By Mark Slack • 23 December 2021 • 13:56
FORD S-MAX: A must on anyone’s MPV shopping list.
WHEN Renault first launched the Espace they created a whole new segment within the automotive sector. You may think that the MPV has had its day thanks to the ubiquitous SUV and in large part you’d be correct, but there is still an MPV presence out there and one of the finest is Ford’s S-Max.
A week behind the wheel makes you realise that MPVs are immensely practical machines, and in the case of the S-Max don’t have to drive like a minibus. As with all Fords the S-Max is remarkably nimble, especially given its considerable proportions. It’s a relaxed cruiser and remarkably economical, with 50 mpg very achievable on a run.
Although some newer entrants to the sector, from the likes of Citroen, arguably have a more cutting-edge design, don’t be fooled into thinking the S-Max is a relic from another automotive age. Despite being launched in 2006 it has evolved well over the years and now includes a very effective self-charging hybrid option, all-wheel-drive can also be specified. In the UK there are three trim levels – Titanium, ST-Line and Vignale – and the equipment levels are very good.
Power comes from either a 2.0-litre diesel, in two power outputs, with either manual or automatic gears, or a 2.5-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor to provide hybrid driving. Paired with a CVT gearbox it is this version that is the focus (excuse the Ford related pun) of our attention. This is not a plug-in hybrid, think more like Toyota’s system where the engine is assisted by the electric motor.
When you are at low speed the system puts you into electric mode and at other times as and when required, such as boosting the power. It gels together well and produces a very refined people mover.
While it’s no Fiesta ST in the handling stakes it’s surprising just how far it can be pushed. There’s little noticeable body roll and it retains a confident feel and good levels of grip even in two-wheel-drive. It soaks up rough roads better than some of the newer entrants and has masses of interior space. Even the rearmost seating – the S-Max has seven seats – is accessible, albeit for shorter journeys in the case of adults.
Overall it may not have the interior glitz of newer models but remains remarkably competitive, drives superbly and is a must on anyone’s MPV shopping list.
Model tested was UK-specification and equipment levels and prices may vary in other markets
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