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Car group tests

Ford S-MAX vs BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer & Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

Ford is aiming high with its new S-MAX. Can it see off rivals from BMW and Citroen?

Sales of MPVs have taken a hit in recent years, as buyers turn their attention to upmarket SUVs and fashionable crossovers. However, makers haven’t given up on people carriers, and for many owners these cars provide unrivalled space and practicality.

Best family cars

Latest to join the fray is the all-new Ford S-MAX. It aims to build on the success of the trend-setting original, which brought new levels of driving fun, sophistication and upmarket desirability to the seven-seat MPV sector when it launched in 2006. 

The second generation is bigger and better equipped, yet Ford claims it’s lost none of its huge driver appeal.

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Best 7-seaters on the market

The S-MAX isn’t the only sharp-handling seven-seater, however, as BMW has just released its 2 Series Gran Tourer. Based on the already successful 2 Series Active Tourer, the GT is only the brand’s second front-wheel-drive model – although we test it here in xDrive four-wheel-drive guise. 

Composed handling, top-notch quality and a classy interior are guaranteed, but can the BMW add family friendly versatility to the mix?

Setting the standard for the new arrivals is the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. Fresh from being crowned Best MPV for the second year in a row at the Auto Express New Car Awards 2015, the adventurously styled Citroen leads the way for comfort, cutting-edge design, space and practicality. 

Which of these roomy contenders will carry off the winner’s trophy?

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Ford S-MAX review

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer review

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso review

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Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which MPV comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Rear access

The BMW’s back seats are best suited to children, as they’re tricky to access for adults. Of the other two, the S-MAX’s middle row slides and tips forward to create the biggest entry to the rearmost seats. But once you’re seated, it’s the Grand C4 Picasso (above) that has the most leg and headroom. Standard panoramic glass makes it feel spacious, too.

Styling

Grafting Ford’s corporate nose on to the front has given the S-MAX an upmarket look, and in the flesh, it looks more dynamic than its predecessor. But it’s not as stylish as the Grand C4 Picasso, as the Citroen’s neat details make it look distinctive. In comparison, the BMW appears awkward.

Specification

The Ford is more expensive to buy than the Citroen, but the two are evenly matched for kit. The S-MAX offers more options, but they’re pricey. The BMW is more expensive than both cars, yet its better economy means everyday running costs should be fair.

Verdict

1st place: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

It’s our reigning large MPV champion, and the Grand C4 Picasso has seen off another pair of worthy rivals. While it’s not the fastest or most efficient choice, it’s good enough, plus the comfortable ride and acres of space more than compensate. Add a host of user-friendly interior touches, a top-value price and those concept car looks, and the Citroen is still the best seven-seat MPV you can buy.

2nd place: Ford S-MAX

The latest S-MAX is a grown-up evolution of the original. It’s comfortable, refined and feels well built, and is reasonably well equipped, too. The lack of driving dynamism is less of an issue here as in the Mondeo, while the clever folding seats are just a little bit tighter than the Citroen’s. However, if you need more room and must buy a Ford, the Galaxy might now be a better choice.

3rd place: BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

The Gran Tourer fits the requirement for the BMW owner who wants a more practical family car, but the high price and tighter interior dimensions mean it’s hard to justify alongside these rivals. It’s impressively efficient considering the 4WD system, and it handles well, yet if you have to have a BMW that’s more versatile, we’d recommend the excellent 3 Series Touring every time.

Other options in this category…

SEAT Alhambra 2.0 TDI SE Ecomotive

Price: £28,675 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 148bhp

Recently revised Alhambra provides unrivalled space, useful sliding rear doors and car-like driving dynamics. Its boxy design isn’t glamorous, yet it’s robustly built, well equipped and represents decent value for money.

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4

Price: £30,695 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 148bhp

The stylish Discovery Sport trails rivals here for outright space, but thanks to a seven-seat layout and big boot, it’s still practical. While it’s pricey, the Land Rover does benefit from an upmarket image and peerless off-road ability.

Key specs:

 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 2.0 BlueHDi (15) Exclusive+Ford S-MAX 2.0 TDCi (180) Titanium XBMW 220d Gran Tourer xDrive Sport auto
On the road price/total as tested£27,110/£30,680£30,645/£36,145£32,540/£41,120
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£10,925/40.3%£12,871/42.0%£14,513/44.6%
Depreciation£16,185£17,774£18,027
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,028/£2,056£1,407/£2,814£1,494/£2,989
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,446/£2,410£1,449/£2,415£1,379/£2,299
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost25/£355/B/£2024/£360/D/£11019/£375/D/£110
Servicing costs£499 (3yrs/35k)£390 (2yrs)£425 (5yrs/50k)
    
Length/wheelbase4,597/2,840mm4,796/2,849mm4,556/2,780mm
Height/width1,644/1,826mm1,655/1,916mm1,608/1,800mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,997cc4cyl in-line/1,997cc4cyl in-line/1,995cc
Peak power/revs148/4,000 bhp/rpm178/3,500 bhp/rpm187/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs370/2,000 Nm/rpm400/2,000 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd8-spd auto/4WD
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel55 litres/repair kit70 litres/space saver61 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (7/5/2 seat modes)165/632-793/2,181 litres285/965/2,020 litresN/A/560/1,820 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,705/545/1,700kg1,838/697/2,000kg1,615/685/1,600kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.8 metres/N/A11.6 metres11.7 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 miles (1yr)/19618,000 miles (1yr)/781Variable/153
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos20th/23rd*25th/27th*14th/22nd*
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars86/88/68/5N/A84/85/60/5 (Active Tourer)
    
0-60/30-70mph9.8/9.2 secs9.2/8.5 secs7.6/7.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.0/6.9 secs3.9/6.1 secs3.2/4.0 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th7.9/10.9 secs/N/A/N/A7.6/10.2 secs/N/A/N/A5.0/6.2/8.0/10.9 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph130mph/1,900rpm131mph/1,750rpm135mph/1,750rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph48.5/35.8/9.4m45.6/31.9/8.9m50.6/37.2/9.0m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph65/44/55/65dB67/47/55/62dB70/46/59/65dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range45.5/10.0/550 miles45.4/10.0/699 miles47.7/10.5/640 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined64.2/76.3/70.6mpg50.4/61.4/56.5mpg51.4/62.8/57.6mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined14.1/16.8/14.5mpl11.1/13.5/12.4mpl11.3/13.8/12.7mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket166/105g/km/19%167/129g/km/23%159/128g/km/23%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/yesSeven/yes/yes/£400Six/yes/rear/£290
Auto box/stability/adaptive cruise ctrl£1,350/yes/£300£1,550/yes/£900Yes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/part/£2,000Yes/yes/yesYes/£1,150/£295
Met paint/LED lights/power tailgate£520/no/yes£545/£1,000/£400£550/£745/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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