I asked Ford just what it takes for its vehicles to have the ‘MAX’ factor, as there are now two – the C-MAX and S-MAX.
Cue silence, which is understandable. The C-MAX offers roomy family motoring, one up from the Focus, while the S-MAX is overtly sporty, but was launched at the same time as the Galaxy MPV.
So, I asked, is the S-MAX a sporty Galaxy, or a C-MAX with seven seats? Cue more silence. Having done a few measurements, which show the S-MAX is longer, wider and higher than the C-MAX, but lower and shorter than the Galaxy, I am confident that the S-MAX is a C-MAX with seven seats.
However, unlike the C-MAX, the S-MAX looks less workmanlike. This is a key innovation, Ford claims, as it is the first stylish car in its segment.
It certainly looks impressive and manages to mask its bulk well, especially from the front, which is strewn with air intakes and outlet vents. Very sporty –even though they are all blanked off and fake.
It’s harder to mask the bulk on the inside, though, but as far as MPV seating positions go, it’s very comfortable and the swathes of dashboard and glass before you is classy.
In the rear, there are two rows of seats, all of which have Ford’s FoldFlatSystem which can, as the name suggests, fold flat for 2,000 litres of load space. With all the seats up, there is 285 litres. In comparison, the larger Galaxy offers 2,325 and 435 litres respectively.
Changing configuration is quick and easy and the middle seats have the benefit of sliding adjustment and reclining, which provides bags of legroom in the middle, but it needs to be bartered with third-row passengers as things can get tight for them when the middle seats are fully back.
One downside of the system is that there are no picnic tables which fold out from the back of the front seats for the rear occupants, which is strange for an MPV such as this, and there is just one cup holder for all rear seat occupants. Vauxhall’s Zafira, with its roof-mounted storage boxes, is more flexible.
Out on the road, Ford’s reputation for a quality driving experience is untarnished. The suspension keeps the car level during cornering, turning in and holding direction well.
The 2.0-litre 140bhp TDCi engine pulls smoothly and the gearchange is precise and light.
It seems Ford has lived up to its marketing hype by creating a sporty MPV. This is a car which offers decent driving dynamics with the functionality to appeal to a family audience.
P11D value: £21,272 CO2 emissions (g/km): 169 BIK % of P11D in 2006: 23% Graduated VED rate: £160 Insurance group: 11 Combined mpg: 44.1 CAP RV (3yr/60k): £7,445/35% Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £430
Three rivals to consider
Grand Scenic: £20,242
The top-of-the-range S-MAX is the most expensive and is nudging into full-sized MPV territory. The Zafira is the cheapest, although it is missing some of the S-MAX’s standard kit, such as parking sensors, cruise control and climate control, which add nearly £1,000 to the price.
Emissions and tax rates
Grand Scenic: 159g/km/21%
The Renault wins when it comes to emissions and tax (although it is the least powerful) costing a 22% taxpayer £78 a month in company car tax. The Zafira driver would pay £83 a month, while it would cost £85 a month for the Touran, and £90 a month for the S-MAX.
ppm 60k total
S-MAX: 2.76 £1,656
Touran: 3.22 £1,932
G/Scenic: 3.43 £2,058
Zafira: 3.48 £2,088
A strong showing on service and maintenance means the S-MAX is nearly £300 cheaper than its nearest rival, the Touran, over three years/ 60,000 miles. It is helped by the extensive Ford servicing network and low part prices. The Touran’s reliability puts it in second place.
G/Scenic: 9.58 £5,748
Touran: 9.75 £5,850
Zafira: 9.89 £5,934
S-MAX: 10.23 £6,138
The Scenic, which returns a claimed 47.1mpg, is the cheapest on fuel, undercutting the Touran by £100 over 60,000 miles. The Zafira manages 45.6mpg, but is also the most powerful with 150bhp. The S-MAX returns 44.1mpg and costs more than 10ppm.
Touran: 21.63 £12,978
Zafira: 22.71 £13,626
S-MAX: 23.03 £13,818
G/Scenic: 24.32 £14,592
A typically strong showing from Volkswagen, with CAP estimating the Touran will retain 35% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, giving a cash lost total of £12,978. The Zafira’s low price off-sets its RV of 32%. The Ford will retain 35% and the Renault 28%.
Touran: 34.60 £20,760
S-MAX: 36.02 £21,612
Zafira: 36.08 £21,648
G/Scenic: 37.33 £22,398
Thanks to its strong RV and competitive costs in all other areas the Touran takes first place with a significant lead over the next best competitor, the S-MAX. The Zafira is very closely matched to its Ford rival, while the Scenic trails behind thanks its low residual value forecast.
IF your drivers are looking for a stylish MPV, the Touran’s van-like looks mean it simply can’t cut it in this ever-more fashionable sector. Despite its running costs advantage it doesn’t win, and neither does the Renault as it is too expensive to run. Which leaves the Ford and Vauxhall – two MPVs at the top of their game. Both are separated by a hair’s breadth in running costs so we’ll give the win to the Zafira, which offers drivers lower company car tax bills.