The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Ford S-MAX successfully combines driving appeal with MPV practicality. There's room for six occupants, or with the seats folded, 2,000 litres of luggage.
Reasons to buy:
- Great looks
- Driver-focussed interior
- Impressive trim levels
How good does it look?
Want a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) that looks cooler than a Ford Galaxy? That’s why the Ford S-MAX was created. The seven-seat model reflects more of a lifestyle choice for buyers looking to shift a large family. It has a slightly lower and shorter profile, more pronounced wheel arches and vents behind the front wheels. When launched alongside an updated Ford Galaxy in 2006 it also saw the introduction of the manufacturer’s ‘kinetic design’ styling which has since been introduced to the revised Ford Mondeo and Ford Focus.
What's the interior like?
The S-MAX is clearly driver-focussed, enjoying a less MPV-like environment behind the steering wheel. The windscreen is angled at a more car-like rake than found in the Ford Galaxy. The information display sees the speedo and rev counters either side of a digital display. Audio, air-con and, where specified, sat-nav are housed within the central console which flows back via the gear stick and handbrake to a central storage area. The handbrake is one of the most individual interior features and we liked the substantial U-shaped handle which takes the place of a conventional lever.
How practical is it?
With seven seats in place the Ford S-MAX may only offer the same boot space as a small city car with its 285 litre capacity. But load it to the gills with all rear seats flat and this expands to 2,000 litres. There are also 26 different stowage solutions beyond the boot which include front door pockets and a cooled glove compartment able to hold 1.5-litre drinks bottles. The second row seats are spacious but the legroom available in the third row is tight and headroom is limited. The huge hatch-style opening affords superb access but is surprisingly heavy to open.
What's it like to drive?
Given its size and people-shifting capability the S-MAX is fun to drive. The steering is more responsive than offered by a conventional MPV and the car handles like a smaller vehicle, partly thanks to a lower centre of gravity than its more conservative sibling. Buyers looking to shift lots of people will still demand a comfortable ride and the S-MAX does not disappoint.
How powerful is it?
A wide range of engines should satisfy most needs with 1.8- and 2-litre diesel models most popular with UK buyers. The 125bhp 1.8-litre diesel model covers 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds and has a top speed of 116mph. There is a choice of 5- and 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual gearboxes.
How much will it cost me?
If its fuel economy you want, best to go for the 125bhp 1.8-litre model’s 45.6mpg. The 1.8-litre diesel also offers the lowest CO2 emissions – its 164g/km means a reasonable tax bill.
How reliable is it?
The Ford S-MAX was a new model when launched in 2006 so its reliability was unproven. However, we experienced no problems with our model during the test drive and the car has been constructed to the expected high build quality. There have been recalls by Ford involving an issue with the panoramic sunroof fitted to some models, as well as for an issue with the heated windscreen and a fault which can make the brake pedal hard to press.
How safe is it?
The Ford S-MAX achieved a maximum five-star rating following Euro NCAP crash testing, thanks to driver’s and front passenger airbags, first and second row airbags and driver’s knee airbag. Electronic stability programme (ESP), anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA) will reduce the likelihood of an accident and are standard on all S-MAXs. Our model also featured very good directional headlights which broaden the beam in the direction of travel when turning.
How much equipment do I get?
The S-MAX is available in three trim levels: Edge, Zetec and Titanium. The Edge comes with electronic stability programme, anti-lock brakes, air-con, trip computer, CD radio and electric front windows. The Zetec model adds 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, electric rear windows, dual zone temperature control, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, body colour door handles. The Titanium model features 17-inch alloy wheels with chrome door handles, privacy glass, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, front and rear parking sensors and ambient lighting. There are masses of options to choose from too, including DVD, sat-nav and eight-way adjustable front seats.
The Ford S-MAX may not be as practical as its big brother the Ford Galaxy, but it can still hold six passengers or 2,000 litres of luggage. It’s also surprisingly fun to drive and looks good.