Ford C-MAX MPV
Price £18,645 - £26,595
- Fairly practical
- Cheap to run
- Good to drive
- Rear space is tight
- Intrusive wind noise
- Rivals are more versatile
At a glance
“The Ford C-MAX is a practical, handsome and good-to-drive small MPV. If you’re after a car of this type, it’s well worth considering.”
You could argue that the Ford C-MAX is another form of crossover. Not in the sense that it blurs the lines between family hatchback and rough, tough SUV, but in that it combines some of the qualities of a traditional small family hatchback with some of the practicality of an MPV.
While it's definitely more practical than the Ford Focus hatchback on which it's based, the C-MAX can’t seat seven, so it's not quite as versatile as the likes of the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, Vauxhall Zafira Tourer or Volkswagen Touran. Direct rivals for the five-seat C-MAX include the Citroen C4 Picasso, Volkswagen Golf SV and Renault Scenic.
The Ford does benefit from the higher roofline and slightly raised driving position that you find in more traditional MPVs, while you can also remove the rear seats individually to carry some truly huge loads. Obviously, you can also fold each one flat. In top-spec models, you can also slide the central rear seat back to give passengers in the outer two rear seats more space.
Under the bonnet, there's a choice of three petrol and three diesel engines. There are two 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrols, developing 99 and 123bhp. If you can stretch to it, we’d recommend the latter, as you get a significant amount of extra performance without any penalty in running costs (on paper, at least). Both return 55.4mpg fuel economy and emit 117g/km of CO2. This means you’ll be liable for a £30 road-tax bill every year.
We’d definitely avoid the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol, however, as it's nowhere near as quick as the 1.0-litre petrol, yet also significantly more expensive to run.
Most buyers, however, are likely to go for a diesel, as the size and weight of the C-MAX makes it more suited to a diesel's broader spread of power. These engines cost less to run as well. There are two 1.5-litres, producing 103 and 118bhp respectively, as well as a 148bhp 2.0-litre.
The mid-range 148bhp 1.5-litre is our pick of the range, as it offers the best combination of performance and fuel economy, returning 68.9mpg on average, while CO2 emissions of 105g/km mean it’ll only cost £20 a year in road tax. It should be a pretty cost-effective company car, too, thanks to those low CO2 emissions, which put it in the 21% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax band.
You may be surprised to learn that the C-MAX is actually pretty good fun to drive, too. It's based on the same mechanical bits and bobs as the Ford Focus (one of the best cars to drive in its class) and it's nearly as entertaining to drive. The steering is very accurate and, despite the extra height, it doesn’t lean too much in corners.
You might expect that in order to keep body lean in check like that, the suspension would need to be uncomfortably stiff, but that's not necessarily the case. The ride, while undeniably firm, isn’t uncomfortable at all, smoothing out most of the hard edges of the UK's roads.
Each of the three trim levels – Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X – is pretty well equipped, with all models getting air-conditioning, DAB radio and alloy wheels. We’d recommend stepping up to mid-range Titanium, however, as you get some useful extra features, including dual-zone climate control, extra cubbyholes, cruise control and automatic headlamps and wipers.
There are a couple of disappointing omissions from the equipment lists, however. None of the trim levels features satellite navigation or parking sensors – both of which are optional extras but really should be available as standard somewhere in the range.
Although in isolation the 1.0-litre petrol engines are excellent, they’re beginning to develop a slightly suspect reliability record, backed up by a poor showing for the C-MAX in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. It finished a disappointing 134th (out of 150 cars) while Ford itself came 27th (out of 32) with particular emphasis on a poor reliability record.
Safety shouldn’t be much of a concern, however, thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, while standard safety equipment is reasonably good. Obviously, the C-MAX gets all the mandatory safety kit: a host of airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring and ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
You also get electronic brake force distribution (which varies the amount of braking force going to each wheel to give optimal stopping power) and emergency braking assistance, which automatically applies the maximum amount of braking force the car is capable of if it detects you’re trying to perform an emergency stop.
The most efficient Ford C-MAX petrols are powered by Ford’s new EcoBoost engines, equipped with start-top technology and six-speed manual gearboxes
The Ford C-MAX EcoBoost petrol engines are state-of-the-art; ideal for owners who make short urban journeys and those with low to average annual mileage
With just three trim levels to choose from, even in basic Zetec trim the Ford C-MAX has a good range of standard equipment
Loading the Ford C-MAX boot is made easier by a high sill and uncluttered sides
Questions have been raised over the long-term durability of the small but powerful EcoBoost petrol engines