The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.6
The Ford C-Max can’t compete with the best compact MPVs for practicality or versatility, but it does bring plenty of other attributes to the table. It’s brilliant to drive and very refined, has a plush-feeling interior and comes with plenty of standard equipment. Worthy of a place on your shortlist.
Reasons to buy
- A brilliant balance of ride and handling abilities
- Some punchy and economical engines
- Interior quality better than in most Ford models
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
As a compact MPV, style is fairly secondary to functionality for the C-Max. Even so, it’s a reasonably smart-looking thing. The design obviously echoes other Ford models, with narrow headlamps and a wide grille that are similar to those you’ll find on the Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo. All versions get alloy wheels and front fog lights as standard, while Titanium trim has LED daytime running lights, and Titanium X cars have full xenon headlamps.
What's the interior like?
Sitting inside the C-Max is a very pleasant experience. The materials and finishes on display look and feel refreshingly plush, plusher than they are in most of Ford’s other models, which is interesting when some of those models are newer and more expensive. The seats are very supportive and have lots of adjustment, and with big windows all round, the view out is very clear indeed. The dashboard is reasonably simple and intuitive to use, as is the touch-screen infotainment system that’s standard on all but the entry-level trim.
How practical is it?
The C-Max is a little more practical than your average family hatchback, but only a little. The high roof means that all five seats have plenty of headroom, and there’s also plenty of legroom in the rear seats when they are slid all the way back. As well as sliding, the rear chairs also recline and fold down to leave a reasonably level load area. However, the rather basic way in which the seats fold means it’s not as versatile or as clever as some of its compact MPV rivals.
What's it like to drive?
With compact MPVs, practicality is usually more important to owners than the way the car drives. However, if the latter is just as important to you as the former, then the C-Max is one of the most dynamically polished cars in the class. The handling is exceptionally good compared with other MPVs, thanks to strong grip, tight body control and sharp, predictable responses from the steering wheel, gearshift and pedals. The ride was also remarkably cosseting on the smooth Spanish roads of our test route, but we’ll have to wait until the car faces the sterner test of some battered British blacktop before we can say for sure how comfortable it is. However, if it’s as comfortable as the previous version was, which we suspect it will be, then there’ll be no problem.
How powerful is it?
So far, we’ve only had the chance to drive one of the engines available in the C-Max, the 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp. With a generous slice of low-down torque, it gives brisk, flexible acceleration, and its refinement is pretty impressive, too, staying smooth and quiet at all times. With excellent suppression of wind- and road noise, the rest of the car stays just as quiet. The engine is also strong on economy, but not as strong as the engine that’ll prove most popular with buyers, the 118bhp 1.5 diesel. This will make the C-Max cheaper to buy as well as cheaper to run, and we can’t wait to try it: if it turns out to be as flexible and refined as the bigger engines, it’ll be very tempting indeed. Petrol engines are also available, a 1.6 with 123bhp and 1.0-litre turbos with 99bhp or 123bhp.
How much will it cost me?
The C-Max isn’t especially cheap, but you should be able to negotiate a sizeable discount from your Ford dealer when you buy. You’ll need to, because resale values aren’t expected to be particularly strong, and a discount will help limit your depreciation losses. The news is much better when it comes to fuel economy, because all the engines have very competitive figures compared with the equivalent engines in rival compact MPVs. The same goes for CO2 emissions, making the C-Max affordable to run as a company car.
How reliable is it?
Ford isn’t always praised all that highly for reliability, but the brand is currently riding high in the manufacturer standing of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. The C-Max has also achieved a pretty good score as an individual model. The three-year/60,000-mile warranty is rather average compared with the arrangements that some rival manufacturers offer, but you can extend your cover to four or five years for a small one-off fee.
How safe is it?
As you’d expect from a family car, the C-Max comes with a variety of airbags to protect you and your family in a smash, and a stability control system to help you avoid having one in the first place. It also comes with a few other desirable safety bits as standard, such as a hill-start assistant, tyre-pressure monitoring and the MyKey system (if you have grown-up children who drive the car, they can have their own key onto which you can pre-program maximum values for things like speed limit and stereo volume). Plenty more clever kit is available through the options list, systems such as autonomous city braking and lane departure aids, as well as a parking assistant that’ll steer into, and out of, a space for you, while sensors watch your back for approaching traffic. These options are very affordable, but it’s perhaps a little disappointing that the autonomous braking doesn’t come as standard. The C-Max has been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but not in its latest form.
How much equipment do I get?
Zetec trim is the entry point to the C-Max range, and comes with most of what you need, including a DAB radio, powered front windows, Bluetooth and air-con, but we reckon it’s worth upgrading to Titanium trim for its climate control, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, and voice-controlled touch-screen infotainment system. Titanium X cars look pretty pricey, but they do come with niceties including part-leather upholstery, heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof.
If you’re after the cleverest, roomiest and most versatile compact MPV, you should look elsewhere. If, however, you want one of the best compact MPVs to drive, and one that’ll be affordable to run, you should certainly consider the C-Max.