13 March 2014

Road test: Ford C-MAX

Ford's C-MAX five-seater Multi Activity Vehicle (MAV) is a comfortable and practical means of transport for a medium-sized family offering oodles of space and flexible seating, writes Trish Whelan. It is also an easy car to drive and one that won't do much damage to your bank account.

For families who need more space, there's the seven-seater Grand C-Max version. In today's market, seven seater MPVs are becoming more and more popular as children often want to take pals along and need the extra space for all their 'stuff'. These vehicles have advantages over saloons and hatchbacks as you sit high up which means better all-round visibility, and everyone gets a great view out. They're also a lot easier to get in and out of.

Beautifully styled on the outside and with a high quality interior, you will be surprised by what the C-MAX has to offer.

The car under review is the Activ grade 1.6TCDi diesel outputting 95hp. An upgraded version. The 1.6 diesel engines have been updated to deliver better performance, fuel economy and refinement, and they certainly deliver on all three. Part of the upgrade includes the former five-speed gearboxes being replaced with new six-speed transmissions. The gearshifter is located on the jut out of the lower dash which makes it within easy reach and you'll find the gears are slick and precise.

The windscreen is steeply raked and the A-Pillar windows are of a size to allow you see traffic coming from an angle. Good-sized power side mirrors help with rear visibility aided in the test car by the optional Blind Spot Information System which alerts you with a small warning light in the driver's and passenger's door mirrors if another vehicle has entered your blind spot. Also, when you select Reverse, the rear view comes up on the instrument panel. Instruments themselves are stylishly indented, yet very clear to see at a glance.

Seats are as as comfortable as you'll find anywhere. Great to sit in. There was lumbar adjustment on the driver's seat in my car. Space-wise, there are three individual, same size ones in the rear which is not always the case with rear accommodation. The boot is of a decent size and there's a temporary spare - a necessity for a family car. While there's no front armrest, there are good storage areas like the glovebox, generous door bins as well as two cupholders up front for your odds and ends, and an open and deep storage area behind.

This Activ trim comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, privacy glass, Ford SYNC with Bluetooth, and air conditioning. For things like cruise control you have to move up to the top Titanium spec which also has 17-inch alloys, Ford's Power engine start/stop button, automatic headlights and wipers, Hill start assist and a child observation mirror to help you see what's going on in the back of the car! Safety features include dual front airbags/side ones for both front and outer second-row rear passengers; Isofix child seat mountings, a rigid body, ABS, EBD, ESP and EBA.

The Parking pack onboard included power folding mirrors and rear parking sensors, and was for a special price of €141.

On the road, I found the car a really good drive with plenty of power on tap for when you need to overtake or join fast moving traffic on the motorway. Fuel economy is around 5.4 L/100kms for the urban cycle and C02 emissions of 119g/km place this particular car in Band A of €200 a year in road tax. Other engines available include the 1.6 EcoBoost petrol and a 2.0 diesel with 140hp.

Your C-MAX has another trick up its sleeve. It can park itself. The optional Active Park Assist helps you park in spaces just 1.2 times the length of the car. It does this by using body-mounted sensors. All the driver has to do is push a button to start the process, then when the car identifies a suitable parking slot, press the accelerator, shift gears or brake, keep your hands off the steering wheel and trust in the car to do the job safely. Audible warnings and the information shown on the screen guide you through the manoeuvre. Especially good as parallel parking is one of the major frustrations for both men and women drivers!

Another plus is that with Ford cars, you simply cannot missfuel with the capless refuelling system, which is standard. The Eco driving mode also comes as standard.

A stylish and sporty smaller people carrier with a real feel-good factor, and a five year manufacturer's warranty as standard.

Priced from €25,995. The entry model is from €25,695.