Ford C-MAX review
The Ford C-MAX is a five-seat MPV that’s great to drive, has a practical interior and decent quality
The Ford C-MAX is a five-seat MPV that’s almost as good to drive as the Focus on which it’s based. It’s a stylish alternative to the Renault Scenic and VW Touran, and bridges the gap between the smaller B-MAX and larger S-MAX in Ford’s MPV line-up. It offers stylish looks and a flexible interior that’s well built. Every model in the range comes with plenty of equipment, although it is worth noting that ticking a few items on the options list can cause its price to soar. It also benefit from a wide range of punchy and economical engines that includes the manufacturer’s award-winning 1.0 EcoBoost engine. A plug-in hybrid model called the C-MAX Energi will join the UK line-up sometime in 2013, having gone of sale in the US at the end of 2012. It’s expected to be close in price to the £27,000 Toyota Prius Plug-in and is powered by a combination of a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, with a maximum output of 192bhp and a total range of 550 miles. A larger Grand C-MAX is also available, and comes with seven seats and sliding doors to rival cars like the Renault Grand Scenic.
Our choice: C-MAX 1.6 TDCI Zetec
Taking its inspiration from the stunning iosis MAX concept unveiled at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, the C-MAX is one of the best-looking MPVs on sale today. Although it uses the same kinetic design language - which makes it look like it’s moving, even at standstill – as the Focus, the C-MAX manages to look much more handsome, despite its taller roof. It won’t turn heads on the high street, but with its swooping coupe-like roofline, swept back headlights and sculpted body panels, the C-MAX is stylish enough not to scream MPV from every angle. The interior will be familiar to Focus owners, too, with the same piano-black centre console, smart dials and high quality materials. It is a bit cluttered and overly complicated, but it’s still much more stylish than the interior of VW Touran or Renault Scenic. There are three specs to choose from – Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X. Entry-level cars come with 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated door mirrors, air-con and a DAB radio. Titanium cars get 17-inch alloys, automatic lights and wipers, climate control, a start button and cruise control, while range-topping Titanium X cars add luxuries like bi-xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, part-leather seats, heated front seats and a new design of 17-inch alloy wheels. Options include a Convenience Pack that includes the manufacturer’s excellent Park Assist system and parking sensors, as well as a Driver Assistance Pack that adds hi-tech safety kit such as Active City Stop, Lane Keeping Alert and blind-spot monitoring.
If you’re looking for a family car that handles as well as most sporty models from other manufacturers, then the Ford C-MAX could be the car for you. The accurate steering is light enough around town and yet it’s sharp and precise at higher speeds, whether you’re cruising at motorway speeds or tackling winging country roads. The grippy front-wheel-drive system and intelligent torque vectoring system – which sends power to the wheel that can most deal with it – provide tonnes of confidence, too. The only downside is the firm ride – it’s firmer than a Scenic but it’s not unreasonably harsh. As for engines, the C-MAX is available with a 148bhp 1.6 EcoBoost petrol that’s smooth and has lots of shove, while its 1.0 EcoBoost engine joined the line-up in 2012, in 99bhp and 123bhp guises. However, our pick of the range is still the 1.6-litre diesel, as it can do 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds and yet offers the best efficiency in the line-up and the lowest purchase price, too. The six-speed manual gearbox is fast and precise, while a twin-clutch PowerShift gearbox is an option on the range-topping 138bhp 2.0-litre TDCi model.
The Ford C-MAX received a full five-star Euro NCAP crash rating when it was tested back in 2010. It scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection and 71 per cent in the safety assist category, thanks to the inclusion of safety systems like traction control, electronic stability protection, brake assist and torque vectoring as standard across the range. Every C-MAX also gets driver, front passenger, side and curtain airbags, as well as Isofix child seat fixings. The latest C-MAX hasn’t yet made an appearance in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the first-generation finished 88th in the 2012 results, with an overall score of 81.18 per cent. Ford finished a disappointing 25th out of 30 in the manufacturer chart but it’s newer models did fare better, with the current Focus in 19th and the S-MAX in 24th. Factor in excellent quality throughout, and we expect the C-MAX to be easy to own and unlikely to require much more than routine maintenance.
Despite its relatively compact dimensions, the C-MAX is a very practical car. It has 471 litres of boot space – slightly more than the Scenic’s 437 litres - which increases to a maximum load are of 1,732 litres with the rear seats folded. The C-MAX can also be ordered with a clever rear bench that splits 40/20/40, which allows you to fold the centre seat and slide the outer seats backwards and inwards to create a more spacious 2+2 layout. The downsides are that in three-seat mode, shoulder room is tight in the middle, and although the seats tumble easily, they’re very heavy when you need to remove them. It’s also worth noting that no C-MAX comes with a spare wheel as standard, though. Opting for a spacesaver wheel will set you back an extra £95 (and means you do without the tyre repair kit), while a towbar will cost an extra £675. Other notable options are the manufacturer’s Active Park Assist, which automatically parallel parks the car, and a Family Pack, which comes with a powered tailgate and rear sunblinds. The elevated driving position means visibility is excellent, while reach and rake steering makes getting comfy behind the wheel a doddle.
With its range of efficient engines, running a C-MAX should prove fairly painless. A plug-in hybrid C-MAX Energi is expected to join the line-up in the summer of 2013, and will be able to travel for up to 20 miles on electric power alone. The Energi is powered by a combination of a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, with a maximum output of 192bhp and a total range of 550 miles. Until then, the most efficient C-MAX in the range is the 1.6 TDCi diesel as it has an official fuel consumption figure of 61.0mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km, making it free to tax for the first year of ownership. It also falls into insurance group 16, which means premiums should be fairly average for the class. The tiny 1.0 EcoBoost model returns 55.4mpg and emits 117g/km of CO2, no matter which power output you go for, while the 1.6 EcoBoost manages average mpg of 43.0 and 149g/km of CO2. Standard equipment levels are good, so it’s worth steering clear of the options list. It’s long and packed full of desirable kit, but opting for some of it will quickly push the price of your C-MAX sky high. Every C-MAX comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.