A People Carrier for people who, well, don't want a People Carrier. June Neary falls for Ford's S-MAX
Will It Suit Me?
I never thought I'd see it but here it is. A large MPV people carrier that could conceivably appeal to someone like me who has no need of a people carrier. And doesn't want one thankyou. I would however, be quite happy to be granted the keys, long term, to Ford's S-MAX, particularly in its current second generation form. Here's why.
Before I get into all the seat folding and luggage stowaging, I'd better explain. This car looks great and drives like a well engineered fast estate car. Yes really. Yet it also does all the things a large MPV is supposed to do. For proof, I checked out FFS (Ford FoldFlatSystem before you attribute a baser meaning to that acronym) which apparently allows 32 different seating permutations. I didn't try many of these but I did note that the second and third rows of seats all fold flat to form a genuinely huge load floor big enough to take a double bed. My usual issue with all 7-seat MPVs is that with all the seats occupied, you've next to no luggage space. In this respect, this Ford is better than most, offering 285 litres of space with all seats being used. You'll need a roofbox if you want more than that. If you do wish to run the S-MAX in removal van mode, it'll heave around up to 2,020 litres of goods with all the rear seat folded flat. Yes, a van-based MPV like Ford's Grand Tourneo Connect would offer you a bit more room in this format but with that kind of People carrier, you've got the hassle of physically having to lump out the second and third row chairs and store them in the garage. There's none of that kind of hassle here. In an S-MAX, the extra rearmost seats fold neatly into the floor and can do so with electrical assistance if you've avoided entry-level trim and opted for the extra-cost 'Family Pack'. This gives you a 'Power Easy Entry' feature that's activated via buttons on the lefthand cargo area sidewall though annoyingly, for reasons best known to Ford, it only works in flattening the seats, not in raising them again in the way you can (at least with the third row) with an equivalent Galaxy model.
Behind the Wheel
The fact that Ford has its marginally more practical Galaxy model for those only concerned with practical 7-seat A to B family transport leaves this S-MAX free to provide something pretty unique in the segment for bigger MPVs: namely, a good looking car dynamically capable enough to reward the enthusiastic driver. Other big 7-seaters feel vaguely pointless if you're alone in them on the move: this one just shrinks around you and encourages you to take the back road home, where you'll find bodyroll kept impressively well in check for a car of this size. There's plenty of traction too, even if you don't go for the optional Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system. Clever Integral-Link rear suspension borrowed from the fourth generation Ford Mondeo this car's based upon is fundamental to this impressive showing. And though the freshly added electric power steering system isn't quite as feelsome as the previous hydraulic set-up, standard Torque vectoring system that lightly brakes the inside front wheel through tight bends and sharpens turn-in still makes this S-MAX feel rewarding through the twisties. Engine-wise, there are two EcoBoost turbo petrol units of 1.5 and 2.0-litres in size, but most buyers will want one of the 2.0-litre TDCi diesels. The 120, 150 and 180PS variants of this unit can record 56.5mpg on the combined cycle and 129g/km of CO2, while at the top of the range, there's a 210PS Bi-Turbo TDCi powerplant that's nearly as clean and frugal.
Value For Money
List pricing suggests that you'll be paying somewhere in the £25,000 to £33,000 bracket for your S-MAX, depending upon the variant you choose. All models sold in this country come in 7-seat configuration and if you avoid the entry-level petrol and diesel variants, there's the £1,500 option of the Powershift 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission we're trying here. Ford reckons that almost 97% of buyers will want one of the TDCi diesel variants and you can see why. There are, after all, only a couple of petrol versions, with the 2.0-litre EcoBoost variant too expensive for most to run and the entry-level 1.5-litre EcoBoost model saving you only £800 on the base diesel, yet coming with 30% less pulling power and 20% higher running costs. Not tempting.
Could I Live With One?
With both the S-MAX and the more sensibly-orientated Galaxy in their large MPV line-up, Ford offers an unrivalled choice for buyers in this sector of the market. And in the S-MAX, a pretty unique proposition.