FAM­ILY MO­TOR­ING TAKEN TO THE MAX

If you thought peo­ple car­ri­ers were bor­ing and func­tional, Ford would like to ar­gue oth­er­wise

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JONATHAN CROUCH

OWN­ING an MPV, par­tic­u­larly a large one, isn’t sup­posed to be one of life’s mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences. A peo­ple car­rier is nor­mally a grudge pur­chase, a ve­hi­cle you need rather than one you might want. Or at least it usu­ally is. Ford thinks dif­fer­ently. That’s why they brought us the S-MAX, here re­ju­ve­nated in sec­ond gen­er­a­tion guise.

It’s stuffed with seg­ment-lead­ing tech­nol­ogy and also in­cludes an AWD op­tion to keep those SUVS in their place. Plus it claims to be just as stylish and re­ward­ing as its rev­o­lu­tion­ary pre­de­ces­sor. Can it con­tinue to of­fer an ap­peal­ing op­tion if you need a large MPV but just don’t want one? We elected to try this car with the 2.0-litre TDCI diesel en­gine most will want, in this case spec­i­fied in pokey 180PS guise.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

The fact that Ford has its marginally more prac­ti­cal Galaxy model for those only con­cerned with prac­ti­cal 7-seat, A-to-b fam­ily trans­port leaves this S-MAX free to pro­vide some­thing pretty unique in the seg­ment for big­ger MPVS: namely, a good-look­ing car dy­nam­i­cally ca­pa­ble enough to re­ward the en­thu­si­as­tic driver.

Other big 7-seaters feel vaguely point­less if you’re alone in them on the move: this one just shrinks around you and en­cour­ages you to take the back road home, where you’ll find body­roll kept im­pres­sively well in check for a car of this size. There’s plenty of trac­tion too, even if you don’t go for the op­tional In­tel­li­gent All-wheel Drive sys­tem.

Clever In­te­gral-link rear sus­pen­sion bor­rowed from the fourth gen­er­a­tion Ford Mon­deo this car is based upon is fun­da­men­tal to this im­pres­sive show­ing. And though the freshly added elec­tric power steer­ing sys­tem isn’t quite as feel some as the pre­vi­ous hy­draulic set-up, stan­dard Torque vec­tor­ing sys­tem that lightly brakes the in­side front wheel through tight bends and sharp­ens turn-in still makes this S-MAX feel re­ward­ing through the twisties. En­gine-wise, there are two

Ecoboost turbo petrol units of 1.5 and 2.0-litres in size, but most buy­ers will want one of the 2.0-litre TDCI diesels. There are 120, 150 and 180PS vari­ants of this unit — we tried the 180PS version which with 2WD man­ages 62mph from rest in 9.7s en route to 131mph.

De­sign and Build

Pho­tos of this sec­ond gen­er­a­tion S-MAX sug­gest styling only lightly evolved from that of the MK1 model but in the metal, that lower roofline, the slim­line lights and the mus­cu­lar rear haunches en­sure that this im­proved version ap­pears sharper and more dis­tinc­tive than be­fore.

Help­ing in this is the way that the front A-pil­lars have been moved fur­ther back to cre­ate a longer, more sculpted bon­net that flows into the raised, chromed trape­zoidal Ford front grille that’s now fa­mil­iar from other cars in the com­pany’s range.

And be­hind the wheel? Well, as be­fore, the vast glass area and the slim wind­screen pil­lars mean that all-round vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent. Ahead of you through the leather-trimmed three­spoke multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel, there’s a clear, classy in­stru­ment clus­ter that in mid and up­per-range mod­els gives you this so­phis­ti­cated 10.2-inch TFT set-up made up of var­i­ous inset multi-func­tion dis­plays.

Any­thing this set-up can’t tell you will prob­a­bly be cov­ered by the fea­ture that on all mod­els dom­i­nates the cen­tre of the dash, the 8-inch SYNC2 colour touch­screen, there to play its part in re­duc­ing but­ton clutter and giv­ing the cabin a cleaner, smarter feel.

