Saturday 10 December 2016

The Space Invader. . .

Published 13/12/2010 | 10:21

I often drive myself crazy trying to think up ways of having a second or third use for things when they are not employed at their primary task.

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I mean, there is such a massive capacity for better management.

Maybe it is my small farm upbringing that has skewed my view of things, but I see so many great assets being left lying idle for huge chunks of their existence.

Look at churches. Apart from a few prayerful souls dropping in at infrequent intervals, their vast space lies unused between eight o’clock morning Mass and evening devotions. Could we turn them into places where homeless people might rest from the wind and cold during the day? I’m only asking.

I look at my own few leisure hours spent doing nothing but listening about or watching a shower of redshirted millionaires chasing a ball. What a waste.

I look at one-driver cars hogging valuable road space when a little bit of planning and co-operation would fill them and significantly reduce vehicle numbers and emissions. What an awful waste.

(I even look at the Dail. All those empty seats — even when it is ‘sitting’. You might be able to do something about that in the election.)

I look at fallow fields and take great pleasure when I see a tractor out ploughing for a second crop just after harvesting.

I’ll not go on. No point in driving you mad as well. But I don’t know how many times I’ve looked around inside a car and felt what a waste it was to have so much space unused.

Which is why the likes of this new Ford Grand C-Max won brownie points from me straight away.

It has three rows of seats but the third one – for smaller passengers/toddlers – folds so you can carry stuff. And the second row can double up as well.

That means it can be used for lots of other things. It is, of course, not alone. There are several like it. I really love the concept. Mind you, if you want to carry six or seven and their luggage in this you are in big trouble because the boot space is absolutely tiny.

It is the price you pay for trying to be as many things to as many families as you can. As far as I’m concerned it is well worth the occasional shortcoming because, in the main, you are not going to be that full all the time and can use the third row for luggage. And if you do need the three rows regularly then you should move up to a larger people carrier such as Ford’s S-Max.

But this is a tasty mid-sizer. There’s a touch of class here, even if extending its remit to a third row of seats (as opposed to just two in the ‘ordinary’ CMax) turns it into a less than loveable item to look at.

There were right good quality materials all the way through the cabin. The sliding doors (not on the five-seater) made access simple and easy to the middle and back seats. Mine had just two seats in the middle (usually three) which is a combination that might suit some. And the rear hatch opened without bother, though I would feel the handle is a bit too low.

Best of all, it drove quite sharply even if its elongated posterior suggested it would not. I enjoyed the neat precision of the steering and handling.

It does make a difference and, with a taut chassis, there was minimal bodyroll for a car of this genre. That’s important for your passengers. When my children were young, a ‘bouncy’ motor was dreaded because it often heralded car sickness — an awful affliction.

No, the biggest crib I had with this was the huge amount of space it required to turn. I have no way of proving this, and frankly I couldn’t be bothered getting into the detail, but I felt at times our Budget deficit would turn quicker. All right, I exaggerate, but do watch out for that in tight spots such as car parks or driveways.

And yet it was a grand old drive on the highways and byways with several passengers impressed with the cabin and its quietness. I was never a fan of the previous C-Max but this has changed my mind, I must say.

The dash is cleanly laid out, maybe a few buttons too many for my simple ways, but effective nonetheless. The driving position gave great command — an important element at all times, but especially during bad weather.

My middle-row passengers were delighted with the space they had. And no, I must confess I had no one for the ‘younger’ slots at the back so we used them for carrying bits and pieces of luggage and shopping. Warning: be careful with the sliding doors in multi-storey car parks because when you push them open you can bang the end off a pillar rather easily (no I didn’t).

From where I sat — and we drove a fair old bit — I have to say this was one of the most user-friendly cars I’ve had for a while. I had my audio controls on the steering wheel, ventilation just at 11 o’clock on the central console, excellent wing mirrors, good rear visibility and the seats . . . aha . . . now we’re talking. They were excellent and suited us big time.

It is a smart piece of work, despite its stretched looks, with a degree of versatility that can turn idle seats into useful spaces.

If car makers can find additional uses for their motors, surely we can rise to the challenge in other areas? Well, I’m going to spend less time listening to radio commentaries on the red-shirted millionaires. But what will I do instead?

I’ve got it. Given the way everything is in this country, I’ll pray.

Ford Grand C-Max

What: Ford Grand C-Max 6/7-seater people carrier 2-litre diesel (140bhp), 6spd gearbox, front-wheel-drive, CO2 of 129g/km; VRT is 16pc. €156 annual road tax.

Cost: From €26,995. 5-seater C-Max from €23,995. Delivery, related charges extra.

Target Market: Families.

Plus: Space, versatility, equipment, pricing, seats.

Minus: Bit ‘van-like’ to look at, poor turning circle, miniscule boot space when all three rows are occupied.

Standard Equipment: Air con, electric windows, 16in alloys, front fogs, rear privacy glass, heated windscreen, Bluetooth voice control, remote radio CD, rear parking sensors and foldable mirrors. My Titanium spec test version had, in addition, 17in alloys, climate control system, cruise control, child observation mirror and Hill Launch Assist.

Others to consider: Opel Zafira, Citroen C4 Picasso, Mazda5, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Renault Grand Scenic, Toyota Verso.

Rating: 85 / 100

ecunningham@independent.ie

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