S-Max. The AWD system is great for heavy snow, but we feel that a set of good winter tires will get you just as far in our mild winters.
In a world of square and unimaginative people carriers, the new S-Max remains the best choice for someone who not only wants space and practicality, but also enjoys the occasional blast down a country road once the kids have been dropped off. The new S-Max offers a blend of relaxing but fun dynamics and practical interior – the complete opposite of the conservatively styled and dreary-to-drive rival seven-seaters.
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