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Ford S-MAX MPV (2006-2014) - Engines, drive & performance

The Ford S-MAX is great to drive for an MPV, and feels like a much smaller car from behind the wheel

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.2 out of 5

The Ford S-MAX has many talents on the road. Its comfortable ride and neat handling make it easy to negotiate urban streets with, despite its actual size. It also makes for a relaxing motorway cruiser, and when the opportunity arises, it’s good fun on twisty B-roads, too.

Ford S-MAX petrol engines

The 1.6-litre petrol engine only makes 113bhp, which isn’t much muscle for a car of this size, so it feels noticeably underpowered. Still, if you’re a city-dweller only doing short local trips, then it may be enough, and you’ll enjoy a clean conscience thanks to this model’s low emissions. The 2.0-litre petrols, which produce either 200bhp or 237bhp, are fast and surprisingly efficient, but both are expensive to buy and only available with automatic transmission.

Ford S-Max diesel engines

Our pick of the engines – the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel – has plenty of oomph for most people’s needs, including swift overtaking on the motorway. It performs adequately even when the car is fully loaded, but if you want extra punch there’s also a 161bhp version of the 2.0-litre and a brawny 2.2-litre with 197bhp. The 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel is the cheapest, but isn’t really up to the job of moving a car this big.

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The S-MAX is great to drive, and its sharp handling means you quickly forget you’re driving a seven-seat MPV, making it ideal for urban-dwelling families. Its steering is well weighted and responsive and the car’s excellent body control prevents it from leaning round corners, which helps to keep travel sickness at bay. The payoff for this is a slightly firm ride, but it’s never uncomfortable and still soaks up nasty bumps. This is especially true on Titanium Sport models fitted with the pricey but very effective £1,750 adaptive dampers, which avoid the overly firm ride you might expect from this model’s big alloy wheels and sports suspension.

The gearshift on cars with manual transmission has a smooth, positive action while the clutch pedal is light and progressive, making the S-MAX very easy to drive.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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