Ford S-Max MPV full 9 point review
The S-Max is available with two petrol engines – a 1.5 that’s a little short on grunt and a 2.0 that has plenty. There’s a choice of four 2.0-litre diesels. The lowest-powered is willing but runs out of puff; the rest all provide plenty of go. Our pick is the 148bhp version, which provides decent pace for the money.
Ride & Handling
Ford calls the S-Max a ‘sports activity vehicle’ and it lives up to the first part of that name. Thanks to its sharp handling and sensitive steering it’s more fun than of its rivals. The firm suspension that gives it such control through corners means the ride can be unforgiving at times, especially with Titanium Sport models’ stiffer suspension, but it’s not uncomfortable. Four-wheel-drive models that provide extra reassurance on slippery roads are available.
All of the engines we’ve tested so far are smooth and quiet. The 2.0-litre diesel model that most buyers will choose is certainly more refined than the equivalent engines in most rivals. The six-speed manual gearbox shifts sweetly, as does the Powershift automatic gearbox for most of the time. Wind noise is muted at speed and although road noise picks up on the motorway there’s no more than you get with the S-Max’s rivals.
Buying & Owning
The S-Max’s prices make it look decent value when compared with rivals such as the Volkswagen Sharan, but it’s a little pricey compared with smaller competitors such as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. Discounts should be easy to come by, however, and residual values are expected to be strong. Running costs are no better than average and fuel economy figures for the 2.0-litre diesels fall short of the best. In our real-world True MPG tests the 138bhp version returned a reasonable 43.6mpg.
Quality & Reliability
The S-Max feels like it will stand up to family life well enough, but the cabin isn’t particularly classy. The design is bland and too many of the plastics look and feel low-rent. The S-Max’s predecessor scored only average marks in our most recent ownership satisfaction survey but the Ford brand performed well in our latest reliability survey, finishing sixth out of 37 manufacturers. Warranty cover is a bog-standard three years or 60,000 miles.
Safety & Security
The S-Max achieved a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating when tested in 2015. Every model comes with lots of safety kit, including front and side airbags and one for the driver’s knee. There are window airbags, too, but it’s disappointing that these only cover the first two rows of seats. Options include technology that warns you if there’s a vehicle in your blind spot or if you wander out of your lane on the motorway. All versions have a Thatcham category one alarm.
Behind The Wheel
Befitting its sporty image, the driving position in the S-Max is lower than in many rivals. There’s a wide range of adjustment, and seats that are unusually supportive and well-bolstered for an MPV. The view forwards is excellent and visibility to the rear is good for the class. Standard front and rear parking sensors and a heated windscreen are big plus points. Although the dash layout is simple, the standard touchscreen infotainment system is fiddly.
Space & Practicality
The S-Max is a full seven-seater with ample space in the front seats. The middle row accommodates three adults or, thanks to Isofix mounting points for every seat, three children, with ease. The rear pair of seats are mounted low and have limited legroom, so are best left to kids. The boot is small in seven-seat mode, but vast when the rear row is folded. Storage space throughout the cabin is excellent.
Even the cheapest S-Max comes with just about everything you’re likely to want. Entry-level Zetec trim includes dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, four electric windows, front and rear parking sensors and a touchscreen infotainment system. We’d stick with that, but can see why some might want to upgrade to Titanium trim, which adds cruise control, keyless start, automatic lights and wipers, and sat-nav. Titanium Sport trim is luxurious, but too pricey to recommend.