What is it? All-new version of the Ford C-Max mid-sized MPV
Key features: Interior upgrade, more tech, more efficient engines
Our view: Takes an effective product and improves it in all areas. Should continue to be a success, though rivals are getting stronger and more numerous
It is 12 years now since Ford jumped firmly into the compact-MPV market with its C-Max, and in that time the car has proven a major success.
Through three generations, the Ford C-Max has established itself as a leading player, selling almost 210,000 examples to UK buyers. In 2014, the C-Max rated second in its segment with 16,900 sales, a thousand ahead of its deadly rival the Vauxhall Zafira and only beaten by the Citroën Xsara Picasso. It’s also Ford’s third best-selling car after the Fiesta and Focus.
Now a new Ford C-Max, offered like its predecessor in both five-seat and Grand C-Max seven-seat variants, is on its way to the UK as part of Ford’s wholesale renewal of its people-carrier line-up – also at the Spanish launch of the car was its equally new larger sister the S-Max, which we’ll be reviewing at the end of April.
The new C-Max won’t turn that many heads from the outside. Styling changes are subtle, effectively adopting the latest ‘One Ford’ design language that gives the car a somewhat bolder, Mondeo-like front end. There is a gently reareards-tapering roof line while the arches are more pronunced and accompanied by a distinct body crease line.
Inside the differences are more obvious. Ford says that customer feedback determined the interior changes and there is a distinct upturn in quality, though perhaps not to the level of some other Fords including that one we can’t talk about yet.
Most notable is the dash, which has changed markedly. Customers wanted a simpler layout, Ford tells us, and the new console, clearly based closely on that in the most recent Focus, certainly meets the brief. There are fewer separate controls and it is all simpler to use.
There are a host of useful touches – more storage places in the car for example (Ford tells us there are 20), while owners can specify hands-free opening of the tailgate, a feature first seen on the Kuga.
The seats are clever too – in the five-seat C-Max the central rear seat can be lifted and moved rearwards allowing the outer seats to slide inwards and backwards for more leg and shoulder room.
In its seven-seat cousin, meanwhile, the centre seat can be flipped out of the way creating a useful walk-through for younger members of the family accessing the rear row through the sliding rear doors.
Another major area for improvement was technology and the new C-Max has certianly gained plenty of new aids to both driver and passengers.
Driver assistance technology uses a host of sensors, radars and cameras, working together to offer what we are told is 460-degree protection to the car, and such advances as Pre-Collision Assist and adaptive cruise control are both fitted for the first time on a C-Max.
Other aids, some standard, some optional, include Active Braking, Active City Stop, Blind-Spot Info, Cross-Traffic Alert for when pulling out of junctions, parking aids that even make it easier to reverse into spaces between parked cars… the list goes on.
Other occupants, meanwhile, get a DAB radio as standard on all variants, something The Car Expert is surprised has not become an industry standard. It’s part of the Ford Sync connectivity system, which on Titanium variants and above is upgraded to the voice-activated Sync 2 based aorund an eight-inch touchscreen.
Ford says that all the engines available for the C-Max have been revised, and all are now Euro 6 emissions compliant, claimed to be a first in the segment.
The line-up ranges across two versions of the much-publicised three-time ‘engine of the year’ the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol, in 99 and 123bhp varieties, a 1.6 petrol with 123bhp, and diesels in 1.5 118bhp and 2.0 148bhp variants.
The 1.6 petrol is fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox, all the others with six speeds while both diesels can be specified with the PowerShift six-speed auto-manual ‘box.
Ford believes the two big sellers will be the 123bhp petrol and 118bhp diesel, the latter taking almost three quarters (71 per cent) of sales. Equally three quarters of sales will be of the five-seat C-Max.
The test car available to The Car Expert, however, was the range-topping 148bhp diesel, in Grand C-Max form, and it’s generally impressive.
It is easy to forget on the road that this is a seven-seater, it bowls along at good pace and in corners remains poised with some body roll but rather less than one might expect given its people-carrying abilities. The engine is not short of power or torque, though the revs do need to be kept in the higher end of the band for effective overtaking.
All of which leaves one having to consider whether the price of this particular diesel, £1,500 more than its equivalent 118bhp sibling, is worth paying, though it is worth noticing that the extra potency (1.5 seconds faster to 62mph) comes with hardly any economy and emissions drawbacks.
The top diesel is also not offered in the lowest of the three trim levels, Zetec – you have the choice of Titanium or Titanium X, Ford’s marketing head Anthony Ireson telling us that in this segment there is no demand for the real base trim levels that you get in, for example, the Focus or Mondeo.
The new Ford C-Max is very much a case of taking an effective product and improving it in all areas. As such it should continue to be a success, though its rivals are getting stronger and more numerous, with the new contenders now including the likes of BMW with its 2 Series Active Tourer.
Ford C-Max – key specifications
Model tested: Ford Grand C-Max 2.0 TDI 150PS
On sale: Summer 2015
Range price: £18,195 – £26,145 (Grand +£1,600)
Insurance group: TBA
Engines: Petrol 1.6, 1.0T (x2). Diesel 1.5, 2.0.
Power (bhp): 123, 99/123. 118, 148.
Torque (lb/ft): 117, 125/125. 199, 295.
0-62mph (sec): 15.9, 12.9/11.4 (13.7/12/3). 11.3* (12.3*), 9.5* (9.8*).
Top speed (mph): 102, 108/116.114* (111*), 125* (202*).
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 44, 55/55. 69* (61*), 64 (61*).
CO2 emissions (g/km): 149, 117/117 (119/119). 110* (118*), 114* (124*).
Key rivals: Citroën C4 Picasso, Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, Peugeot 3008
Test Date: April 2015
Figures refer to C-Max, in brackets Grand-C-Max
* = with manual gearbox