Ford S-Max

Smart new looks hide practical interior and accomplished chassis

 

£24,545 - £34,945 Price range

 

7 Seats

 

35 - 56 MPG

8.3
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 3 reviews
  • Seven seats
  • Comfortable
  • Fun to drive
  • Boot seats are tight
  • Diesel not as responsive as rivals
  • VW's interior quality is better

The old Ford S-Max caused a bit of a revolution when it was launched back in 2006. In the mid-00s people were used to the idea of a practical MPV, but not one that offered verging-on-sporty looks and with handling to match. That’s something that sets it out from class rivals such as the Volkswagen Sharan, SEAT Alhambra, Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and Vauxhall Zafira Tourer.

The new model keeps the same 2-3-2 seat configuration as the old one and its interior flexibility means the rear two rows of seats can be folded away to suit your passenger and load lugging needs.

Interior quality sees a marked improvement with the new S-Max getting the latest SYNC2 voice activation software linked to an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

New S-Max buyers can specify front seats that massage and cool, as well as smart LED headlights that can be used even in oncoming traffic. Also new is Intelligent Speed Assist that reads road signs and slows the car automatically if needed, plus an automatic parking system that can reverse into bays rather than being restricted to parallel parking as older systems are.

While the car’s flexible interior will be most buyers’ main concern, the S-Max has a trick up its sleeve – it’s actually lots of fun to drive. Despite the S-Max’s height, Ford’s dialled out any major body roll, but thankfully this composure doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality and the S-Max is a comfortable car in which to travel.

Ford will offer a choice of six engines – two petrol and four diesels. The mid-range 2.0-litre diesel is expected to be the bestseller. It has the power to easily shift the S-Max, even when it is fully loaded, while still offering decent fuel economy and low emissions.

The S-Max’s wedge-like shape means the car has big windows that make the interior feel very light and airy inside.

Interior quality is on a par with other Fords – perfectly acceptable, if not quite on a par with the likes of the Volkswagen Sharon. The new model loses the old car’s sporty circular air vents, but gets a new eight-inch touchscreen that is part of Ford’s SYNC2 infotainment system.

All models come with good levels of equipment with even basic Zetec trim coming with dual-zone climate control, electric windows front and rear, all round parking sensors, DAB radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity with voice control.

Ford S-Max passenger space

Interior flexibility is the kind of thing you expect from a car like the S-Max and the Ford delivers with lots of room for the driver and front passenger. Middle row occupants also get full-sized, individual seats that can slide forwards and backwards individually of each other. All are also kitted out with ISOFIX child seat mounts. The third row is best reserved for children, if you plan to carry seven adults then the Ford Galaxy is a better bet.

It’s worth mentioning, unlike the VW Sharan and SEAT Alhambra, the S-Max doesn’t get sliding rear doors so putting children in the back isn’t as easy as it would be in some rivals.

Ford S-Max boot space

The beauty of a car like the S-Max is, when it is not carrying people, all the rear seats can be folded away to provide something nearing a van like capacity – 2,000 litres in the the case of the S-Max. Its huge boot lid and flat load bay means awkward items (a chest of drawers, for example) can be slid in easily. Fill the car with five passengers and the load bay drops to 700 litres, more than you get in most estates while, with seven passengers on board, the 285 litres left for luggage is comparable to the boot space you’ll get in a small city car such as the Volkswagen Up (251 litres).

MPVs aren’t known for their driving dynamics, but the Ford badge in the S-Max’s grille is a good sign that this particular vehicle will break the mould. And it does. Ford wanted the S-Max to be something of a sporty MPV and that manifests itself in the car’s surprising precision and agility.

The latest model gets electric power steering rather than the old one’s hydraulic setup but, other than its keenness to self centre, there are few complaints from reviewers. Testers advise not to bother with the optional variable steering, which reduces the number of times you need to turn the wheel for full lock depending on speed.

The minimal body roll in the corners hasn’t come at the expense of the S-Max’s ride, which manages to soak up bumps with ease, with only a background thump to tell passengers it’s doing its job.

Engines are taken from across the Ford range meaning you can choose from a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol and a variety of 2.0-litre diesels, including a twin-turbocharged version that delivers impressive performance.

At the time of writing, though, reviewers have only driven the 177hp 2.0-litre diesel, which offers a balance of performance and economy that’s sure to make it popular. It gets the S-Max from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 131mph, but has a typical turbocharged power delivery. As a result, the Ford ponders at low revs before the turbo comes on song to delivery an aggressive slug of acceleration that can make it hard to drive smoothly. That peaky power delivery settles down at high speed, though, to make the the S-Max a strong overtaker.

Fuel economy of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 129g/km (for road tax of £110) are pretty decent given the S-Max’s not insubstantial 1726kg weight and upright aerodynamics. Choosing the Powershift automatic gearbox has little effect on fuel economy.

In time, Ford will also offer the S-Max with four-wheel drive, but not with the adaptive dampers that will be available in Europe.

The new S-MAX is as of yet untested by Euro NCAP, but there seems no reason it won’t  meet the same safety standards as the previous model, which secured the full five stars.

Airbags are only available for the first two rows of seats, where as the Peugeot 5008 and Renault Grand Scenic have s on all rows. Ford does, however, offer MyKey, which allows you to limit the top speed of the car were you ever to lend it to a young (potentially over enthusiastic) driver.

Traction and electronic stability control come as standard across the range, as does tyre pressure monitoring. Other new technology on the 2015 model includes an automatic speed adjustment system that reads road signs and changes the vehicle’s speed to match.

Cast your eye down the specification sheet and you’ll find Zetec trim gets you quite a lot more than the bare essentials including all round parking sensors, front and rear electric windows, keyless entry, DAB radio and an eight-inch touchscreen. But, if it were us, we would make full use of the touchscreen and plum for Titanium trim which includes, amongst other things, sat-nav at a £1,700 premium.

Ford offers a three-year/60,000-mile warranty on all new vehicles and servicing is required every year or 12,500 miles. Ford offers set servicing costs at £125 or £195.

Conclusion

Ford has managed to make all round improvements with the new S-Max. With its smart looks (courtesy of that chrome grille), improved interior quality and new range of engines it’s now well equipped to take on the best the competition has to offer. What we liked about the old car – its comfortable ride and excellent handling remain, too – making the S-Max one of the best MPVs currently on the market.

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