The Ford S-MAX has always been a popular choice with families in Ireland looking for a large family car, and even with the rise of the SUV, there’s still demand for a good, honest MPV, especially if it has seven seats.
The new S-MAX also does a good job of looking sleek and dynamic despite its hulking mass, and is a ‘good-looking bus’ which can’t be said for some boxy looking rivals. The current model arrived in 2015 and the styling is quite a gentle evolution of its predecessor, Ford’s new trapezoidal grille being the most striking change. All round it looks a bit more chiselled and defined.
The S-MAX is based on the Mondeo and the design and finish of the cabin is very similar. Ford has had a good shot of pushing the new S-MAX upmarket and it all looks pleasing to the eye and the material quality is good. In Titanium models, the dash is built around the Sync 2 infotainment system and touchscreen, which looks very well indeed.
There are three individual seats in row 2, all three with Isofix child seat fixtures, and these passengers get loads of legroom and headroom. The S-MAX has seven seats as standard, but is really what is known as a ‘5+2’: the two seats in the very back are for children rather than adults as the legroom is tight, though the seats in row 2 can be slid forward to create more room. The extra seats can fold into the floor when not in use and yield a large boot that can be easily stacked to the roof. With row 3 seats in place, boot space is impacted but there is still room for a few bags.
There are two trim levels for the S-MAX on the Irish market: Zetec and Titanium. Zetec models come well-equipped including 17” alloy wheels, fog lights, daytime running lights, quickclear windscreen, Ford Sync, front and rear parking sensors, leather steering wheel, dual zone air con and keyless start. Titanium trim adds Ford Sync 2 infotainment and touchscreen, LED daytime running lights, chrome door line finisher, auto lights and wipers, auto high beam, ambient lighting, lane keeping aid, and traffic sign recognition incorporating an Intelligent Speed Limiter. A useful option is the handsfree-tailgate, that allows the boot to be opened or closed using a kicking motion beneath the rear bumper.
Power for the range comes from a 2.0-litre diesel with 120PS, 150PS, 180PS or 210PS, and a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine (160PS). There are a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes, and an all-wheel drive option. The petrol S-MAX is available in Titanium only and has a list price of €38,835, while the diesels start at €35,860.
Sitting on the same platform as the very enjoyable Mondeo, the omens are good for the S-MAX. On the road, the S-MAX really does impress and even on a tight country road, the car feels good with direct, accurate steering that communicates the grip from the front wheels so well. And remarkably for such a large car, body roll is not too alarming either and it feels quite taut and composed on the tight stuff, yet comfortable enough for the rough and tumble of Irish roads.
My test car had the 2.0-litre diesel with 180PS and it does a really good job of lugging the considerable weight of the S-MAX around. You can hear a bit of a diesel gurgle under acceleration but it never gets too raucous in the cabin and in this guise it’s reasonably economical too returning up to 56mpg.
The new Ford S-MAX hasn’t undergone any drastic changes but then it probably didn’t really need them, being a tried and tested Irish family bus for many years now. But the enhancements in the styling, the cabin, and the update of tech and equipment will ensure it stays a competitive choice in the 7-seat MPV market. The S-MAX is still a mighty titan in this segment and now feels more upmarket than before, and while the average suburban parent may never fully exploit the handling, the S-MAX retains the competent driving character that marks out the best in the segment.
Model Tested: Ford S-MAX 2.0-litre TDCi Titanium
Price: €43,935 (Range starts at €35,860)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 9.7 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 129g/km
Motor Tax: B1 (€270 per year)