Ford's C-MAX compact family people carrier has been given a wash 'n brush-up. June Neary checks it out.
Will It Suit Me?
Families must be one big headache for car designers. Especially mine. We all have to share the same car but we've all got different ideas about what we want it to do. While one family member wants a vehicle to look good and drive with a little verve, another might want seats that are easy to fold down and lots of storage space. Certain factions in the family won't give two hoots about any of that. They'll be more interested in the maximum volume of stereo system, the quantity of 12-volt charging points for games consoles, whether their bikes will fit in the boot or how long it takes to colour-in the back of the headrest with a felt tip pen. Pleasing all of the family all of the time sounds impossible - but Ford's C-MAX MPV is up for giving it a good go. It's based on the brand's Focus hatch, a car that drives so beautifully that plonking a bulbous body on top of it and raising the centre of gravity would seem like a bad idea. But when I tried this improved second generation C-MAX model, my first thought was that they'd delivered me a Focus hatch in error. With the sharper styling of the latest car, it even looks the part. I even grew to like the fact that it didn't come fitted with endless rows of seats and nowhere to store my shopping. I'm trying to think of the last occasion that I needed to fit seven people into a car and I'm still thinking. Anyway, if I were to want that, Ford offers a 'Grand C-MAX' version of this design, complete with three rows of chairs.
By the standards set by other compact MPVs, which aren't always the highest, the C-MAX is quite a handsome thing. The design of this improved MK2 model is evolutionary, with a stronger, sleeker front end that features Ford's distinctive inverted trapezoidal grille. Otherwise, I had to consult my press kit to notice the changes. The washer jets have been hidden underneath the windscreen to give a cleaner look while the tailgate has been given a smoother and more sophisticated one-piece appearance. Inside, the updates are a bit more obvious. I thought that the dash was a lot less fussy than that of the original version of this model, reflecting the customer-led design refinements that have already been executed on the Focus. There are fewer controls and switches, while the smart black satin trim and chrome detailing contributes to a cleaner look. Functions are simpler to use, such as the air-conditioning controls that now feature buttons that are easier to recognise and distinguish from each other. Practicality improves too, with a redesigned centre storage console. The seats still tumble down individually in one motion to create a flat floor, with over 470-litres of space with all five seats in place. As I mentioned, the C-MAX comes in two sizes. I tried the standard one, but bigger families will want the Grand C-MAX model which is fully 4,520mm long, with a wheelbase increased by 140mm compared to the ordinary car. It's also 40mm taller and these extended dimensions allow it to cram in that third row of seating.
Behind the Wheel
There's nothing old fashioned about the C-MAX engine range, Ford having fitted a collection of leading edge powerplants littered with the kind of technology that the layman has no hope of understanding. The star of the engine line-up is the 120PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine, replacing the old 1.6-litre unit. Power goes up by five per cent while emissions drop by six points. There are also the multi-award winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines, offered once again in 100 and 125PS outputs. The big capacity diesel in the range is a revised 150PS 2.0-litre unit. And on the move? Well you always expect Fords to be good to drive, even family-orientated ones. I do anyway - and this C-MAX doesn't disappoint. Particular attention this time round has been paid to improving refinement. Noise, vibration and harshness have been improved through the use of thicker side glass and more absorbent seals around the tailgate and rear view mirror. The engine bay heat shield has been filled with acoustic damping material to reduce powertrain noise and diesel variants are equipped with extra acoustic seals to further reduce noise intrusion.
Value For Money
On the road prices range from around £17,500 to around £26,000, with prices generally around £500 over and above a Focus hatch. There's a premium of around £1,600 to move from the five-seat C-MAX model I tried to the seven-seat Grand C-MAX derivative. Whatever your budget, you'll find the C-MAX cheap to run, with many major components requiring minimal or even no maintenance. The result is low insurance groupings and whole life costs estimated to be £700 - £1,000 less than immediate rivals.
Could I Live With One?
The Ford C-MAX has to be one of the easiest cars to live with yet devised. Pleasant to drive, pleasant to look at and with a benign image that's overwhelmingly nice. We all know what happens to nice guys, but the C-MAX should be the exception that proves the rule.