This is Ford’s second-generation C-Max, one of ten models Ford will spin off its new global C-platform – there’s a bigger Grand C-Max, three Focus models, plus hybrid and electric versions as well, and by 2012 it'll underpin 2m units annually.
It’s the new Grand C-Max that will take to name to North America too, and cater for the 60% of UK customers that Ford claims now want the option of six or seven seats, but it’s the smaller C-Max we’ve tried. Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new Ford C-Max 1.6 TDCI.
So is the new Ford C-Max any good to drive?
Of course. With each successive generation of Focus, Ford seems to be moving further away from fun and towards refinement, but this really is a car you’ll enjoy driving. Never has the CAR office fought so hard for the keys of an MPV, and never has each member handed the fob back the next day accompanied by words like ‘excellent’ and ‘great’.
The new, all-electric steering saves fuel and isn’t as good as before, but once you’ve adjusted to the over-light first quarter of lock you’ll find a sharp and incisive system, free of any fuzzy interferences. Drivers coming from other MPVs really will have to recalibrate.
It flows so well too. Whether it’s fast A-road, bumpy B-road, or just flinging it through a roundabout, the C-Max always works in sync. It’s supple and comfortable to absorb surface imperfections, but controlled so you’re not bouncing or floating up and down. It’s also a quiet and refined and easy cruiser.
The one thing this C-Max isn’t is quick. It's got just 81bhp/tonne, and it’ll be even slower once it’s loaded up with your kids and all their clobber. You could go for Ford’s trick new Ecoboost engines (petrol units combining direct injection and turbocharging) but the diesel engines will always offer many more miles per gallon: we'd recommend the 2.0 TDCi for an £1000 if you can stretch to it.
Ford’s Torque Vectoring Control system is also standard across the C-Max range, and uses the car’s braking system to imitate the effect of a proper torque vectoring diff. Charge through a tight corner and the front inside wheel is braked, sending more engine torque to the outside wheel. Whether your average driver will ever feel the benefits or whether it’s necessary on a slow diesel MPV is questionable, but it’ll be great on the Focus ST.
What about inside the new Ford C-Max?
Let’s split this part in two, and start up front where mum and dad will sit. The driving position is pretty perfect, high enough to offer a decent view out above traffic, but low enough that you never feel perched atoo high. A big windscreen means lots of light and visibility, though the fat D-pillar creates a big blind spot.
Like the regular Focus there’s huge range of plastics, the best of which are top-notch squidgy affairs, while the worst are merely average. There’s a riot of shapes too, and after the simplicity of something like a Touran the C-Max initially intimidates. There are just too many small buttons that don’t feel different enough, so you’re forced to look down to find them, then look up to the small display screen atop the dash, and then re-focus on the road. Best to use the wheel mounted controls when you can, or leave your other half to control the radio.
And if you’re not a driver?
The back half of the C-Max is fairly conventional. There are two versions of the Ford’s Scenic rival, the C-Max we’ve tested here, and the Grand C-Max. The latter features a 140mm longer wheelbase, a 58mm higher roofline, sliding doors and seven seats so it’s ideal if you’ve got a big family.
The regular C-Max is simpler: there are conventional doors and just five seats, with the back row split 40/20/40 and able to fold flat. Ford’s Comfort system is an option, allowing the centre seat to be folded away and the outer seats to slide back and in for more room. Clever, but not much cleverer than a Focus Estate. From past experience Ford knows the C-Max sells to elderly couples who like the raised seating position; the Grand C-Max is the one for mothers and fathers whose kids have yet to flee the nest.
There's is much to like here, but a Focus Estate will be just as capable and more fun to drive, and the Grand C-Max is a more flexible car for a big family. Buy a C-Max and you’ll get a great-to-drive MPV, but its problems come from within: Ford makes so many other great cars.
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