Review

Ford S-MAX MPV

Price  £23,110 - £32,885

Ford S-MAX MPV

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Practical yet stylish
  • Neat interior design
  • Good fun to drive
Cons
  • Rearmost seats tight
  • Limited boot space
  • High running costs

At a glance

"The Ford S-MAX is very practical and well equipped – but the key to its appeal is its sporty drive and youthful image."

When the Ford S-MAX was launched in 2006 it offered the practicality of an MPV combined with the fun-to-drive handling characteristics that Ford has become renowned for in recent years. Even its wedge-like shape adds a certain level of sportiness that is absent from most of the competition, which includes cars such as the Peugeot 5008 and Citroen C4 Picasso.

The S-MAX may not be as big as its sibling, the Ford Galaxy, but it manages to be almost as spacious inside. As you would expect of an MPV, the Ford S-MAX has a flexible seven-seat arrangement that can be tailored to your needs, while maximum load capacity is a colossal 2,000 litres.

Ford offers the S-MAX with a range of diesel engines that give decent economy and performance, while the top-of-the-range petrols are quick, but also more costly to run.

There are just three levels of trim to choose from on the S-MAX – Zetec, Titanium, and Titanium X Sport – but even the most basic Zetec model has a decent amount of standard equipment.

MPG, running costs & CO2

3.1 / 5

Diesels are cheapest to run, and used values are good

The basic S-MAX diesel can return economy of 54.3mpg and emissions of 139g/km, which means road tax will be £130 every year. However, the mid-range 2.0-litre TDCi diesel offers a happy medium, being much quicker, and thus better for overtaking, while costing the same to tax and offering near-identical economy figures.

If you don’t want big bills we would warn you to steer clear of the 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol – at best it will manage economy of 34mpg, while its CO2 emissions convert into road tax of £265 annually. What's more, if you regularly travel with a full car, you'll quickly find the fuel economy worsen.

The company is currently offering free roadside assistance if you get your Ford serviced using the firm's Ford Motorcraft 4+ scheme. You never know when it might come in useful!

Interior & comfort

3.5 / 5

Interior is smart, practical and functional and the ride is decent

Ford has become adept at building cars that can iron out bumpy roads, while also being fun to drive, and the S-MAX continues that trend. The controls are also logically placed and the gear leaver's location on the dashboard not only frees up extra space, but also falls easily to hand when you are driving.

Space in the first and second rows of seats is also generous, but the third row is really only suitable for children. It does, however, fold easily into the boot.

Practicality & boot space

4.2 / 5

Surprisingly practical given its sleek looks

The first and second row of seats in the S-MAX offer plenty of space for adults, while the second row can also slide forwards, backwards and recline. As we said, the low-slung rearmost seats won’t be much use to full-sized adults, but are fine for kids.

Cubbyholes are plentiful and the S-MAX gets large doorbins, a decent-sized glovebox, a hidden storage area for your mobile phone, cupholders and another storage area located under the armrest between the two front seats.

With all seats in place, the boot offers 285 litres of capacity, which grows to a much more useable space with the rearmost seats folded away. Fold all the seats down, though, and you’re left with a massive 2,000-litre capacity.

Reliability & safety

3.5 / 5

Quality is good and safety is first class, but Ford's reliability remains an issue

In our 2013 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, the Ford S-MAX dropped a colossal 56 places to finish 80th out of 150 cars. In 2014, it dropped again to 116th, but that might be because it's starting to feel a bit dated alongside more modern competition such as the Citroen C4 Picasso. Sadly, reliability was a particular bugbear for our readers. Ford, meanwhile, could only manage to come 25rd out of 33 firms in our 2014 manufacturers’ rankings.

The S-MAX does score well for safety, though, obtaining the full five stars for from Euro NCAP. It gets seven airbags, as well as stability control as standard. ISOFIX mounts, which provide a secure place to sit a child's car seat, are also fitted in the back of the S-MAX. However, the S-MAX hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP since 2006 so is unlikely to be as safe as more up-to-date rivals.

Engines, drive & performance

4.2 / 5

The S-MAX is fun to drive for an MPV, feeling like a much smaller car on the road

Out on the road, the Ford S-MAX has the ability to shrink around its driver to feel like a much smaller car than it is, and it is more enjoyable to drive as a result. The Ford also resists body lean well, giving you more confidence in the corners, although the suspension does transmit the odd bump through into the cabin.

The basic diesel engine can feel a little underpowered, so we would recommend going for the 138bhp version, which feels much quicker and can get from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds. If you decide to go for a petrol version, the 1.6-litre EcoBoost probably makes more sense, because it is still pretty quick, but doesn’t have the huge running costs of the 2.0-litre petrol.

Price, value for money & options

3.9 / 5

Expensive to buy but equipment is good across the range

Go for the basic Ford S-MAX Zetec and you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the standard-fit equipment on offer, which includes climate control, electric windows, parking sensors, and a Bluetooth phone connection. Next in line is the Ford S-MAX Titanium model, which gets larger alloy wheels, a DAB digital radio, overhead storage, and cruise control. Top-spec Ford S-MAX Titanium X Sport models, meanwhile, have leather seats, bright xenon headlights, and a panoramic sunroof.

The Ford S-MAX has strong residuals, but its three-year/60,000 mile warranty cannot compete with the 100,000-mile cover that comes with cars such as the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. It can, however, be extended at extra cost – something we recommend doing if you can afford to.

What the others say

4.2 / 5
based on 4 reviews
  • 15.0 / 20
    "Ford says the S-Max is an MPV for those that enjoy driving. The steering gives lots of feedback, there's plenty of grip and a lack of bodyroll all make it surprisingly sharp on twisty roads. However, when the mother-in-law is in the rear, the suspension is supple enough to provide good comfort, easily soaking up road imperfections."
  • 4.0 / 5
    "What’s the new engine like to drive? Extremely good. The 200bhp unit manages to deliver decent power, increased efficiency and lower emissions compared to the larger 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo it effectively replaces. Acceleration is responsive, turbo lag is virtually negligible and delivery is smooth all the way through the revs."
  • 5.0 / 5
    "European Car of the Year 2007 and the first genuine 7 seater sportscar. Excellent combination of comfort and handling."
  • 4.0 / 5
    "The Ford S-MAX is a people carrier with a sporty edge. It's designed to stand out from the crowd with sharp styling, tight handling and powerful engines. It certainly doesn't feel like an MPV from behind the wheel with agile handling and accurate steering."

Last updated 
29 Apr 2014

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