Ford S-MAX Review

Find out more about the Ford S-MAX in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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  • Pros
  • Best MPV to drive
  • Practical interior
  • Comfortable throughout
  • Cons
  • Costs can spiral quickly
  • Economy isn’t outstanding
  • Third row of seats not most spacious
  • MPG
    37 - 56
  • CO2
    132 - 172 g/km
Model Review

Brought into the Ford line-up at the middle of the 2000s, the S-MAX slotted in between the C-MAX compact MPV and the Galaxy large MPV and gave people looking for seven-seat cars a stylish option.

After being voted the European Car of the Year in 2007, it was clear that the first generation model was able to attract customers looking for a sporty model and something practical.

With a mid-generation re-design in 2010, Ford altered the front grille, front bumper design and the rear tailgate, as well as the addition of LED lights.

Ford unveiled the second variation of the model at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show alongside the next generation Galaxy and was in production by the end of that year. The model has a modern look, improved practicality and a new range of engines.

Latest Model

MPVs aren’t really supposed to look particularly dynamic but what Ford has done is make the S-MAX look sporty and rather interesting without taking away much of the practicality.

With seven seats like many of its rivals, the S-MAX shares its chassis with the Mondeo saloon and its bigger sibling the Galaxy, but unlike its larger counterpart the S-MAX has maintained a great driving feel that made it an attractive proposition in the MPV market in the first place.

Available to be fitted with a range of safety features, such as traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist and cruise control, the large MPV does have plenty of pleasing features that families are beginning to demand as standard from their cars.

With good trim from the base Zetec specification, including the SYNC 3 infotainment system and touchscreen and sports seats, this model is leaning towards the premium end of the MPV market and that could be let down by some refinement issues with the interior materials and finish.

 

Value for money

The S-MAX is striving to be a more premium option in the MPV sector, like the Volkswagen Sharan and the Seat Alhambra, and that means the price has been jacked up to be more competitive with those two. That does mean, however, that base spec models come with plenty of features that will attract plenty of interest.

For the Zetec trim, Ford fits front and rear parking sensors, daytime running lights, SYNC3 infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen and automatic climate control, as well as sports-style front seats and leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob. These features put it on par with its rivals but with a £26,445 starting price, it could be too steep for some as a new car.

So what choice is there on the used market? Well for just £55 more, you can find Titanium Sport models with low mileage and in the current body style, which means more features and a more powerful engine for roughly the same price.

As the highest trim level at the time of the S-MAX’s release, this model comes with cruise control, heated front seats, satellite navigation, rear privacy glass, lane keeping assist and sports suspension making it a tempting proposition.

Also coming with the model is a 2.0-litre 207bhp TDCi diesel and automatic gearbox, which some will find more liking to their style than others. With only 6,714 miles on the clock and costing £24,500, it is definitely worth looking for the pre-owned models on the current S-MAX as those on offer will be starting to come from the current generation.

 

Looks and image

Despite looking similar to the Galaxy, the S-MAX has a lower and sportier roof line and that helps to make it more attractive and dynamic-looking than any other MPV. With the seven seat layout fitted underneath a sleek and sharp body, it is an evolution on the first generation and is now more upmarket and fits into the new Ford style well. The spoiler and back-end of the S-MAX tops off the sporty design and makes it the most attractive MPV compared to the more boxey offerings.

The thing that Ford has managed to do with the S-MAX is make it both fun and comfortable to drive without compromising the ride and also keeping body roll – which many MPVs can suffer from – to minimum.

Carrying on the first generation’s characteristics, the Ford’s suspension has enough rigidity to make it fun to drive through the corners and reduce body roll but also enough give to make it comfortable over most surfaces, as it can soak up the bumps superbly well. The optional adaptive steering system helps to reduce inputs when cornering at lower speeds and also make motorway driving more stress-free.

The seating position is quite low considering the size of the car, but that does fits into the model’s remit of being sportier in looks and feel. With wheel and seat adjustments in all levels of trim, a comfortable driving position isn’t difficult to find and thanks to the firm yet pliable suspension, ride comfort is excellent considering the more dynamic driving feel when compared to other big cars.

Refinement has been improved also and especially in the newly-introduced Vignale specification, Ford has added more premium materials to the interior and further laminating to the side windows to reduce exterior noise.

Space and practicality

As an MPV, space isn’t much of an issue but with the sloping roof line it does have less space than the Galaxy. Still, 285 litres of boot space with all seven seats up is competitive in its sector and assuming that most of the time those rear seats won’t be in use, the 965 litres is very respectable indeed.

