Don’t be fooled by the new look or the MAX nomenclature – the recently-revised Ford C-MAX is neither as big nor as clever as its S-MAX stablemate.
While the S-MAX offers a fully flexible interior and seven-seat capacity, the C-MAX offers just five chairs.
In truth, it’s a taller Focus hatchback with more interior space. And it seems that buyers haven’t been fooled either. Last year Ford sold 19,000 C-MAXs, compared to 137,000 Focuses.
The first thing you notice about the C-MAX is the new front-end styling which now incorporates more angular headlights, a larger gaping grille beneath the bumper and deeper skirts around the bottom of the car.
It’s all part of Ford’s “kinetic” design language and is supposed to convey energy in motion.
The restyle has given the C-MAX a far more aggressive look at the front compared to the bland appearance of before. At the back are a redesigned bumper unit and LED lights.
The interior has also come in for some attention with a redesigned instrument panel, centre console and door trims. Essentially this is a freshen-up, although Ford has installed more storage compartments in the centre console.
Aside from this, the interior remains unchanged, with five seats and a large boot. The rear three seats can be moved around in a number of different ways – moved forwards and backwards to create more legroom for passengers or folded forwards to create much more luggage space.
While this gives a flexible interior layout, the seats don’t fold flat into the floor – instead you have to remove the seats to create the large loading bay.
Under the skin the C-MAX remains unchanged, with a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines. We tested the most popular engine – the familiar 2.0-litre TDCi with 140bhp.
It’s fairly noisy at start-up and idle but once warmed through it settles down well and offers strong performance through the six-speed manual gearbox.
There’s plenty of torque from low down in the rev range and the C-MAX will pull from under 20mph in third gear, which shows how flexible this unit is.
The only downside of the driving experience is a choppy ride quality – obviously compromised to retain some semblance of roadholding from the regular Focus.
The C-MAX is a curious car in that it is something of a halfway house. But that’s the least of its problems. The C-MAX tested here costs £17,745 while for around £1,000 more you can secure an S-MAX with the same engine in slightly lower LX trim level.
It’s well worth the extra spend.
P11D value: £17,555
CO2 emissions (g/km): 154
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 20%
Graduated VED rate: £140
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP RV (3yr/60k) £5,575/32%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £425
We don’t like:
Four cars, each offering versatile accommodation for the same money yet each showing a different approach to the market. The SEAT is the most expensive but comes in sporty FR trim with 170bhp. The Scenic offers 130bhp, the Ford 140bhp and the Citroën 110bhp.
The Ford and Citroën offer the cheapest benefit-in-kind tax bills, with both costing a 22% taxpayer £67 a month.
The Renault will cost the same taxpayer £70 a month and the SEAT, with its higher power engine, is the most expensive at £74 a month.
The Altea is almost one pence-per-mile adrift of the Ford and the difference comes down to tyres. The C-MAX, Scenic and C4 all run on 16-inch wheels while the sportier SEAT has more expensive 17-inch lower profile tyres to reflect its FR sports badge.
C-MAX: 3.48 (pence per mile) £2,088 (60,000 miles total)
Scenic: 4.15 £2,490
Altea: 4.40 £2,640
C4: 4.67 £2,802
Ford claims the C-MAX will return an average of 48.7mpg, resulting in a diesel spend of just over £5,100 over 60,000 miles.
The C4 is close behind on 47.9mpg and the Scenic returns 47.1. The SEAT’s more powerful engine hits economy and it returns 45.6mpg.
C-MAX: 8.52 (pence per mile) £5,112 (60,000 miles total)
C4: 8.66 £5,196
Scenic: 8.81 £5,286
Altea: 9.10 £5,460
The Citroën holds its value the best here, with CAP estimating it will retain 35% of cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The SEAT is similarly priced to the C4 at the front-end but its RV is only 31%. The Ford will retain 32% and the Renault a low 27%.
C4: 18.87 (pence per mile) £11,322 (60,000 miles total)
Altea: 19.45 £11,670
C-MAX: 21.99 £13,194
Scenic: 22.27 £13,362
With competitive fuel costs and the lowest depreciation bill, the Citroën secures top spot, costing around 0.7ppm less than the Altea. The C-MAX, at 33.99ppm, scores well in SMR and fuel costs, but its RV counts against it. The Renault is the most expensive at 35.23ppm.
C4: 32.20 (pence per mile) £19,320 (60,000 miles total)
Altea: 32.95 £19,770
C-MAX: 33.99 £20,394
Scenic: 35.23 £21,138
These cars appeal to something of a niche market – people who want slightly more room than in a conventional hatchback but don’t want to go the whole hog and have a seven-seat mini-MPV.
The Renault and Ford are discounted first because they cost too much to run in comparison to the others. The Citroën is more of a mini-MPV than any of the others and looks incredibly stylish. It’s also the cheapest to run, but the SEAT is not far behind and offers much more in terms of performance for the money.