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Expert Review

Ford C-MAX MPV (2011 – ) review

Read the Ford C-MAX MPV (2011 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.

The Auto Trader expert 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.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickAttractive styling
  • tickRoomy, airy cabin
  • tickGreat to drive

At a glance:

How good does it look?

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.
Expert rating: 4/5

What's the interior like?

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.
Expert rating: 4/5

How practical is it?

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.
Expert rating: 3/5

What's it like to drive?

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.
Expert rating: 4/5

How powerful is it?

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.
Expert rating: 4/5

How much will it cost me?

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.
Expert rating: 3/5

How reliable is it?

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.
Expert rating: 4/5

How safe is it?

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.
Expert rating: 5/5

How much equipment do I get?

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.
Expert rating: 4/5

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.
Expert rating: 4/5

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