"The new Ford C-MAX is a practical, stylish, and well-built compact MPV with sporty handling."
As a bridge between the Ford Focus - on which it's based - and Ford's larger MPVs, the second-generation C-MAX is much improved over the previous model. Stylish and fun to drive despite it's practical dimensions, it's certainly appealing compared to rivals such as the Renault Scenic and Volkswagen Touran. Plus, all the rear seats fold flat and can even be removed. But while it may look the part and has a well-built interior, it isn’t as flexible to use as the Scenic or the seven-seat Touran, plus the options are fairly pricey. Ford added EcoBoost turbo petrol engines to the range at the last update, which offer strong acceleration combined with low running costs. Our pick of the five engines on offer is the 1.6-litre EcoBoost that can produce 148bhp. Factor in a sporty chassis and comfortable ride, and this is still one of the best compact MPVs you can buy. Available strictly as a five-seater, if you need to carry seven adults, you’ll need to opt for the Ford Grand C-MAX instead.
Effectively the same car as the Ford Focus, the C-MAX has a raised roof and marginally higher driving position. Comfortable suspension is neatly mixed with a sporty driving experience, and while the diesel engines are good, the latest 148bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol model is easily the star of the range. It's smooth from stop to mid-range speeds and is easy to drive around town as a result. At higher speeds it becomes a bit more ragged, however. The steering is accurate and all models come with torque vectoring as standard, which sends power to individual wheels to give the best grip possible at any given moment. The non-turbo 1.6-litre engines come with five-speed manual gearboxes, while the rest of the range is paired with a six-speed and the 2.0-litre TDCI can be ordered with a surprisingly good automatic Powershift gearbox, which emits 149g/km.
The C-MAX absorbs road bumps well but the ride is undeniably firm compared to the Renault Scenic or Vauxhall Zafira. There's very little wind and road noise, and sensible gear ratios mean it's quiet on the motorways, too. The interior is generally stylish and modern, made of high-quality materials with smart dials and switches. Some of the controls can get a bit complicated if you add too many optional extras but it's a pleasant place to be and certainly trumps the interiors of the VW Touran and Renault Scenic. You can also get the five-seater C-MAX in a 2+2 seat layout, which is well worth having if you carry adults in the back regularly. Basically, it means you can fold away the centre back seat, allowing the outer seats to slide back for extra legroom. The seat bases are firm but supportive.
Like the Focus, the C-MAX secured a maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, so there's no doubting it's a very safe car. It comes equipped with driver, passenger and curtain airbags, plus traction control, electronic stability control and the grip-boosting torque vectoring system as standard. The build quality is excellent across the board, and the interior fit-and-finish matches an Audi or BMW, which is a massive improvement over the old model. And Ford has made big jumps in terms of reliability, so you can expect the C-MAX to be relatively trouble-free to own.
Starting with a high and easily adjustable driving position that gives great visibility, the C-MAX also has three rear seats that split 40:20:40. The middle back seat folds away, allowing the outer seats to slide back and in slightly to create a roomier layout. However, when all three seats are in place, shoulder room is pretty tight for whoever gets the short straw to sit in the middle. The seats fold easily and can be removed, but they’re heavy and fiddly. However, taking the seats out boosts the boot space from 471 litres to 1,723, even if you don't get a flat loading area. You also get options like active park assist to automatically parallel park the car, and a Family Pack that adds a powered boot and rear sunblinds. There's plenty of storage, including deep door pockets, cupholders and a big glovebox. Titanium models also have a storage box with sliding armrest in the centre console. ISOFIX child seat anchor points are also standard.
Value for money
The C-MAX only comes in two versions, but both come loaded with lots of equipment. The entry-level Zetec is fitted with air-conditioning, leather steering wheel, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels, voice control and a heated front windscreen as standard, while the Titanium model 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 rearview mirror, keyless start, cruise control with speed limiter, and hill-start assist. The options list is long and stocked with lots of high-tech extras, including active park assist, parking sensors and blind spot monitoring. You can also choose from a selection of options packs as well, including a Driver Assistance Pack that adds active city stop, lane keeping alert, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beam.
Day-to-day costs for the C-MAX shouldn’t be too high. The base Zetec model is fitted with either a 1.6-litre petrol or diesel engine, while the Titanium comes with more powerful versions of both. The 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel returns 61.4mpg and emits 116g/km of CO2. Our favourite is the fast-and-efficient 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol model, which is a bit pricey at £19,745 but returns 42.8mpg while emitting 154g/km. However, the three-year/60,000-mile warranty falls far short of both Kia and Hyundai in terms of keeping long-term maintenance costs down.