Ford S-MAX 2.0 TDCI 2015 review

We see if sporty Ford S-MAX 2.0 TDCI seven-seater impresses on UK roads

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

When the first Ford S-MAX arrived in the UK, it demonstrated why buying an MPV doesn’t necessarily mean a compromise when it comes to style or handling. This second-generation model picks up where the first car left off, being stylish inside and out, immensely practical and crucially remaining better to drive than all of its rivals. It comes packed with safety kit and boasts impressive gadgets. There are few safer, more practical or more stylish ways of transporting a family of seven.

In a sea of sensible slab-sided MPVs, the first Ford S-MAX stood out thanks to its chiseled good looks and genuine focus on driver involvement. Over 400,000 European sales since 2006 demonstrated its appeal, and now, nearly 10 years later, the all-new second-generation model has finally arrived in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, it sticks very closely to the recipe created by the popular original. The footprint is largely the same – so you can squeeze in just as many people and as much luggage.

• New Ford S-MAX 2015 first drive review

Ford has made a real effort to ensure the interior layout is as flexible as possible, with up to 32 seating and loading combinations. Like before, the third row of seats will be a little tight for taller adults, but the Easy-Entry system allowing the middle row of seats to slide and tilt forward in one smooth movement provides decent access.

As a class first, Ford has also included Easy-Fold seating for the second and third rows, which sees them fall effortlessly flush with the boot floor at the push of a button. Do that and you’ll have 2,020 litres of luggage space at your disposal.

However, even with five seats in place there’s still a generous 965 litres – although that’s fractionally down on the S-MAX’s main rivals. A flat floor, high roofline and three individual seats in the middle make seating three adults abreast a doddle.

As you’d expect, Ford has crammed the newcomer full of safety kit to keep all those on board as safe as possible. Along with new second-row side impact airbags, Ford has added a new intelligent speed limiter which automatically adjusts the car’s speed depending on the limit imposed. The dash now has a real hi-tech feel, too. Instead of a traditional instrument cluster, there’s now a slick 10-inch digital display, with a smaller eight-inch touchscreen in the centre console controlling the navigation, air-con and Bluetooth.

On the outside, the roofline has been slightly lowered, giving the S-MAX a rather slick profile for a high-sided MPV. The nose is sharper, dominated by the hexagonal grille, the flanks are more pronounced, and the subtly swooping roofline undoubtedly makes this car one of the most handsome MPVs around. On paper at least, it should also remain one of the best to drive.

Based on the same platform as the latest Ford Mondeo, the newcomer has benefited from a marginal shift towards overall comfort and refinement, but retains the traits that made the Mk1 such a hit.

The steering is direct and responsive for a seven-seater, instilling it with a far greater sense of agility than its size would lead you to believe. It has perhaps lost a degree of its sharpness over its predecessor, but in its place comes a greater level of comfort.

The S-MAX covers ground with real composure and maturity, ironing out bumps and absorbing all but the worst road imperfections. There’s no escaping the obvious body roll through corners, but the supple damping and tight body control contain excessive lurching – it’s a trick Ford has managed to pull off with all its refreshed MPVs, including the flagship Galaxy.

You’re not short on engine choices, either. Ford predicts diesels will account for a whopping 97 per cent of sales, with the options comprising 2.0-litre engines in different states of tune. The remaining three per cent will be shared between the 158bhp 1.5-litre and a 237bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrols – the latter sourced from the Focus ST.

We tested the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which comes as standard with a six-speed manual box. As with the 178bhp version, it’s also available with Ford’s smooth six-speed PowerShift auto, to which you can add all-wheel drive, too. Specced in mid-range Titanium trim, the S-MAX comes in at £27,695, with the more powerful 178bhp model adding a further £750 on to the price.

If we’re honest, the 148bhp model has all the power you’ll need – you’d stop short of calling it quick, but it’s the smoothness of the power delivery that impresses most. Close in on the top of the rev range and it sounds gruff, but what diesel engine doesn’t? Both versions also claim the same 56.5mpg and 129g/km of CO2.

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