The S-MAX’s trump card is when the middle row of seats are folded down as the rear space extends to 2,020 litres, which is over 150 litres more than the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.

Safety-wise, the S-MAX got a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, with an 87 per cent score for adult safety and child safety, as well as good ratings for the rest of the criteria. Airbags are fitted throughout the S-MAX, but something that may worry families is that the middle seats don’t come with airbags.

Traffic sign recognition, lane keeping assist and pre-collision assist are available, with some features optional such as adaptive cruise control.

The seven seats are incredibly practical for families and with ISOFIX points on the middle row of seats for child seats it can be good for growing families. With the great boot space able to fit push chairs and other accessories, it could be a great option for people looking at crossovers and SUVs.

 

Engines

Ford offers one petrol unit with two power options and one diesel unit that comes in four states of tune, and there are clear leading options that will give the best of both performance and practicality.

You should discount the lower petrol entirely due to its high emissions and possibly ruinous running costs as with more weight comes much poorer efficiency, and the most powerful engine of them all – the 207bhp petrol – has emissions in region of 180g/km CO2, which is something even its much improved performance can’t cover up.

For the best pulling power and efficiency return, the 147bhp and 177bhp diesel engines are your best bets, as they maintain the efficiency that many look for and also return a reasonable MPG, especially with the six-speed manual gearbox. All-wheel drive is only available on those two units also, although that means having the automatic gearbox fitted.

 

Running costs

The best economy that the S-MAX range can achieve is 56mpg, which isn’t class leading by any means but is middle of the road for MPVs. Due to all the emissions being above 129g/km CO2, the tax bands for the S-MAX being range from £160 for the first year up to a dizzying £800 for the most powerful petrol models.

It is £140 per year for all from then on. Insurance groups are in between 19 and 27, with the top spec Titanium Sport having insurance groups 24, 26 and 27 covering the range.

Things to look out for

The main defect that the S-MAX has suffered is with the units fitted with adaptive LED headlights, as models sometimes suffered a failure due to a software error meaning the headlights could fail. That could be fixed with a software update. Also, a brake system issue with the 2.0-litre Duratourq diesel was also a problem for first generation models, which could be fixed with a new non-return valve for the brake vacuum pump. Otherwise the S-MAX has been a reliable model that can be easy to look after.

 

Rivals

With most rivals coming from the VW Group stall with the Volkswagen Touran and the Seat Alhambra, the S-MAX also has its own sibling, the Galaxy, to contend with as it is larger and more practical but is slightly more expensive. The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is roughly the same size but isn’t as practical on the inside. However, its lower starting price can be attractive for people.

 

Depreciation warning

With its practicality and reliable diesels on offer, the S-MAX does hold its value well, especially in the higher trim levels. High mileage models should be avoided as its likely that engines will have been put under a lot of strain and there will be a lot of cosmetic issues, such as dents, scuffs and scratches due to the target market. Keeping the model in good condition will mean a much higher sell-on price is more achievable.

Which S-MAX to Pick

Trims Explained

The S-MAX comes with three current trim levels – Zetec, Titanium and Titanium Sport – which for some may be a limited offering. All are available with a good level of equipment and they only improve throughout the range. However, the prices of options can make the S-MAX rather expensive.

Zetec

In the Zetec spec, the S-MAX comes with front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, sports front seats with lumbar support, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, electric windows, Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with DAB radio and eight-inch touchscreen.

This is a similar spec when compared to its rivals’ base options and the £26,445 starting price is competitively placed also.

Titanium

In the Titanium guise, the S-MAX comes with LED daytime running lights, rear privacy glass, satellite navigation in tandem with the SYNC 3 infotainment system, colour 10-inch display in the instrument binnacle, lane keeping assist and cruise control with intelligent speed assist.

These extra features help to make the Titanium trim the pick of the S-MAX range as even with the £28,345 starting price, the additional equipment is worth that additional cost.

Titanium Sport

The top spec Titanium Sport models comes with very few extras, such as a body styling kit, rear spoiler, sports suspension and heated front seats, and for the £32,145 price tag it isn’t worth it.

With the Vignale model also on offer, which includes more designer features and almost the same specification as the Titanium Sport, the further £3,200 on top of the cost is rather excessive and not worth the extra expense unless you really want the premium feel.

Summary

  1. Practical interior layout and functionality
  2. Best MPV to drive on sale
  3. Good features from a base spec
  4. Costs can spiral quickly with options
  5. Top spec models are too expensive
  6. Holds its value well
  7. Mid-range diesels the best options
  8. Comfortable even with dynamic edge
  9. High spec models available on used market
  10. Safe and largely reliable