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Ford S-MAX

The Ford S-MAX has always been a kind of anti-MPV. It's a people mover for those who require the full quota of seven seats, but aren't quite prepared to admit they own an MPV. In many respects, it lives in a segment of its own as the only genuinely sporty people carrier which also manages to look visually appealing. The new S-MAX kicks off where the old model left off. At first glance it may not look like an entirely new car, but you'll find most of the upgrades under the skin.
And the good news is, the Ford S-MAX is more appealing than ever. It remains a thoroughly convincing car to drive. Our test car came equipped with the 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, which is one of four power outputs and sits below the new twin-turbocharged 207bhp version. It offers plenty of mid-range torque, taking the guess work out of overtaking.
You're constantly reminded that you're driving a sizeable chunk of metal, but that doesn't mean you can't throw it into a corner and emerge safely at the other side. In fact, it corners tremendously flat and offers well-weighted and direct steering. Rear passengers will almost certainly appreciate the self-levelling rear suspension, if you happen to forget you've got five people sat behind you. It's just a shame that the drive is let down by a notchy six-speed gearbox and a surprising amount of diesel clatter.
On the plus side, it rides superbly and the cabin feels noticeably quieter than before. Inside, the new interior does a very good job of justifying the S-MAX's traditionally hefty price tag. The layout is simplified and design is far less fussy than before, with a better use of chrome inserts helping to lift what could otherwise be a sombre cabin. The 8-inch touchscreen, which is standard across the range, is well-positioned and you can even order a power-assisted steering column.
Moving further back, the S-MAX remains a genuine seven-seater and Ford claims it offers 32 different seating and load space combinations. The easy-fold system means each rear seat can be folded at the press of a button, and there's also easy access to the third row of seats. In a world-first, the S-MAX now offers an intelligent speed limiter. By using the traffic sign recognition system, the car can be ‘told' not to exceed any speed limits, potentially bringing an end to speeding fines.
When the car is equipped with satellite navigation, standard on Titanium models, the system uses additional map data. It's one of 20 new features offered on the S-MAX, which also include glare-free high-beam assist lighting, adaptive steering, automated perpendicular parking and - for the first time in the S-MAX - a handsfree tailgate. So look out for owners frantically waving their feet under the rear bumper in an attempt to open the boot. This is a vehicle with huge cross-continent driving potential.
The driver will never feel short changed and Ford has seemingly listened to the needs and desires of those who have travelled in the back of an S-MAX. In truth, it feels like an evolution of the old car, rather than an entirely new model. And we mean that as a compliment, because if something ain't broke, you don't fix it. A great car just got even better.

Model tested Titanium 2.0 TDCi
Price .28,445
Made in Valencia, Spain
Configuration 5-door MPV, 7-seats, front-wheel-drive
Drivetrain 1997cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel
Transmission 6-speed manual
Power output 177bhp @ 3,500rpm
Maximum torque 295lb ft @ 2,000-2,500rpm
Top speed/0-62mph 131mph/9.7 secs
CO2 emissions (tax band) 129g/km (D) Euro 6
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 50.4/61.4/56.5mpg
Fuel tank size/range 70 litres/870 miles
Insurance group/BIK rate tba/23%
Size (length/width with mirrors) 4,796/2,137mm
Boot space (7/5/2-seats) 285/965/2,020 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,726/2,000kg
Euro NCAP safety rating Not yet tested
In showrooms Summer 2015
Prices .25,245 to .32,945
Bodystyles 5-door MPV
Engines 2.0 (118bhp) 2.0 (148bhp)
2.0 (177bhp) 2.0 (207bhp)
Trim levels Zetec, Titanium, Titanium Sport
Also consider SEAT Alhambra, Volkswagen Sharan

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