Ford C-Max

The Ford C-Max gets a well-deserved facelift and improved cabin quality

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

With its sharp new look, the C-MAX has finally got the face it always deserved, while inside, cabin quality has also taken similar leaps forward. Meanwhile, the diesel engine adds both refinement and impressive fuel economy, and the Zetec trim brings new equipment, such as an MP3 stereo. It's flexible, too, while the icing on the cake is that the Ford is still the best-handling compact MPV around. In fact, the only thing the C-MAX is now missing is a seven-seat option.

As SEAT's Leon FR proves, good looks count for a lot when it comes to desirability. But it's not only racy hot hatchbacks which can benefit from stand-out styling - MPVs can, too.

Showing off a new design direction inspired by the larger S-MAX people carrier, the facelifted Ford C-MAX is ready to give Citroen's C4 Picasso some serious competition. It's available in the UK now - so Auto Express took a test drive.

First impressions are good, and it's clear that the styling changes have been very successful. Resembling a scaled-down version of the S-MAX, it gets a sporty nose with deep air intakes, faired-in spotlights and bold headlamp units.

At the rear, classy LED tail-lights finish the look off, while a new range of alloy wheel designs is available. Overall, the C-MAX - which drops the Focus part of its name as part of the update - has a much more distinctive appearance than its predecessor. The interior wasn't an area which needed much improvement, but the combination of an S-MAX-style dash and some neat orange ambient lighting raises the design and quality standards even higher.

The addition of a compact Z-shaped handbrake frees up space on the centre console for a 1.5-litre bottle holder, while the addition of an MP3 player socket is a neat touch.

New options also include Bluetooth telephone connectivity, a full-length panoramic glass sunroof and a choice of Sony stereos with an in-dash six-disc CD changer.

Buyers can order a Sport pack, which sharpens up the Ford's handling. But the stan-dard car we tried still offered excellent agility, with minimal body roll and steering that has lots of feedback. The C-MAX is still the best-driving compact MPV in its class by miles.

Contributing to that is the refined and very punchy 134bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel of our test car which, hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox, returns an impressive 48.6mpg. There are a number of petrol options as well, including a 1.8-litre unit that runs on bioethanol.

Compared to the top-of-the-range £19,045 Titanium version we drove last week, this Zetec model's £17,745 price tag looks much more sensible, particularly as it's still equipped with air-conditioning and alloy wheels as standard.

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