First Drive: Ford C-Max

Ford’s new C-Max has a simple job; to build upon the solid if unspectacular foundations of its predecessors. To its credit it manages to go about this in its own way. It’s a car for the thinkers as, while it never really inspires or moves you to place down that deposit, it forms a compelling argument to purchase by using good old-fashioned common sense and logic.

Where some of its rivals will try to tempt you with touches of Gallic design flair or the allure of German branded street-cred, the C-Max instead focuses on offering practical improvements in key areas that buyers in this sector will really appreciate. Away from the obvious cosmetic work to bring the new C-Max into line with Ford’s global image, efforts have been made to improve three key areas of the car – technology, practicality and comfort.

On the tech front, much has been made of Ford’s SYNC2 connectivity system. It delivers on being intuitive and easy to use, despite being trapped inside a slightly temperamental touchscreen. There are voice control features to fall back on though if you prefer talking to your car instead of poking it. Despite the touchscreen, SYNC2 is something that really improves the overall package of the car, and with technology generally moving on hastily it really is a must-have feature. Keep in mind that picking the Titanium spec model, as tested here, will get you the system as a standard feature.

A host of other technological upgrades and additions have come along, with detection systems in particular receiving a lot of attention. There are functions to help detect moving cars when reversing out of parking spaces, something that can actually be done automatically alongside Active Park Assist; this aids you in exiting a space as well as parking in the first place. Pre-collision braking systems now work at up to around 30mph, helping to keep you safe in the city.

Ford’s innovative MyKey system makes another appearance. Ideally suited to parents, the technology allows you to set restrictions or limits to all manner of areas on the car. Want to restrict the top speed at which your newly qualified son or daughter can drive? Perhaps you want to limit the volume the sound system can go up to? MyKey – essentially a pre-programmable car key – enables you to do just that, allowing you to enjoy just a little taste of Orwellian control.

The new C-Max is tolerably handsome for what it is, although a straight-laced MPV will never win too many admiring glances. However, integrating Ford’s new front end has led to something that’s at least smart and distinctive, although the design loses a little of its cohesiveness at the rear.

Open the doors and you’ll find the quality of the interior has improved while the dash is less cluttered thanks to that technology upgrade. The touch-screen dominates the centre stack, while deep-set dials in the instrument binnacle flank a second digital screen that relays important information to the driver.

There’s plenty of space all round, although those taking the centre seat in the rear might find themselves somewhat short of shoulder room. At the back there is 432 litres of boot space available, extending to 1,684 litres once the rear seats are folded. That’s more than you get in a Volvo estate, although slightly less than the new Mondeo estate offers.

Naturally the driving characteristics in a car of this ilk aren’t going to get your heart racing, although the C-Max is closer to fun than most other MPVs. The steering is clearly set up for the low-speed manoeuvring and carriageway-wafting the car will primarily be used for. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the end result is very little feel coming through to the driver, especially when carrying pace in the corners. Comfortable and laid back driving is what the C-Max does best, helped by the low down punch offered by the 1.5-litre diesel engine.

That engine provides 120PS (118bhp), and is something of a sweet spot in the engine range. With 270Nm (199ft-lb) of torque available, the 0-62mph dash takes a leisurely 11.3 seconds, but returns an impressive 68.9mpg. CO2 emissions of 105g/km means you’ll be facing a car tax bill of just £20. It’s a well suited engine for the car and that’s why Ford expects 71% of buyers to opt for it, but a 2.0-litre diesel and a brace of petrol engines are available too.

It is perhaps a little disappointing that there isn’t more to be excited about with the new C-Max, but Ford is continuing to offer a quality package at a competitive price and it is for that reason the new car will be successful. Economy, technology, residual values, practicality and styling have all had a boost in this latest generation.

Buyers will find reasons to love it few and far between, but they won’t find too many reasons to turn it down either.

Model tested: Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCi 120PS Titanium
Price: £21,395
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 114 mph
0-62 mph: 11.3 seconds
Power: 120 PS (118 bhp)
Torque: 270 Nm (199 ft-lb)
Combined fuel economy: 68.9 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 105 g/km
VED Band: B / £20 per year
Car insurance group: N/A
Kerb weight: 1,403 kg

Jonny Edge

Driven by an intense passion for cars seemingly since birth, Jonny throws himself into his writing as if it was a twisty corner in his native region of Devon. While lost, he once drove around aimlessly for nine and half hours inside central Paris - and he's still getting over it.

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