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Car group tests

Ford C-MAX vs Rivals

We pit the five-seat version of Ford's new C-MAX against its biggest rivals, the established Renault Scenic, and Vauxhall's latest compact MPV, the quirky Meriva.

Ford C-MAX vs Rivals
Take one compact MPV into the showroom? No way! Ford has bucked tradition by replacing the outgoing C-MAX with not one, but two all-new models. The five-seater and the seven-seater Grand are designed to sew up the small people carrier market. We’ve put them to the test to find out if they’ve got what it takes...
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First up is the five-seater, tested here in 1.6-litre petrol guise. It faces the Renault Scenic and Vauxhall Meriva. Both feature turbocharged engines, so they should outmuscle the fresh-faced Ford on the road. The latest Meriva also comes with reverse-opening rear doors for easy access, to enhance its family-friendly credentials, and promises to be a formidable opponent.

Verdict

The new Ford C-MAX has all the hallmarks of a winner, but it just comes up short in its first Auto Express road test. It has met its match in the familiar shape of the brilliant Renault Scenic. 
The Ford has a classier cabin, and it’s more engaging to drive. However, its engine is comprehensively outgunned in this company, and the Scenic offers greater versatility. Even the Renault’s weaknesses – namely its naff instruments and less impressive interior quality – are hardly deal breakers. In fact, the centrally located dials give the Scenic a more inclusive, family friendly atmosphere.
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On the right road, the Ford is more engaging, but this doesn’t offset the lethargic performance of its normally aspirated engine. The new EcoBoost unit promises to deliver much stronger pace, but only comes in Titanium trim and costs £19,745.
For its part, the Vauxhall Meriva comes a close third. It feels like a quality product, and its FlexDoors provide undoubted appeal. But it’s just not big or practical enough to win a compact MPV test.
1. Renault Scenic
If you’re buying a compact MPV for space and versatility, this is the car for you. Its interior doesn’t have the high-quality feel of its rivals, but Renault’s years of MPV experience ensure the Scenic is full of useful touches. Plus, it drives well and its TCe engine is a gem.
2. Ford C-MAX
Smart, stylish and great to drive – there’s really not much to dislike about the new Ford. If its normally aspirated engine provided more fizz, the result could have been different. We can’t wait to try the turbo version, but it bodes well for the all-new Focus.
3. Vauxhall Meriva
It’s a fine small MPV, but carrying five people is a real squeeze in the Meriva and its interior simply isn’t as versatile as the Ford or Renault. You don’t get as much kit, either. If it had the space to rival the class leaders, it would be a contender.
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