IT’S seven up for the C-MAX. Finally, Ford has answered calls from customers for a seven-seater compact MPV – and Auto Express has driven it.
Prices for the Grand C-MAX start from £18,745 – some £2,000 more than the five-seater C-MAX – and for the extra outlay, buyers get a 140mm longer wheelbase, a body that’s 58mm taller, and a host of family friendly features such as sliding rear doors and neat options including a power-operated tailgate.
It comes with the same EcoBoost turbocharged petrol engines and new, uprated turbodiesels, as well as a new front-wheel drive chassis that will underpin the next generation Focus range. So, has Ford beaten Renault’s Scenic and Grand Scenic at their own game?
First things first, while the standard five-seater C-MAX is a very handsome machine, the Grand C-MAX isn’t quite as successful. It still looks smart at the front but the extra height of the roof, the runners for the sliding doors and the extra length of the wheelbase make the car look a little ungainly from some angles.
But families won’t worry too much about that – it’s space and flexibility that really count, so how does the Grand C-MAX measure up? Well, three tall adults will be happy sitting in the middle row of seats and, although knee-room isn’t overly generous, there’s lots of headroom.
The final two seats are best suited to children, while the flexibility of the seats is impressive. The middle bench slides backward and forward and all rows fold flat simply and easily, while Ford’s ‘walk-through’ seating mechanism allows the centre seat to fold underneath the right-hand passenger seat, allowing easy access to the final row.
Designers and engineers have clearly worked hard up front too, though. The dashboard is covered in a classy soft-touch material, the bold centre console is attractive and also easy to use, while the driving position has plenty of adjustment. Factor in handy features such as a reversing camera, Active Park Assist – Ford’s new automatic parking system – and a blind spot indicator and it feels very nearly as upmarket as an Audi or BMW product.
All C-MAX models are available with new 1.6-litre turbo EcoBoost petrol engines along with a new 1.6-litre TDCI diesel and a range-topping 2.0-litre TDCI unit. From launch, there’ll be a 136bhp version but from next year the 161bhp unit of our test car will arrive. It’s super smooth and although the Grand C-MAX weighs an extra 110kg over the five-seater car, it’s fast (0-62mph takes 8.6 seconds) and very efficient, returning 55.4mpg and emitting 134g/km of CO2.
Through corners, the Grand C-MAX strikes a fine balance between comfort and driver enjoyment. Its smaller sibling has more sporty suspension settings, but the Grand C-MAX is still lots of fun to drive, its electric power steering offering plenty of feel, while a new torque vectoring system combines well with the front-drive chassis – which gets wider tracks and stiffer suspension mounts – resulting in an agile yet stable experience.
The icing on the cake is a supple ride and great high-speed refinement. It all adds to an impressive machine, although with this flagship diesel likely to cost almost £23,000, buyers looking at the top ends of the Grand C-MAX range will be better off turning their attention to the lower rungs of the S-MAX ladder – another excellent seven-seater that’s even more spacious.
* Price: £22,750 (est.)
* Engine: 2.0-litre TDCI diesel, 161bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* Top speed: 130mph
* 0-62mph: 8.6seconds
* Econ: 55.4mpg
* CO2: 134g/km
* Equipment: Climate control, electric windows, electric tailgate, ‘walk-through’ seating, alloy wheels
On sale: October