Ford S-MAX 2.0 Ecoboost Review

The Ford S-MAX has had a mid-life refresh, but it's what's under the skin that really matters. Find out why in our review.

"If you're into driving and procreating, look no further"

What is it?Four years ago, Ford created the coupe-MPV when it launched the S-MAX. And while that particular niche sounds naff, there’s no denying that selling almost 10,000 units last year is nothing to be sniffed at. Ford isn’t about to rest on its laurels either, so here’s the new, facelifted S-MAX, complete with fancy new engine and twin clutch gearbox, which goes on sale in the UK in April.

What’s it like on the outside?The Ford S-MAX was one of the first Fords to feature the kinetic design language that’s supposed to make the car look like it’s moving, even when it’s standing still. And to be honest, Ford hasn’t really seen fit to mess much with the S-MAX’s looks.

The front end is still reminiscent of a catfish, but now with a more furrowed bonnet, glossier grille and LED running lights in the bumper, while at the back, there’s a new tailgate with a miniscule spoiler which protrudes from under the rear window and new LED taillights. There’s a splash more chrome around the side windows too. The tweaks are minimal but serve to update the look. But only just enough.

What’s it like on the inside?70% of the S-MAXs are specced in range topping trim, so my test car came as a top spec Titanium. The seats are upholstered in a rather nice mix of Alcantara and leather, there’s a full-length panoramic sunroof with a handy electric sunblind, and the LED reading lights are really good. The fold flat seats remain as easy to use as ever – a simple one-finger pull of a little red toggle folds each seat flat.

If you’re into your tunes, or want to drown out your kids, spec the new premium stereo too. It has a bigger amp, an extra pair of tweeters in the dash and a subwoofer mounted in the floor, and sounds great.

What’s it like to drive?The driving experience has always set the S-MAX apart, meeting the needs of those with a penchant for both procreation and performance. And that remains, with the big Ford offering excellent grip and great, accurate steering combined with a supple ride at all speeds and road conditions.

The new S-MAX is the first UK Ford to get the fancy new 203hp 2.0-litre Ecoboost turbo petrol engine. Ecoboost will quickly become synonymous with Ford’s engines which are turbocharged, direct fuel injected and variable valve timed. Using these three technologies in combination, Ford aims to offer a cunning balance between diesel efficiency and high-revving petrol fun.

And it’s really rather impressive. The engine’s torque curve is more like that of a diesel, punching from really low revs and making acceleration seem effortless despite the S-MAX’s near-two-tonne weight when fully loaded. It revs well, and features a useful overboost function which gives you a bit of extra urge when overtaking. The engine is quiet, refined and relatively frugal too.

Helping the engine’s cause is Ford’s Getrag-developed six-speed twin clutch gearbox. It’s super smooth, swaps cogs faster than a conventional auto and weighs 30kg less than the slusher too. It’s a shame that as the S-MAX is so good to drive, you can’t get steering wheel mounted paddles – although that’s rather stretching its coupe-MPV brief.

VerdictThe facelifted S-MAX is very competent, especially in this top-spec Ecoboost form. The oily bits are especially noteworthy, delivering a drive that’s just sublime. If you like a drive but have humans to traffic, there’s nothing that can touch the S-MAX. I’m just a little concerned that Ford will make you pay a fair whack for it when prices are announced nearer launch.

Car Specs - Ford S-MAX Ecoboost

Engine:2.0-litre petrol, 203hp
0-62mph:8.5 seconds
Top speed:137mph
Economy/emissions:34.9mpg/189g/km CO2
Price/On sale £24,500 (est)/April

We rate:Excellent chassis......And engine and gearbox

We slate:What will it cost?It's still an MPV

Rating: Image removed.

By Tom Phillips

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