You sit slightly lower than you do in many MPVs, but it’s a matter of personal preference whether or not you think that’s a good thing. Some drivers will prefer the more elevated driving position offered by some rivals, while others will appreciate the Ford’s more hatchback-like driving position.
Either way, there’s a wide range of adjustment to help you find a comfortable driving position, and you’re unlikely to suffer backache on long journeys because adjustable lumbar support is standard across the range. As a bonus, the seat is more heavily bolstered than in many MPVs, so it holds you securely in place through corners.
Our only criticism is that the dashboard layout could be a bit more user-friendly; adjusting the air-conditioning isn’t as straightforward as it might be.
Ford S-Max visibility
Forward visibility is excellent, thanks to slim windscreen pillars and a large glass area. Whether you’re pulling out from a junction or onto a roundabout, the blindspots are far smaller than they are in, say, a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer.
The view out the back is more restricted, but it’s no worse than it is in most rivals. The deep windows and gently rising windowline mean over-the-shoulder visibility is pretty good.
This is still a big car, though, so you’ll be grateful for the reassurance of standard front and rear parking sensors, while a front- and rear-view camera is optional on Titanium and Titanium Sport models. The standard heated windscreen is a boon on frosty mornings, too.
Ford S-Max infotainment
All models get a DAB digital radio, voice control, Bluetooth hands free and audio streaming, along with an 8.0in touchscreen, which is reasonably bright but shows up fingerprints, particularly when the sun is shining.
You also get Ford’s latest Sync 3 infotainment system. It’s a big improvement over the previous version, offering clear graphics, large icons and mostly intuitive menus. Improved it may be, but it still doesn’t look as slick as BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI. This might be acceptable on ‘normal’ S-Maxes, but looks a little out of place on the luxury Vignale versions. Sync 3 also adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing you to run your smartphone from the touchscreen.
The voice control is activated by pushing a button on the steering wheel, and is mostly effective, allowing you to select an artist from your USB-connected MP3 player, make calls, select destinations to navigate to or even change the climate control. Some functions are handy although others feel a bit gimmicky. You can control just about every audio function from the standard multifunction steering wheel, but the sheer number of buttons can cause confusion.
Two USB connections come as standard, so charging your family’s phones shouldn’t be a problem.
Ford S-Max build quality
The S-Max isn’t a cheap car, yet its interior doesn’t look or feel as quite as upmarket as you might expect. A Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is classier inside, for example, while the Seat Alhambra and VW Sharan also have more premium-feeling cabins.
The S-Max stops short of feeling too low-rent, but there are some poorly damped switches and a few too many hard and unappealing plastics on show. Even the matt-finish dash feels a little cheap next to the denser, more attractively textured materials you’ll find in some rivals.
The top-of-the-range Vignale version goes some way to addressing this with soft leather on the seats and covering the dashboard, but not enough to justify its ludicrously high price. Having said that, the general fit and finish are solid, and even the standard versions are slightly plusher inside than a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. It’s also worth noting that the S-Max’s interior is more conventionally styled than that of the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and Renault Grand Scenic; you could almost be sitting in a Ford Mondeo.