Ford S-Max Titanium 2.0 Ecoboost SCTi
Sharp styling hints at the S-Max's equally sharp performance
- Sharp styling is bold and attractive
- Supple ride makes urban motoring comfortable and stress-free
- Flexible cabin offers plenty of space with the rear seats up or folded flat
- Impressive engine range includes frugal, yet powerful diesel variants
- You need to be agile and short of stature to fit in the rearmost seats
- Premium cabin materials not really compatible with small children and sticky fingers
- Positioned between C-Max and Galaxy, which can lead to some buyer confusion
- Ecoboost 2.0-litre petrol engine is impressive but is trumped by running costs of diesel alternative
Ford regularly calls its S-Max a 'white space' vehicle. Strip away the marketing talk and what the Blue Oval really means is that the S-Max is, in its eyes, something of a niche product. Neither a full-size people carrier nor a compact five-seater, the car falls between the two traditional market sectors.
In reality the S-Max is every inch a people carrier. The seven-seat Ford offers a level of flexibility and practicality that a conventional estate or family hatch cannot match. It's also pitched as a more premium offering than regular family orientated vehicles. This is most obvious in the S-Max's cabin.
Along with a greater focus on the premium cabin ambience, Ford has subtly improved the car's exterior so that it more closely compliments the Focus and Galaxy - the latter a recipient of a mid-life refresh. And along with the cosmetic changes, new and updated petrol and diesel engines aim to boost performance and economy.
New and uprated diesel engines predictably generate the most interest among buyers, and the 163 horsepower motor offers exception levels of performance and better than average economy On the petrol front Ford's Ecoboost range gets its debut in the S-Max and galaxy pairing. Although upstaged by the diesel when considering running costs, the smooth 2.0-litre motor offers exceptional refinement and is ideally suited to the executive chauffer market.
For everyone else, the S-Max's interior offers a level of comfort better suited to the needs of a grown up family and not one with toddlers and sticky fingers. Ford's desire to position the car closer to traditional marques such as BMW might seem like wishful thinking, but there's no question that the car's fit, finish and equipment levels are comparable.
Our verdict on the Ford S-Max Titanium 2.0 Ecoboost SCTi
With a number of subtle but welcome updates to its name, this mid-life refreshed S-Max offers buyers a premium people carrier proposition to rival that of a conventional compact executive vehicle. And with ride and handling manners to rival that of a traditional family hatchback, there's little reason to view the S-Max as a compromise. Factor in an impressive range of engines and it's easy to see the car's appeal.
Not to be confused with the bargain offerings from the Far East, Ford's S-Max displays a level of polish and refinement that easily rivals cars from the traditional premium market sectors. Ownership costs are, however, pleasingly manageable, especially if you choose a diesel variant.
Space and practicality
With the ability to carry seven occupants in reasonable comfort, the S-Max packs a lot into its average-size footprint. As is the case with the modern people carrier, there's ample storage space in the shape of door bins and assorted cubbyholes. Folding the rear rows of seats transforms the car into a posh van and further extends its role as a family holdall.
Controls and display
Fans of the Mondeo and Focus will feel right at home in the S-max. Much of the car's main instrumentation and controls have a similar feel, and the good news is that is all works well. Being able to control most the audio system, cruise control and trip computer from the steering wheel makes life easy, also.
When driving at a relaxed pace there's barely a hint that the engine under the bonnet is working - road noise is also well suppressed. Plush, supportive seats and plenty of room in the cabin round off what is comfortable and relaxing environment.
With a study-looking luggage cover plus a good amount of covered oddment space in the cabin, all the basics are covered. The remote central locking is backed up by keyless ignition, which reduces the need to fumble with a key in the dark.
There are no complaints here as, in recent years Ford has done much to boost the safety provision of its cars. The S-Max is no different and boasts all the airbags and electronic aids a car in this sector needs. Just for good measure, a blind spot warning system is also available, and proves a useful addition when on a busy motorway.
In what will be a surprise for some, the S-Max has more in common with a Focus than a traditional people carrier. For the keen driver this will come as a relief, as it responds well to being driven enthusiastically. Ride quality is good and the engine range offers plenty of performance. The high-end diesel unit and Ecoboost petrol motor deserve extra praise, while the car also manages to take the drama out of potholes and poorly surfaced roads.
Family car appeal
There's much to recommend the S-Max as a family holdall. The amount of cabin space and ability to fold the seats should appeal to most buyers, while running costs for an MPV in the premium sector are relatively modest if a diesel engine is chosen. The only snag is the S-Max's premium positioning, which means the cabin's plush decor is better suited to a teenage family - not one comprising toddlers and mucky fingers.
First car appeal
Although not a first car by choice for the majority of new drivers, if you find yourself behind the wheel the S-Max there's no need to worry. Easy to use controls should put you at ease, and despite its size it behaves more like a regular hatchback on the road. Parking is also straightforward, thanks to the steering's generous levels of assistance.
Quality and image
Ford has made strides in recent years on the quality and driving experience fronts. Interiors are well thought out and oozing with premium ambience, while the cars all handle exceptionally well. For all the company's efforts, the Blue Oval's mainstream image ensures that it struggles to be compared favourably with the likes of BMW, Audi and Honda, although this is boils down to customer perception, not the car's ability.
It might boast a lofty seating position but the S-Max's cabin proves easy to access. The wide opening doors certainly help, although you do need to be pretty agile - or a child - to get comfortable in the car's third row of seats. At the rear the S-Max's tailgate does require a strong hand to pull shut.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The standard offering is a good quality unit which is easy to operate. Located high up in the car's fascia also helps, as does the inclusion of supplementary steering wheel controls. Satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone connection and MP3 music player compatibility options help to ensure the family or business executive remain connected and entertained when on the move.
Colours and trim
As a car pitched at the premium end of the market, predictably the S-Max looks its best in subdued metallic colours. The tasteful application of chrome trim helps maintain this perception. Inside, and the S-Max easily rivals more expensive machinery; the sensible range of trim material and colours help promote a premium ambience.
Despite the car's size it's not difficult to park. The light but accurate steering helps in such situation, while forward visibility is good thanks to the lofty driving position. Rearward visibility isn't as good - blame the headrests, other occupants and small view offered by the central mirror - although this is the case with so many cars of this type. The parking sensors do, however, make life a little easier.
Space saver fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 2.0-litre (145bhp); 2.0-litre SCTi (203bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (115bhp, 140bhp, 163bhp); 2.2-litre (175bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, plus option of DSG-style auto gearbox for selected models. Trim levels: Zetec, Titanium, Titanium X Sport.
Vauxhall Zafira Smaller alternative boasting seven seats and less plush cabin ambience
Peugeot 5008 Competent and classy 5008 is good to drive, spacious and easy on the eye
Renault Grand Scenic Although no longer a youthful challenger, Scenic offers plenty of space and safety kit
Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Picasso successfully blends design flair with space efficient cabin and fluid ride