Just past the time of actually needing one of these so-called multi-purpose vehicles to cope with the vagaries of a young family, I am nevertheless appreciating its versatility and convenience.
Drive-wise, the C-MAX TDCi Ghia offers plenty of gutsy performance, though that comes at something of a price. It is quite noisy and at speed, wind noise is also a real distraction, necessitating raised voices for conversation and increased volume on the radio control for comfortable listening.
One of the most immediately noticeable merits of the Focus C-MAX is its spacious airiness, thanks to a high roof and light-coloured interior.
An unusually tall friend commented favourably on the amount of room in the front passenger seat, though I didn't notice the leg room in the back seat being particularly good, even though the car is said to be one of the roomiest in its class.
Maybe it would have been different if I'd got to grips with the ingenious (or gimmicky) system whereby the middle back seat can be removed, enabling the side seats to swivel and recline, thus offering more room for the fortunate remaining pair of passengers (actually, 100mm extra legroom and 60mm more shoulder room).
But when Fleet News tested the C-MAX against other compact MPVs, the testers failed to appreciate the four-seat choice, saying a seven-seat option would have been more useful.
Their overall verdict at the time was: 'It has taken Ford a while but the C-MAX is a great-looking mini-MPV and good to drive. It only offers five seats but this is the most car-like vehicle in the sector.'
Ford seemed to want a compact MPV that was roomy enough to compete with rivals from Renault and Vauxhall, but offer much of the driving experience of the Focus, and early indications are that the company has succeeded.
The C-MAX has been acclaimed as a particularly child-friendly means of transport, both in terms of practicality and safety.
It boasts pockets and holders galore, as well as a rear-seat viewing mirror for keeping an eye on the little horrors and optional pull-up rear window blinds to spare the indignity of forgetting to remove those stick-on Mickey Mouse ones after the weekend.
Safety features include front and rear curtain airbags, braking assistance, electronic brakeforce distribution and ABS. The C-MAX apparently meets more officially certified vehicle construction regulations than any other car on the market today.
It was the first Ford to include child safety seat development as a specific part of the development process, winning it a four-star Euro NCAP child protection rating, the highest for any car in its class. Cabin quality is sound, with classy trim and a solid feel to all the controls.
Driving is just about as good as the best mainstream lower-medium cars with plenty of grip but with a little extra body roll.
One grouse – the front and rear parking sensors are so over-sensitive that they can be set off by overtaking lorries or anything edging up behind in a queue (something to bear in mind if you're thinking of spending £450 on the optional Park Assist pack).
That and the insistent bleep that sounds if you are not quick enough to get your seatbelt on are enough to set anyone's nerves on edge.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £60 per month
Power (bhp/rpm): 134/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 236/2,000
What we expect
I LEAD a pretty active life one way or another so the Focus C-MAX should be the ideal car for me with its numerous seating combinations and large amount of luggage space.
Featuring Ford's TDCi common rail diesel powerplant as it does, I'm looking forward to some pretty frugal fuel bills.
Ford's combined mpg figure is 50.4, although with just over 1,000 miles on the clock at present the engine has hardly run itself in so is under-achieving somewhat.
As time progresses I believe we will be able to return to around 50 miles per gallon, which is pretty amazing for a car of this size. And who can complain at a BIK tax bill of £60 a month?
The manufacturer's view
'THE Focus C-MAX is redefining the medium car market by giving company car drivers the best of both worlds.
'They get the drive, style and quality of the Focus, the UK's favourite car, plus the versatility and space of a compact MPV.
'The Focus C-MAX is appealing particularly to drivers whose choice of vehicle is heavily influenced by their lifestyle as well as their business needs. 'The driver is not the only one happy with the Focus C-MAX.
'Strong resale values, low emissions and great fuel economy combine to make it the smart choice for the business.'
Director - fleet operations, Ford of Britain