Ford C-MAX

Ford's stylish, practical and superb to drive – all-new compact MPV is hard to fault.

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

If ever there was proof that desirability and driveability can go hand in hand with practicality, the C-MAX is it. From the sculpted and sporty exterior to the well finished, ergonomic interior, the C-MAX shows rivals the way to go. The all-new 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine is impressive – delivering smooth, lag-free acceleration. For small families, the versatile cabin should offer more than enough space. If not, there’s the seven-seat Grand C-MAX – which we’ll be driving in next week’s issue.

It’s the Ford that distills the looks and driveability of a Focus into an even more family-friendly package – and Auto Express has driven it! This is the all-new C-MAX, the first in a series of vehicles based on the next Focus. Available as a five-seater, or a seven-seat Grand C-MAX version, has the blue oval covered all bases?

We drove the five-seater C-MAX, and while it lacks the seven-seater’s sliding rear doors and extra row of seats, it’s better looking. With its inverted trapezoidal grille, sharp headlights and tail-lights, and sleek, athletic shape, it’s proof that compact MPVs can be stylish.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Ford C-MAX

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The interior exceeds expectations, too. Its multi-layered dashboard uses a mobile phone-inspired centre console, and the upper surfaces are covered in soft-touch materials. Chrome accents are applied to the door handles, instrument dials and gearshift selector surroundings.

Opt for the higher of the two trim grades, Titanium, and you also get dual-zone air-conditioning, LED ambient lighting and a full-length panoramic roof. Driver aids such as Active Park Assist, which automatically steers the vehicle into parking spaces, and blind spot monitoring also make their debut.

Despite its sleek design, the C-MAX has the same boot space as its predecessor – 471 litres with the rear seats in place, or a cavernous 1,723 litres with them removed. The three rear seats split 40/20/40, and the centre one can be folded away. The outer seats slide backwards and inwards to create a more spacious 2+2 layout.

In corners, the C-MAX is a class act. Wider front and rear tracks boost stability, while new front suspension and anti-roll bars make the car supremely balanced – restricting body movement but maintaining a high degree of comfort.

A stiffer chassis for added agility, plus torque vectoring and a more communicative steering rack, make the C-MAX the new benchmark in its class from behind the wheel. It bodes well for the new Focus, on sale in January 2011.

As does the new 148bhp 1.6-litre direct-injection EcoBoost engine, which is smooth and free from turbo lag. Throttle response is razor sharp, thanks to 95 per cent of power being available from 1,500rpm until 5,500rpm. The 240Nm of torque is also boosted to 270Nm during full-throttle acceleration – perfect for overtaking manoeuvres. The new six-speed manual gearbox is fast, precise and geared to make the most of the rev-hungry engine. A twin-clutch PowerShift gearbox is an option only on the range-topping 138bhp 2.0-litre TDCi variant.

Prices start at £16,745 – £1,225 more than the cheapest Renault Scenic. But for that, you’re getting the best looking, finest handling and most desirable car in the compact MPV segment.

Rival: Renault Scenic The car that started the compact MPV trend is now in its third generation, and still going strong. Despite a bland exterior, the Renault has a spacious cabin and is excellent value for money.

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