What are they like to drive?
The Ford S-Max leads the way for performance. Its more powerful engine makes it feel punchier and, of these three, it’s the most at home on fast A-roads and motorways. Still, the S-Max’s engine is slightly flat at low revs, delivering much of its power in a short-lived rush, whereas its rivals are more progressive in the way they build speed.
Importantly, all of these MPVs get six-speed gearboxes and serve up adequate verve for relaxing general use, and snappy junction getaways. You’ll just notice that those more urgent moments feel a touch like hard work in the VW Touran, which is the slowest and demands you change down gears most often to maintain swift progress.
What the Touran doesn’t have in pace it makes up for in other areas. It stays the most upright through corners, and its steering is accurate and positively weighted, lending you a good sense of confidence in how much grip you’ve got. The S-Max is certainly no wallowy barge, though; it doesn’t lean too much through bends and there’s plenty of grip. The steering is tough to fault for accuracy, although it’s slightly too keen to self-centre, which can make it feel slightly unnatural when cornering.
Dynamically, the Citroën Grand C4 Picasso trails its rivals, with the most body lean and a tendency to wash wide earliest through corners; it’s stable and easygoing most of the time, but simply not as enjoyable as its rivals. Its light and somewhat vague steering doesn’t help here.
The Picasso also trails for ride comfort. Throw in any sort of cornering forces over a bumpy surface and it shudders and skitters across the road. Still, it’s soft and supple on motorways. The S-Max and Touran, meanwhile, are closely matched for comfort, with both staying fairly well settled over scruffy roads; the Ford’s more pliant, yet impeccably controlled ride just gives it the edge.
Refinement is a really important area, and the S-Max does the most impressive job of keeping engine, wind and road noise to a minimum; it’s one of the quietest MPVs around. The Touran’s engine is grittier-sounding, but it suppresses road and wind noise better than the Picasso, which was the noisiest by a small margin at both 30 and 70mph in our tests. The Picasso also has an unpleasant, rubbery gearshift and grabby brakes.
A vague clutch counts against the S-Max, but both the Ford and VW have light, precise gearshifts.
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