The S-MAX is arguably the best looking MPV on the market at the moment, giving nothing away in terms of practicality with exceptional space for families – a successful synergy of design with common sense…
By David Thacker
My test drive for the day is the S-MAX Titanium Sport 2.0 litre Duratorq TDCi. From the side the shape is deceptive. It has a diminutive quality and is far removed from most people’s idea of the usual family-hauling MPV. The vent above the front wheel with a line flowing to the rear quarter panel and the aero sculpting of the sills, to my mind, lifts it to a sports level. But it’s not until I’m in the driver’s seat that the attention to ergonomics really strikes home: The way the seat moves forward to your preferred driving position as if a waiter is gently settling you in, or moving back by itself to let you out – how did he know? While on the subject of seats, by selecting from a row of buttons in the boot space it would seem the ideal place to play musical chairs, as the second row of seats disappear one by one leaving a cavernous 2020 litres space for the little ones to run around till the music stops. The panorama glass roof increases the light airy feel – somehow it’s bigger on the inside than the outside.
So what’s it like on the road? Our model has the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system, which Ford claim ‘can determine how much grip, cornering balance and responsiveness is required in wet, dry or icy conditions and on varying terrain’. All I can say is there is a sure-footedness and surprisingly little body roll for an MPV. Performance from the 180 bhp and 400 Nm torque power unit, coupled with the six-speed paddle shift semi-auto box is a good combination. The list of features is extensive. Some designed to make the driving experience a delight and less stressful on long motorway journeys; the cruise control and intelligent speed assist is like having a co-pilot – once my speed is selected it will maintain distance from the vehicle in front even if it suddenly slows, and reminds me through the steering wheel if I’m lane drifting and ‘makes a ham sandwich after two hours’! A small yellow light in the corner of the driver’s mirror warning of a vehicle in the blind spot is a safety feature I really like and might prevent some motorway delays. The SYNC touchscreen system including DAB digital radio and Bluetooth sat nav, and automatic lights and wipers, is what you would expect of this class. The Active Park Assist takes a little getting used to as it feels like teaching a learner to park – I’m sure it will hit something and I want to interfere, but it does know what it’s doing and I feel silly shouting ‘mind that car on the left’!
This is a superb design for today’s family lifestyle, versatile, easy and fun to drive on the twisty B roads and relaxing on the motorways.
As John Ruskin said many years ago: “Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.”
Facts at a glance
ENGINE: 2.0 litre TDCi
TRANSMISSION: PowerShift Automatic
PERFORMANCE: 128mph, 0-62mph –10.5secs
ECONOMY: 48.7 mpg
EMISSIONS: 149 (g/km)