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Ford C-MAX MPV (2011 – ) expert review

By Martyn Collins, 10th January 2011

The verdict

The latest Ford C-MAX is Ford’s answer to families that have outgrown the Focus. It’s roomy and practical; has plenty of clever technology, along with curvy, stylish exterior styling.

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Expert rating:

3.8

Pros

  • Attractive styling
  • Roomy, airy cabin
  • Great to drive

Cons

  • Poor rear visibility
  • Ride not as refined as rivals
  • Over-complicated switchgear

Full Review

1. Looks

The latest Ford C-MAX looks much more like a sporty estate than a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) and has to be one of the most stylish MPVs on sale. It shares its design language with the latest Ford Focus and looks like a scaled-down version of its bigger brother the Ford S-MAX, key design features include the coupe-like roofline with a strong rising C-pillar, similar to the Fiesta and Kuga.

Our rating: 4

2. Looks inside

The C-MAX’s stylish dashboard design follows the Fiesta and has an edgier, more expressive look than before. The controls for the navigation system and Sony stereo are inspired by modern mobile phones. The dashboard looks good and the plastics have a quality feel. It’s a shame, then, that some of the functionality has been sacrificed for style. The main screen is too small and there are too many controls on the centre console and steering wheel. The large windscreen and glass roof on top models make the C-MAX’s interior feel light, airy and spacious. But we feel that the controls for the climate control are too far down the dash, almost hidden behind the gearlever. Also, the shiny silver plastic looks cheap and feels as though it will scratch easily.

Our rating 4

3. Practicality

The C-MAX has an excellent, elevated driving position with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get comfy. The seats are both supportive and comfortable. Head and legroom for the three individual rear seats is fine too and these can be folded forward or removed entirely. Sadly, they’re heavy to lift and the catches to unlock them are fiddly. The 432 litre boot is a practical shape and compares well in size to its rivals. Sadly, overall visibility is disappointing. The thick front windscreen pillars make manoeuvres such as pulling out of junctions a bit of chore and whilst the small rear window looks great from the outside, you’ll moan about its size and how little you can see out of it when reversing.

Our rating 3

4. Ride and handling

Ford has a reputation for building drivers’ cars and the C-MAX surprises by just how much fun it is to steer. The steering is light enough around town to make manoeuvres easy, yet it feels sharp and precise at speed. In corners there’s plenty of grip and a surprising lack of body roll. The ride is harder than the C4 Picasso and SEAT Altea and potholes make themselves known in the cabin – but the C-MAX always feels composed.

Our rating 4

5. Performance

Ford’s excellent range of Ecoboost petrol units are available first in the C-MAX. Our car was fitted with the 150bhp version of the 1.6-litre, with a top speed of 127mph, with the dash to 62mph taking 9.4 seconds. This is far faster than the Citroen (12 seconds) or the SEAT (10.3 seconds). The 150bhp 1.6-litre petrol Ecoboost engine is best described as a giant-killer, as it feels much more powerful than its size would suggest. It’s a revvy unit, which pulls well from low revs. It’s matched to a slick five-speed manual transmission. Two diesels are also offered, a 1.6 or 2-litre with 115 or 140bhp. They are smooth and efficient and the 2-litre accelerates the C-MAX well. The 1.6-litre diesel needs to be kept in exactly the right gear to access its performance, which can prove frustrating – especially in hilly areas or when the car is fully loaded.

Our rating 4

6. Running costs

The C-MAX’s running costs should be no worse than rivals and you can expect 40mpg from the 1.6-litre petrol and a 154 g/km Co2 figure. Expect TDCi diesel models to be frugal but more expensive to service.

Our rating 3

7. Reliability

The previous C-MAX had a solid reputation for dependability and despite all the new car’s technology, there’s no reason to think the new car shouldn’t be any different.

Our rating 4

8. Safety

The C-MAX is a top performer in EuroNCAP crash tests, with a five-star rating. All cars have electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability programme (ESP) and front, side and curtain airbags, while a system that warns if a car is in your blindspot is available as an option.

Our rating 5

9. Equipment

Just Zetec and range-topping Titanium trims are available. But all C-MAX models are well-equipped with alloy wheels, air-con, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, Thatcham category one alarm, DAB radio/CD and Bluetooth with USB connectivity and voice control. Our Titanium added auto front wipers, auto headlamps, dual electronic auto climate control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, hill launch assist, keyless start, cruise control with speed limiter, a Sony audio system and tyre pressure monitors.

Our rating 4

10. Why buy?

If you want an MPV that’s enjoyable to drive and need more space than a Focus, the C-MAX is all the car you’ll ever need.

Our rating 4

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability4
  • Safety5
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget

C-Max 1.6 105 Zetec

Enough performance with all the style and practicality.

Best-seller

C-Max 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec

Plenty of equipment in Zetec trim and diesel power should cut down the running costs.

Blow the budget

C-Max 1.6 Ecoboost 150 Titanium

Giant-killing engine, combined with a suite of advanced active safety technologies.

The latest C-MAX is the car for families who’ve outgrown the Focus. The MPV for drivers, it also benefits from a really practical, spacious interior. It’s also well-equipped.