First Drive: Ford S-Max


The Ford S-Max enjoyed massive popularity in its first incarnation. It offered a versatile and spacious people carrier that had styling that would keep most hot-hatch fans happy. We've got the latest version here, which hopes to build on the success of the previous generation by increasing efficiency and interior space without sacrificing the stylish looks. Has it succeeded? AOL Cars finds out.

What is it?
A people carrier, but not as you'd expect. The Ford S-Max features sleek, coupe-like lines designed to disguise its size – something that will appeal to those who need to transport a family around with all of the luggage they need, but without losing a sporty look and drive.
The S-Max has always done well with its ability to offer an involving drive while also being able to fit seven people inside. With a new variety of interior equipment choices and engine sizes, this latest S-Max should be better than ever.

What's under the bonnet?

Our test car featured a 2.0-litre TDCI Bi-Turbo diesel engine, sent to the road via Ford's 'Powershift' six-speed automatic gearbox. That engine produces 207bhp and 450Nm of torque, enough to get the S-Max from 0-62mph in just 8.8 seconds, which is impressive given the size of body that the engine has to pull along. It does all this while achieving a combined economy figure of 51.4mpg.

This engine can also be specified with a manual gearbox, and also in four-wheel drive. Potential buyers can also choose a 2.0-litre petrol EcoBoost engine, which 240bhp. This is only available with a six-speed manual, however.

What's the spec like?

The car that we were supplied with came in Titanium Sport specification, which incorporated 18-inch alloy wheels, a full body styling kit and sports suspension. Inside, heated front seats, a DAB and navigation system and cruise control meant that the interior of the S-Max felt just as well kitted out as the exterior. There are ISOFIX child seat attachments on the second row of seats, too. However, those heated and electrically adjustable seats are part of the Titanium X pack – a £2,000 optional extra. The Titanium Sport specification puts the S-Max into a price bracket that is perilously close to the Land Rover Discovery Sport, though.

The standard equipment is impressive though, but certain aspects of the interior lack the quality of rivals. For instance, the plastic trim that surrounds the entire front fascia is of a very poor quality, and will no doubt have trouble with the rigours of family life.

The base level Zetec benefits from a similarly impressive level of kit, though lacks the buttons and gadgets that will keep both children and parents entertained. At £24,545, it's a much more affordable prospect, though.

Any rivals?

There's a vast variety of seven-seat cars to choose from, beginning with the excellent Citroen Grand C4 Picasso which offers excellent value for money. There's also the Kia Carens, Renault Grand Scenic and Kia Carens. At the higher price end of the spectrum are the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and Land Rover Discovery. Indeed, if there was an easy market to conquer, it certainly won't be found here.

First Drive: Ford S-Max
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First Drive: Ford S-Max

What's it like to drive?

In this Titanium Sport specification there's an impressive amount of body roll limitation, with the S-Max turning more keenly than its size would lead you to suspect. The gearbox is smooth, and though there are steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, nine times out of ten they'll never be used. You can switch the gearbox into sport, but it's just as happy in drive – and for most people that's where it will stay.

The steering does have a slightly rubbery feel to it off-centre, with an almost elastic feel when turning in. It doesn't feel unsafe, just strange. Luckily, even with the lowered suspension the ride is good and doesn't transmit too many bumps and potholes through to the cabin – and the standard suspension height variants will ride even better than this. The brake pedal has a decent amount of feel to it, and never feels overwhelmed by the S-Max's bulk. And, with a whole host of electronic safety features keeping everything in check, there's an added level of confidence in the already predictable drive. Visibility is top-notch too, with decent levels of forward visibility and blind spot areas only impaired by small pillars – making merging on to motorways a breeze.

A £150 option that we would choose is the excellent Active Park Assist, which uses the cars computer to scan the area around the car in search of a parking space. Once found, simply stop the car, put the gearbox into reverse, and lift off the brake. The car will creep back and park by itself. It can do this for both parallel and perpendicular spaces, and is especially helpful in a much larger car like the S-Max.

AOL Cars Verdict

The S-Max was popular in its first incarnation and its difficult to see how this latest version can do anything but follow suit. With intelligent packaging and high amounts of space for all passengers, it's the perfect car for those looking to transport more people at a better price.

What's more, with a range of engines to choose from, as well as a variety of gearboxes, there's a specification to suit most drivers. The car-like drive will mean that even the keenest driver won't feel themselves pining for a smaller car, as the S-Max provides enough fun in the bends. Being able to drive the large S-Max like a hatch has always been one of the car's mainstays, and that idea is still evident in this new model.

The Knowledge

Model (as tested): Ford S-Max Titanium Sport
Price: £35,705
Engine: 2.0 TDCI Bi-Turbo
Power: 207bhp
Torque: 450Nm
Max Speed: 135mph
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
Economy: 51.4mpg (combined)
Emissions: 144g/km
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