The Grand C-Max was a double Fleet News Award winner in 2011, collecting the accolade of Best People Carrier from the judges and the reader-voted Best New Car of the Year.
According to the judges, the car stood out by combining “excellent practicality and strong driver appeal, with a high quality interior of clever and flexible seating”. So will our new long-termer live up to this high praise in real life?
In a word, yes. Ease behind the wheel of the Grand C-Max, and you are immediately struck by the quality of the controls, the intuitive layout and comfortable seating.
Push the start/stop button and the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine stirs into life: it’s almost instantly refined, requiring little warm up to assuage any initial unpleasant clatter.
The six-speed Powershift auto ‘box offers rapid gear shifts. It’s not quite on a par with Volkswagen Group’s excellent DSG, but this double-shift version runs it close.
Compared to the six-speed manual version, the Powershift Grand C-Max loses 4.6mpg from the combined figure putting it at 48.7mpg. So far, we are averaging 41.7mpg without too much effort.
The car belies its size by offering an involving driving experience: for an MPV it’s supple, absorbing ruts and bumps in the road, but is firm enough for controlled driving when you get to the bendy bits.
That’s a clear tick for “strong driver appeal”; what about “clever and flexible seating”?
Most modern MPVs offer fold-flat read seats and the Grand C-Max is no different. With all seven seats up, it has a tiny boot space of 92 litres – for better capacity consider the S-Max or Galaxy – but legroom is adequate even for adults in the back two seats.
Pull a flap to fold the seats flat; tug a loop of material to pull them back upright. It couldn’t be simpler.
In addition, all three middle seats fold flat individually, giving maximum flexibility. Another tick, then.
However, it’s not all unqualified acclaim. The biggest negative is the design - unlike the S-Max, the Grand C-Max is unlikely to win any awards for styling. Its rather bulbous rear end has been the subject of much mirth among Fleet News’s circle of friends.
We’ve also suffered problems with the remote control key fob. On three occasions in the past month it has refused to operate, locking us out of the car.
The issue is likely to be either a worn battery in the fob or the car’s battery going into early snooze mode (if the car is unused for several weeks, the battery goes into stand-by to prevent it being drained). We’ve switched fobs, hopefully that will solve the problem.
Exacerbating the situation is the fact that while the emergency key hidden within the remote control fob unlocks the car, it doesn’t deactivate the alarm. Fortunately at the point at which people are starting to stare at this would-be car thief, the remote control or battery wakes up, enabling me to disarm the alarm.
Our first three months with the Grand C-Max has been, on balance, a positive experience. Once we’re ironed out a couple of niggles, expect this car to become a firm Fleet News favourite.