Sunday 25 September 2016

C-MAX people carrier shows there's life beyond crossovers

Published 07/10/2015 | 02:30

Roomy motor: Ford C-Max
Roomy motor: Ford C-Max
Ford C-Max interior with rear seats folded down

I listen to Off-the-Ball on Newstalk most evenings as I usually travel to the city centre in or around that time.

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It is sponsored by Ford as you probably know. Which means the company plugs the hell out of the likes of the revised C-MAX people carrier

It just so happened I was driving one in the course of one programme.

And I got to thinking. Names. C-MAX, S-MAX. Do people visualise what they look like or are they some strange nomenclatures that sound exotic?

I'm sure owners of C-MAXes have no bother but what about others? Just to put it in context then. The C-MAX operates in the same small-family people carrier segment as the likes of the Citroen C4 Picasso or Renault Scenic.

These cars were all the rage a few years back but many a so-called expert has written them off in the face of the crossover invasion in the interim.

Ford have a stack of MPVs (as they are called) and, as you expect from a company that missed out on the initial rush to crossovers, is bullish about the level of demand still foreseen for these motors.

The C-MAX comes as a 5-seater and a 7-seater. I drove the 5-seater. It is a roomy motor for a growing family but has its good points and a few bad ones.

It is better to drive than the two rivals I mentioned because there's a taut chassis that provides a firmness that characterises the whole car. It doesn't matter that much for most people but it does for me so that is a plus.

I also liked the clean-cut cabin which, in my test car, had plenty of spec.

Not so sure about the back; it is still cramped enough and I think the Picasso beats it on room for child seats.

I'd like greater ease of moving seats around too, though getting into the back was easy enough.

The rear screen aperture was too narrow for my liking. But I liked the size of the boot and how handy it was to dump stuff in.

I still think there are too many buttons on the dash. They can be confusing and I have to admit I'm still struggling with the effectiveness of the SYNC system which they promote so much.

As cabins go, this looked hard-wearing and practical with good, solid seats and decent room upfront for driver and passenger.

The new 1.5-litre diesel (there are 95PS and 120PS versions - I had the latter) had exactly what you expect and get from mid-range diesels these days. It was quiet, pulled well all through the gears and was more than decent on the fuel.

With €190 road tax, it makes sense to take the higher-power version for the times the boot and seats are loaded to the gills. Why? Because the two diesels invoke exactly the same road tax so why opt for the 'lesser'. Ford say they are both 12pc cleaner than the old 1.6-litre. I guess we have to believe them on that.

If you think the 5-dr is a bit cramped, there is the seven-seater Grand C-Max. The 5-seater is a tidy enough package. It did more or less what I expected of it. Being recently refreshed it is an option to the crossover, but could do with a bit more flexibility.

That is where crossovers do so well.

Like any good radio programme - and Off-the-Ball is excellent - there is a bit of give and take.

I'd say there is a fair bit more give than take, so it is worth a test drive and a place on your shopping shortlist.

Price and spec

Ford C-MAX 5-seater people carrier, Titanium trim level on test.

Engine: 1.5-litre TDCi diesel (120PS, 105g/km, €190 road tax).

Equipment includes: climate control, automatic lights/wipers, LED daytime running lights, Start/Stop, front seats' lumbar adjustment, electric windows, Hill Start Assist, several airbags.

Options included:

SYNC Gen 2 with 8ins touchscreen, Park Assist, 18ins alloys, seatback trays, electric tailgate, adaptive headlamps, Panorama roof.

* The C-MAX range starts from €25,755 ex-works.

* The Titanium model begins at €29,500.

* Remember: delivery and related charges are extra.

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