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Ford's best MPV puts the S into sexy, writes Philip Hedderman

THE king of the people carriers just got better.

Yes folks, the Ford S-Max -- the big bus that drives like a little hot hatch has been to the beauty salon for a freshen-up.

Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006, it was supposed to slot in between the gargantuan 7-seat Galaxy and its smaller brother, the C-Max.

It proved to a lot more than a 'middle choice' and to a certain degree has over shadowed both of its siblings.

In fact, it proved so popular with the motoring press it won European Car Of the Year just 12 months later.


It's not hard to see why it took the most coveted prize in motoring.

The combination of the sporty driving dynamic and MPV versatility -- especially the fold flat system which sees the second and third row of seats disappear into the floor -- proved a real winner.

It meant that a growing family (or should I say the dad) didn't have to spend the next 10 years shackled to a box on wheels with the ride quality of a rickety old van.

No sir, it was the dawn of a new era called Kinetic Design and the S-Max would be the first sporting the new look.

Now, to the great unwashed (namely you and me) that meant swanky headlights, flared wheel-arches and a fancy pants grille. But the real magic happened as soon as you opened the door.

The cabin is nothing short of vast and the build quality is second to none.

The elevated driving position and the split windowed A-Pillars gives an almost panoramic view while the driver is cocooned by the dash.

The shoulder and elbow room is so generous that you'd need arms on you like Popeye to rest your elbow on the door while driving.

It's also a very pleasant place to be with a premium feel to everything at hand.

The soft-touch plastics are complimented by the indestructible feel of every switch and lever and the aviation styled handbrake and piano black trim add a touch of class the best layout in any MPV on sale today.

And it's behind that leather-trimmed wheel is where the S-Max leaves its rivals dead in the dirt.

The 2.0L TDCi, 140bhp gives a lot more oomph with the base model boasting 113bhp and undoubtedly adds to the dynamic of the ride. For a car so tall and long the scourge of body roll in non-existent while handling is just sublime.

Any drawbacks?

Just the price at €32,334, which is a tad expensive and the fact that the final two pews are really only child seats.

That said, it is a family car and is bound to include a couple of little 'uns.

On the price front Ford have just announced a low APR 4.9% finance, three years extended warranty, three years roadside assist and three years free servicing on selected models.