Used Ford S-MAX review

A full used buyer's guide on the Ford S-MAX covering the S-MAX Mk1 (2006-2015)

Ford created a new genre when it introduced the S-MAX: the sporting people carrier. Importantly, the focus remained on comfort and practicality, with luxury on the posher editions. We’re such fans of the S-MAX that we voted it Britain’s Best MPV at our New Car Awards three years in a row, because of “its eye-catching interior, razor-sharp chassis and adaptable seven-seat cabin”. The S-MAX also makes a great choice for towing. The key is buying the right engine, gearbox and trim for your needs. Get it wrong and you’ll regret your purchase; choose well and you’ll love the S-MAX.

Ford has long been the champion when it comes to offering cars for the masses, but the idea of a people carrier with a sporty edge was an alien concept until the arrival of the brand’s S-MAX.

MPVs were upright, boxy and mediocre to drive before this seven-seater was launched in 2006. The S-MAX meant transporting the family could now be genuinely fun, because it successfully blended a sporty driving experience with the functionality buyers expected of a people carrier; and a dash of style was thrown in for good measure.

The S-MAX picked up 2007’s European Car of the Year title, and was one of the most deserving winners in a long time. 

Models covered

  • • Ford S-MAX Mk1 (2006-2015) - Pick the right model for you and sporty seven-seater will be a star.  

Ford S-MAX Mk1

History

When it reached UK showrooms in June 2006, the S-MAX was offered in 2.0 and 2.5T petrol forms, alongside 1.8 and 2.0 TDCi diesels. ESP became standard from May 2007, then, three months later, a 2.3-litre petrol engine joined the range. A 175bhp 2.2 TDCi made its debut in March 2008 in high-spec Titanium form only, alongside a 1.8-litre flex-fuel Econetic version that could run on E85 petrol; it was badged FFV (FlexiFuel Vehicle), but wasn’t a big seller.

In April 2010, a facelifted S-MAX arrived with a redesigned nose, new safety technology (including blind spot warning), an upgraded interior and Euro 5-compliant 2.0-litre turbocharged SCTi petrol and TDCi diesel engines, plus a new dual-clutch transmission, badged PowerShift. A second-generation S-MAX was introduced in 2015. 

Ford S-MAX reviews  

Ford S-MAX in-depth reviewFord S-MAX 2.0 TDCi reviewFord S-MAX 2.0 SCTi Titanium X reviewFord S-MAX 2.0 EcoBoost reviewFord S-MAX 2.5 reviewFord S-MAX long-term test review

Which one should I buy?

The S-MAX Mk1 evolved throughout its nine-year production span, but there was only one facelift. Early examples could suffer from electrical glitches, so later cars tend to be more dependable.

The very thirsty 2.5T offers strong performance, but the 2.0 SCTi is much more frugal. It’s the diesels that offer punch with economy, though; the 2.0 and 2.2-litre units are the real gems.

All S-MAXes come with a heated windscreen and air-conditioning, plus powered front windows and heated, electrically adjustable mirrors.

Zetec models have alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, powered rear windows and sports front seats, while Titanium adds automatic lights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control, parking sensors all round, plus privacy glass. 

Alternatives to the Ford S-MAX Mk1

There are some cracking compact MPVs available, but none is as good to drive as the S-MAX. Some offer even better value, such as the Renault Grand Scenic and Citroen C4 Grand Picasso, both of which come in five or seven-seat forms.

If value is a key requirement, take a closer look at the Vauxhall Zafira in either regular or Tourer forms; the latter is a newer design and noticeably more plush. The Toyota Verso (2009-2013) is reliable and versatile, but generally more costly than the S-MAX. The Mazda 5 is a good buy in Mk2 form (from 2010), but the original wasn’t as reliable as you’d expect a Mazda to be. 

What to look for:

Tyres

The S-MAX is heavy and its power goes to the front wheels, so front tyres don’t last long. Check their condition.

Engines

The 1.8 and 2.2 TDCi engines can be hesitant and suffer from poor economy if the ECU software needs updating.

Electrics

Owners have reported electics playing up. Check climate control, rear window demister, lighting and stereo.

Flooding

Blockages in the ventilation drains can flood footwells, potentially causing expensive damage to the wiring loom.

Interior

Stylishly designed, and generally well laid out, the cabin offers loads of space for five people. But while the third row is useful, it’s only really suitable for kids – or adults on short journeys. The seating versatility is great, though, and there are 26 cubbyholes, while you can stow a massive 2,000 litres with all of the seats folded flat. 

Running costs

Service intervals are fixed at 12,500 miles or every 12 months. Costs vary based on mileage, but budget £189 to £259 for petrol cars and £199 to £309 for diesels. Auto gearboxes need their fluid changing every third service, pushing prices up to £563.

Cars over four years old get discounts, making a minor service £125 and a major one £195. All diesels, apart from the 1.6 TDCi, have a cambelt, which needs replacing every 125,000 miles or 10 years, for £399. Air-con gas is replaced every three years (£49), brake fluid every two (£39) and coolant once a decade (£50). 

Recalls

There have been seven recalls for the S-MAX. The first, in July 2006, was for fuel leaks and the engine cutting out. Heated windscreens shorting out caused the next recall, while the third was for brake issues.

A glass roof panel potentially detaching led to the next campaign; an action in December 2010 was for the same fault. The sixth recall was for brake problems, and the most recent related to potential fuel leaks.

Driver Power owner satisfaction

The S-MAX last ranked in our Driver Power satisfaction survey in 2015, when it came 132nd. It last achieved a top 100 place in 2013, finishing 80th. Practicality was the high spot, ahead of ride comfort. Also admired was handling, but the big Ford showed its age; build quality, running costs and reliability were all criticised.

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