Seven-seat heaven? Our Cars, Ford S-Max, CAR+ April 2016

Published: 13 March 2016

► Month One and welcome to our Ford S-Max
► We packed in a hefty £7k worth of extras
► Titanium spec offers a host of features 

I cannot tell you what an unalloyed joy it is to once again climb aboard a car which favours ergonomic excellence and true practicality over architectural whimsy and wanton quirk. But I’ll give it a shot.

Within next-generation couture now merely good rather than first-generation great-looking, the S-Max plays the seven-card trick with artful insouciance. The front seats are properly comfortable and the driving position would be perfect but for a fraction less wheel-reach adjustment than I’d like, and a centre console box lid that obstructs the elbow when changing gear.

Seat rows are stadium-tiered to maximise visibility for every occupant, middle-row seats tilt and slide to give fuss-free access to terrorist class, and all five rear seats may be independently flattened via a phalanx of one-touch, loadspace-wall-mounted buttons. Oh, and, an externally mounted, full-sized spare wheel merits applause.

Everyone’s happy: the missus no longer complains of ‘Cactarse’ after every journey, the hooligans relish fully opening windows and – a part of the £400 optional ‘Titanium Family Pack’ – tray tables they may flap up and down to our heart’s discontent, and even the evil-smelling dog has acres more room in which to gently reek astern.

As ever, we went to some lengths to minimise option spending on a car already costing a whisker short of 29 grand. And, as ever, we seem to have failed; this Titanium specification machine boasting some £7425 worth of additional kit.

Whilst I’m happy to swing for some of this (‘Metalicious’ paint, adaptive LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, Sony multimedia system upgrade, heated seats and helm, Family Pack…), I’m pretty sure that a veritable raft of stowaway safety technology has also made it up the gangplank. 

No matter, because the one system we never, ever wish to employ – the standard fit Lane Keeping Aid – may be switched off, and doesn’t irritatingly reboot every time the car is started in the manner of some specimens we’ve recently encountered.

With Ford’s new 207bhp, 2.0-litre biturbo diesel not yet available, the revised 178bhp, 2.0-litre turbodiesel remains the weapon of choice. And, but for a missus-identified reluctance to pull away from junctions in second gear, entirely satisfactory it is too. A sweet-actioned six-speed manual transmission is also notably easy to live with, though I shouldn’t mind a slightly longer gear lever to suggest my elbow clear of that annoying centre-console box lid.

The S-Max shares the Mondeo’s MacPherson strut front and ‘integral link’ rear suspension, and, on 17in alloys chosen to offer a respectable tyre wall height, it’s really very good indeed; firm enough to offer fine body control and plenty of grip, yet always pliant with a consistently sophisticated attitude to bump absorption. A new active steering option, which crams electric motor and gearing system within the wheel boss, didn’t make the cut either. The standard system is nicely weighted, accurate and a respectable foil to that superior suspension.  

Though it’s currently averaging nearly 20mpg less than my C4 Cactus (we hope that matter may improve as mileage rises), we’re entirely enamoured with the S-Max. Not only is it a pleasing space within which to travel, it also remains the most engaging drive in its disparate seven-seat segment.

How we specced our S-Max

Titanium X Pack: An expensive way to acquire adaptive LED headlights and leather upholstery

Titanium Family Pack: An inexpensive way to acquire easy fold rear seats, tray tables, sunblinds and power outlet

Self-Levelling Suspension: Not asked for, but essential, given the load carrying capacity of this executive omnibus

Panorama Roof: Adds much needed light to an interior suffering from a higher waistline than before

Front and Rear View Camera: Haven’t used the front, and rear filthy dirty since day one; needs auto wash function

Logbook: Ford S-Max 2.0 TDCI Titanium

Engine: 1997cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cylinder, 178bhp @ 3500rpm, 295lb ft @ 2000-2500rpm 
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Stats: 9.7sec 0-62mph, 131mph, 129g/km 
Price: £28,845 
As tested: £36,270 
Miles this month: 740 
Total miles: 878 
Our mpg: 35.5 
Official mpg: 56.5 
Fuel this month: £117.57 
Extra costs: £0

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche