Ford Grand C-MAX 1.6 TDCi

The Ford Grand C-MAX is great to drive, but the running costs don’t quite stack up

The Ford might be great to drive, but that’s not enough to stop it coming last here. This 1.6-litre TDCi Zetec is far from the best model in the range, while the sliding doors don’t offset the silly small centre seat in the middle row. The kit list is a bit stingy, too.

None of the cars here is particularly pretty and, like the Carens, the Ford Grand C-MAX shares its styling with the hatchback on which it’s based – the Ford Focus. But in this instance that’s not such a great thing.

The nose is fussy, the flared wheelarches awkward and the distinctive rising waistline that tapers to the rear of the car does the profile no favours.

Something else that detracts from the looks are the long grooves cut into the body to accommodate the mechanism for the sliding doors. But those doors give the Ford an edge for versatility, as they can be opened in tight spots and improve access to the back seats.

Lighter colours are used inside, and larger windows also make the Grand C-MAX seem more spacious than either of its rivals here. It feels well built, plus it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, but the dash has too many buttons. This is especially the case on the Titanium version in our pictures, but even on our entry-level Zetec test car, the rotary air-con controls are small and fiddly.

Slide open the back doors, and you’re greeted by three seats, although the middle one is narrower than the two either side. Unlike its rivals, this middle seat is part of the right-hand seat assembly, and it can be folded away to make additional space in the centre of the middle row. Unfortunately, the levers used to slide and fold the seats are quite stiff, and the seatbacks snap forward with a jolt.

Access to the rearmost rows isn’t too bad, though, while the seats are the same size as the ones ahead and the big windows add to the sense of space. But like its rivals, only kids would be comfortable there for long periods.

At the rear, the large tailgate has a wide opening to access the 475-litre boot. If you want maximum space, you have to flip the seatbases up before folding the backrests flat, although once done, the Grand C-MAX has the biggest load area here, at 1,742 litres.

Under the bonnet, the 1.6 TDCi diesel isn’t the most refined engine, and the Grand C-MAX proved to be the slowest car on test, taking 12.9 seconds to accelerate from 0-60mph. The crisp manual gearbox has a positive shift, though, so while you have to work the engine hard to make progress, it’s not much of a hardship.

And that gearbox is part of a dynamic package that puts the Ford well ahead of its rivals for driving fun. Where the Carens and Verso are safe and uninspiring, the Grand C-MAX feels alive with feedback, and it doesn’t succumb to understeer as readily as its rivals. It doesn’t fidget over rough surfaces, either, and feels stable at motorway speeds.

The Grand C-MAX is not so good when you start to crunch the numbers. At £20,945, it’s £350 more than the Carens, but you have to spend another £750 on extras to bring it to the same spec. Tax bills are relatively similar, but economy of 37.2mpg was the worst on test, and while fixed-price servicing is offered, it’s £785 – that’s £456 more than the Kia scheme.

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