You could say that the Ford S-MAX is the little brother of the huge Ford Galaxy MPV, but that would be like calling North America the smaller continent to Asia.
Indeed, refreshed for 2010 the S-MAX still boasts seven seats, and it will seat those seven people in comfort.
What’s more, there are better levels of equipment and streamlined kinetic design looks on the facelifted model too.
Currently, S-MAX prices start from around £21,000 and top-out at over £26,000, so you can have a Ford Kuga compact SUV for similar cash.
However, if you need more space than a crossover SUV can offer but want to retain a stylish drive, the Ford S-MAX is an obvious alternative.
The Ford FoldFlat seating system means you can turn the five rear seats into a huge storage space, or you can simply seat seven in comfort. The two rear seats are best for children but seven adults are possible, and access to the rear is good.
There are cubby holes and drinks holders all over the cabin, and on some models picnic trays, window blinds and DVD screens for rear passengers – clever features that add to the image of the S-MAX as an ultimate people mover.
Standard kit will include dual climate control, parking sensors, Bluetooth, four electric windows and numerous airbags, including window airbags over the front two rows. Cruise control and sports suspension are also available further up the range.
It looks so good that Ford says the S-MAX isn’t an MPV – pitching it as an extension of the Mondeo family so it’s meant to be fun and sporty to drive.
Yet for all its seven-seat cleverness the S-MAX looks smart too, especially for such a big car.
The Ford MPV will be in its element cruising on motorways, but it also feels able around town and won’t be difficult to park. It’s a car that feels much smaller than it actually is.
Things get even stranger when you get behind the wheel. Certainly the S-MAX’s interior looks smart, with dashes of aluminium breaking up the dashboard and Ford’s space-age handbrake, and it has an excellent driving position with good all-round visibility.
But the S-MAX drives incredibly too. Body roll around the corners is kept to a minimum, steering is crisp and ride comfort is smooth. The Ford MPV will be in its element cruising on motorways, but it also feels able around town and won’t be difficult to park. It’s a car that feels much smaller than it actually is.
Cars like the Ford S-MAX, along with the Peugeot 5008 and Seat Alhambra, are redefining the MPV sector. Long gone is the image of the MPV as an ugly, wallowing barge of yesteryear.
Think of the likes of the S-MAX as a tall estate car and you’re much closer to the truth.
Diesels will make the most sense for large cars like the S-MAX, returning strong fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures while returning flexible performance thanks to turbocharging that will allow for good performance throughout the rev range.
There are two options, a 2.0-litre Duratorq offering 140 or 160bhp and emissions as low as 152g/km (£155 VED per year) and fuel consumption of 49.6mpg or the larger 2.2-litre Duratorq delivering 200bhp and 174g/km of CO2 emissions (£250).
Business users racking up long miles will find sub-160g/km diesel engines tempting in terms of running costs, but may also be tempted by the 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine that will offer decent running costs with strong performance, and is especially good with the semi-automatic Powershift transmission.
While the Ford S-Max may not be the largest or cheapest car in the sector, it’s an extremely capable all-rounder that won’t sacrifice driveability for interior space; or performance for low running costs.
Click here to browse Ford S-Max models at Perrys Motors.