"The new Ford C-MAX is a practical, stylish, and well-built compact MPV with sporty handling."
Based on the Ford Focus, the second-generation Ford C-MAX is a compact MPV that acts as a bridge between family hatchbacks and some of Ford's larger MPVs. A great improvement over the original car, the current model is stylish and fun to drive despite its practical dimensions, and it is definitely appealing when compared to its main rivals, such as the Volkswagen Touran and Renault Scenic. All the rear seats can be folded flat for extra practicality or can be completely removed to offer an almost van-like carrying capacity. However, it may well look the part and have a well-built interior, but the C-MAX simply isn’t as flexible on a day-to-day basis as a Scenic, or as outright practical as the seven-seat Touran. Plus, the options on the C-MAX are fairly pricey for this kind of car. Ford has added some turbocharged EcoBoost engines to the line-up at the last update, which bring stronger acceleration and lower running costs. In fact, we’d recommend the 148bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost as the best of the bunch. Throw in a comfortable ride and sporty handling, and the C-MAX is easily one of the best compact MPVs you can buy in the UK. It's only available strictly as a five-seater, so if you need to carry seven adults but love the C-MAX, you should opt for the Ford Grand C-MAX instead.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Day-to-day costs for the C-MAX should be pretty affordable. While we wait for the promised C-MAX Energi hybrid model, the most efficient C-MAX engine is currently the 1.6-litre TDCi diesel, which returns 61.4mpg in fuel economy and emits 117g/km of CO2. Ford has also introduced a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine that is capable of returning 55.4mpg and emitting that same 117g/km of CO2, which is significant given the size of the engine. There's also a 1.6-litre EcoBoost available in Titanium X models. The only downside is that the EcoBoosts are currently a little expensive. Also, Ford's three-year/60,000-mile warranty is nowhere near as good as either Kia and Hyundai in terms of keeping long-term maintenance costs down and showing real confidence in the reliability of their product.
Interior & comfort
You won’t get jarred about inside the C-MAX, with its suspension absorbing most road bumps, but the ride is undeniably firmer than in the Vauxhall Zafira and Renault Scenic. Road and wind noise are kept to a minimum inside the car, while sensibly spaced gear ratios keep the engine nicely quiet when driving on the motorway. The inside of the C-MAX is generally modern and stylish, constructed from high-quality materials, with solid switches and controls. Some parts of the dashboard do get a little too fiddly and complicated if you’re a bit trigger happy with the options list, but it's never less than pleasant to sit in and is definitely better than the interior of the either the Renault Scenic or Volkswagen Touran. The five-seater C-MAX can also be had with a 2+2 seat layout if so desired, which is well worth considering if you regularly transport adults in the back. Basically, you can fold away the centre back seat, which allows the outer seats to slide back and in a little bit for extra shoulder and legroom.
Practicality & boot space
The MPV may be technically compact, but its dimensions are ample enough for it to be a very practical car. You get great visibility from the high and easily adjustable driving position, with the seats all proving to be comfortable and supportive. The three back seats split conveniently 40:20:40, with the middle seat folding away entirely, which allows the two remaining outer seats to slide back and in to create a more spacious layout in the back if you only have two rear passengers. However, with all three back seats in place, whoever draws the short straw to sit in that middle seat will find shoulder and legroom pretty tight. All the rear seats can easily folded and removed, but removal is overly fiddly and the seats themselves are pretty heavy, so it's not a process you’d want to go through very often. However, once taken out, the boot space expands from 471 litres to a large 1,723 litres – but not with a flat loading area, unfortunately. There are also optional extras such as an active park assist that can parallel park your car for you (yes, really – in an affordable car now), and a Family Pack that includes a powered boot and rear sunblinds. There's also loads of storage, including deep door bins, cupholders and a large glove compartment. Titanium-spec models also have a centre console storage box with a sliding armrest.
Reliability & safety
When you make the sheer volume of cars that Ford does, you can’t control quality as much as you’d like. That's not to say that Ford cars aren’t good quality – they produce some of the very best on the market, such as the Ford Fiesta or Ford Focus – but they don’t perform as well as you’d think in customer satisfaction surveys based on their constant presence on the UK roads. For instance, Ford itself only ranked 23rd in the 2013 Driver Power poll, which is actually an improvement of two spots on its 2012 position. The main consolation for Ford is that it finished above its main mass-producing rival in the UK, Vauxhall. The C-MAX, though, came 42nd in its debut in the top 100 cars rankings, which isn’t bad, but one of its main failings was reliability, followed by performance and build quality. So some of the cheaper plastics have come back to haunt Ford, even though we found build quality to generally good, with interior fit-and-finish that comes closer to match an Audi or BMW than anything Ford had previously produced - which is a massive improvement over the old model. Ford has also made some big jumps recently in improving reliability, and that, and its huge dealer network, means you can expect the C-MAX to be relatively trouble-free to own. In terms of safety, the C-MAX was awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety test, so you can’t doubt that it is indeed a very safe car, coming fitted with driver, passenger and curtain airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchor points, traction control, electronic stability control and a grip-boosting system as standard equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
From behind the wheel, the C-MAX is basically the same as the Ford Focus, only with a raised roof and slightly higher driving position. A firm-but-comfortable suspension set-up is neatly balanced with a sporty driving experience, while the diesel engines offer a pleasing balance of performance and economy. The latest 148bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol model is easily the standout in this regard, even though the diesels are still more efficient. The 1.6-litre moves through the gears very smoothly, making it very easy to drive around town as a result. Once you get up to the higher speeds on the motorway, however, it does become a bit more ragged. All models come with a system called torque vectoring fitted as standard, which sends power to individual wheels to give the best grip possible at any given moment. The steering is accurate and precise, too. The non-turbo 1.6-litre engines is paired with a five-speed manual gearboxes, but the rest of the range comes with a six-speed, and the 2.0-litre TDCI can be ordered with a surprisingly good automatic Powershift gearbox.
Price, value for money & options
The C-MAX comes loaded with lots of technology, equipment and accessories. The entry-level Zetec is fitted with air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels, voice control and a heated front windscreen as standard equipment, while the Titanium specification adds a fully integrated Sony stereo system, 17-inch alloys, automatic windscreen wipers and headlamps, tyre deflation detection system, dual-zone climate control, seat-back tables, auto-dimming main mirror, keyless start, cruise control with speed limiter, and hill-start assist. Titanium X adds 17-inch alloy wheels (which does make the ride a little less comfortable), panoramic sunroof, and HID bi-xenon headlights with automatic height levelling and jet wash function. The options list is also fairly extensive, with active park assist, parking sensors and blind spot monitoring all available if you have the extra money. A selection of options packs are also available to choose from as well, including a Driver Assistance Pack that adds active city stop, lane keep alert, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beam headlights