First drive: 2015 Ford Grand C-Max

Ford Grand C-Max

Like its smaller sibling - the compact C-Max - it has benefited from a mid-life refresh, meaning it remains one of the most capable seven-seaters on the road. The new C-Max models will join the recently launched S-Max in dealerships this summer.

What is it?

Combining low running costs with a roomy interior and improved handling, the new Grand C-Max has been cleverly packaged to offer buyers the ideal family car, which is crammed with the latest new tech. It even boasts better residual values. Both the five-seater and seven-seater models feature significant design tweaks, both inside and out, but the most significant enhancements are the reductions in CO2 output and running costs, thanks to two new diesel engines.

What's under the bonnet?

The C-Max family will be available with Ford's new 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel, as well as the 99bhp and 124bhp versions of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. The new diesel is expected to emit just 113g/km of CO2 - a six per cent reduction in comparison to the outgoing 1.6-litre - while the range-topping 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel improves emissions by a further 20 per cent. The two diesels are both mated to six-speed manual gearboxes and also benefit from at least an extra 4bhp, making them a little punchier off the mark. However, while the 2.0-litre is the sportier option, it will set you back by another £1,500 and it isn't available in entry-level Zetec trim.

What's the spec like?

The C-Max family comes available in the same three trim levels: Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X. Each model is well-equipped with all the latest gadgets and gizmos, ranging from driver entertainment to passenger safety. Both the standard and Grand variants introduce a number of technological upgrades, including Ford's SYNC 2 voice-activated connectivity system on Titanium models and the segment-first hands-free tailgate tool usually found on more expensive cars.

The larger Grand C-Max features Ford's easy-access sliding doors, which allow a "walk-through" to the rear third row of seats. To ensure there's enough room to hide your luggage, it comes with 20 handy storage compartments. With the two rows of rear seats in place, boot space in the Grand C-Max is reduced to 65 litres. But with all rear seats folded flat, that figure is extended to a whopping 1,715 litres. Each model now comes with 16-17inch alloy wheels, hill start assist and MyKey technology as standard. The centre console has been tidied and simplified to make it more user-friendly, while the black satin trim and chrome detailing give the interior a bold yet modern look.

The C-Max also benefits from a fresh exterior design, reflecting similarities with the Focus and Mondeo, with Ford's distinctive inverted trapezoidal grille and sweeping headlights. The new Titanium X series will also be fitted with adaptive xenon headlights, which automatically adjust between dipped and full beam. To help with everyday driving, the C-Max is also available with Active Park Assist and Active City Stop, as well as the latest additions such as Perpendicular Parking, which helps drivers to parallel park, and Cross Traffic Alert, which warns drivers of cars approaching from the side, when reversing out of a parking space for instance.

Ford Grand C-Max

Ford Grand C-Max

Any rivals?

The Grand C-Max faces competition from the likes of Citroen's Grand C4 Picasso and BMW's new 2 Series Grand Tourer, which is also expected in dealerships later this year. While the Grand C4 Picasso is much more striking in its appearance, the ride quality doesn't quite match the refinement of the Grand C-Max and BMW's Active Grand Tourer isn't likely to offer the same combination of practicality and passenger entertainment at such an attractive price.

What's it like to drive?

The Grand C-Max is certainly one of the more enjoyable seven-seaters to drive, and the 2.0-litre diesel's boost in power and torque is noticeable both on and off the motorway. The Grand C-Max is more than capable of safely overtaking and, thanks to improved grip, won't let you down in the corners. The compact five-seater is a little more agile in the bends than its big brother, but both cars are a sharper steer than you'd usually expect from a family-friendly people mover.

Although the C-Max now benefits from sportier characteristics, this hasn't compromised its comfort levels. The people carrier still offers a smooth and refined passenger experience, while both tyre noise and vibration have been reduced through the use of thicker side glass and more absorbent seals. There's no denying the Grand C-Max is a large car but manoeuvring around town is stress-free, thanks to its plethora of driver aids.

The AOL Cars verdict

There's no doubt the Grand C-Max is at the top of the MPV league table. Its unique combination of low running costs, improved driving dynamics and in-car tech - and starting price of just £26,495 - make it the ideal candidate for large families on the go. In fact, with a considerably lower price tag and more equipment, it'll be difficult to justify buying the larger, more expensive Galaxy over the Grand C-Max.

The knowledge:

Model: Ford Grand C-Max Titanium X
Price: From £26,495
Engine: 2.0-litre TDCi
Power: 149bhp
Max speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 9.8 seconds
MPG: 54mpg (urban) 67mpg (extra urban) 61mpg (combined)
Emissions: 114g/km CO2

Author: Sophie Williamson-Stothert