Out back, there’s plenty of room in both sec­ond and third seat­ing rows and a lug­gage ca­pac­ity that varies be­tween 285 and 2,020-litres, de­pend­ing on the seat con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Mar­ket and Model

List pric­ing sug­gests that you’ll be pay­ing some­where in the £25,000 to £33,000 bracket for your S-MAX, de­pend­ing upon the vari­ant you choose. All mod­els sold in this coun­try come in 7-seat con­fig­u­ra­tion and if you avoid the en­try-level petrol and diesel vari­ants, there’s the £1,500 op­tion of the Pow­ershift 6-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion we tried. Ford reck­ons that al­most 97% of buy­ers will want one of the TDCI diesel vari­ants and you can see why.

There are, af­ter all, only a couple of petrol ver­sions, with the 2.0-litre Ecoboost vari­ant too ex­pen­sive for most to run and the en­try-level 1.5-litre Ecoboost model saving you only £800 on the base diesel, yet com­ing with 30% less pulling power and 20% higher run­ning costs. Not tempt­ing.

So, diesel it is then — specif­i­cally a 2.0-litre one, since all S-MAX TDCI en­gines are of that size — even the top 210PS flag­ship Bi-turbo version.

Look­ing at the var­i­ous TDCI op­tions which are avail­able, we’d want to find the £800 pre­mium to go from the rather fee­bly-per­form­ing en­try-level 120PS unit to the mid-range 150PS version that, priced at around £26,000, prob­a­bly rep­re­sents the sweet spot in the line-up.

For this test though, we elected to try the slightly pok­ier 180PS vari­ant but it’s quite an ex­pen­sive choice: since you can’t have this en­gine in ba­sic ‘Zetec’ trim, you’re look­ing at need­ing nearly £29,000 for it — quite a jump. If you want to take up the op­por­tu­nity that this sec­ond gen­er­a­tion S-MAX of­fers of find­ing an ex­tra £1,500 for Ford’s In­tel­li­gent All-wheel Drive sys­tem, you’ll find it only in the diesel range where it’s only of­fered as an op­tion on the 150PS man­ual model or this 180PS Pow­ershift au­to­matic vari­ant.

Cost of Own­er­ship

As­sum­ing you’re happy with a man­ual gear­box and front wheel drive, you’ll get the same re­turns whether you or­der your S-MAX TDCI with 120, 150 or, as in this case, 180PS. Specif­i­cally, we’re talk­ing 56.5mpg on the com­bined cy­cle and 129g/km of CO2. That’s not quite as good a show­ing as you’d get from slightly smaller 7-seat MPVS like Re­nault’s Grand Scenic or Citroen’s C4 Grand Pi­casso, but it’s on a par with the lat­est equiv­a­lent ver­sions of large Peo­ple Car­ry­ing ri­vals like SEAT’S Al­ham­bra and Volk­swa­gen’s Sha­ran.

A Ford Mon­deo Es­tate with the same en­gine we tried would be about 15% cheaper to run but, as you you’d ex­pect, the S-MAX’S show­ing does ex­actly match that of its sis­ter model, the Galaxy, which shares ex­actly the same en­gine range.

What else? Well, all S-MAX mod­els come with an un­re­mark­able 3 year/ 60,000 mile Ford war­ranty, with Ford As­sis­tance at the road­side for the first year. If you plan on keep­ing your car for longer or are a high mileage driver, you can pay a small ex­tra cost to ex­tend that war­ranty to ei­ther 4 years and 80,000 miles or 5 years and 100,000 miles. There’s also the op­tion of a ‘Ford Pro­tect Pre­mium Plan’ that over two or three years, can cut the cost of sched­uled ser­vic­ing.

Sum­mary

Most MPVS are enough to put you to sleep. With the S-MAX, Ford has al­ways tried to de­velop one with a bit of per­son­al­ity, prov­ing that such ve­hi­cles needn’t be dull and putting a smile on the faces of en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ers with fam­ily com­mit­ments to meet. Th­ese are peo­ple who want an el­e­ment of flair, but aren’t pre­pared to sac­ri­fice ba­sic peo­ple car­ry­ing qual­i­ties like space and safety.

This sec­ond gen­er­a­tion S-MAX, like its pre­de­ces­sor, meets th­ese needs in a way that frankly, no other com­peti­tor can.

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