Long-term report: The Ford S-Max gets back into its stride

Saying 2020 has been a strange year is somewhat of a major understatement. At the end of March, the government imposed a national lockdown to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus which meant many people found themselves stuck indoors with nowhere to go rendering their cars pretty redundant. That included our long-term S-Max Vignale.

As lockdown restrictions start to lift though, the S-Max is slowly getting back into its stride, helping the video team ferry crew and equipment to and from shoots as well as the odd run to the local tip to dispose of half a rainforest’s worth of cardboard boxes. Going crazy on Amazon is another by-product of the lockdown.

Ford S-Max
THE S-Max is one of the most popular MPVs on sale

Having sat on my driveway for the best part of three months it was quite reassuring that it kicked into life straight away. I know many other motorists have had flat battery issues, and once it had been given a little TLC with a jet wash and some dusting inside, it was ready to go.

For those who aren’t aware, the Vignale is the premium arm of the Ford brand, which means any car adorned with this badge doesn’t fall short on the options list. Up front the driver and passenger get figure-hugging seats that don’t just move electronically but are heated and cooled too – which has come in handy during our mini heatwave. Not only that, but they also have a massage function as well, which has really helped after a hard day lugging heavy filming equipment around.

S-Max Seats
The adjustable seats are hugely comfortable

One of the biggest selling points with the S-Max is its huge load bay. With all the seats flat it offers over 2,000 litres of space but even with all seven seats up it still has a usable 285 litres to play with. The transition from minibus to transit is an easy one too, there’s no messing around with lifting seat bases or sliding seats back and forth, it’s just a case of pulling a level and folding it down.

What’s still great about an MPV over the growing trend of seven-seat SUVs is not only do you get a larger load bay, but the opening is bigger and lower to the ground, meaning you don’t put your back out when loading heavier items. While I haven’t put anything particularly heavy in there yet, I have had to do a tip run with some rather large cardboard boxes that were really odd shapes and I didn’t have any issues getting them in.

S-Max boot
A huge boot makes the S-Max a very practical option

There’s no shortage of space for your nick-nacks too, there’s a storage bin between the two front seats that virtually echoes it’s so big, and there are extremely usable door pockets too, plus a storage area at the bottom of the centre console, oh and another at the top, and a couple of cup holders. If anything, there are too many storage bins, you might be in danger of forgetting where you’ve stashed your Haribo.

As you’d expect for a Vignale model, the cabin does feel high-quality and well put together, look carefully though and you will find some elements of cheaper plastics on show, like the door pockets or glove box which does tarnish the overall ‘premium’ feel. While most of the controls are pretty straightforward to use, some other elements are a little fiddly. The biggest offender is the steering wheel which has more buttons and controls on it than a formula one car. It’s designed to be a clever system that allows the driver to control everything from the infotainment system to in-car setup via two multi-function displays framed by a traditional speedo and tacho scales. The menus are accessed by two pads on the steering wheel and they are so distracting to use while on the move, it’s a nice idea just not particularly well-executed.

At the top of the centre console sits an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system which features Ford’s Sync2 multimedia system which allows the driver to perform a voice-activated search, and just like Siri or Google you can say phrases like ‘I need fuel’ and it will find a local petrol station. Overall the system can be a little slow on the uptake but it is considerably better than previous versions.

  • Model: Ford S-Max 2.0 EcoBlue Auto Vignale
  • Base price: £40,660
  • Price as tested: £42,560
  • Engine: 2.0-litre diesel engine
  • Power: 187bhp
  • Torque: 400Nm
  • 0-60mph: 10.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 128mph
  • Fuel economy: 47.9mpg
  • Emissions: 151g/km CO2
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