- Great driving experience
- Refined ride quality
- Lots of space
- Interior short of some rivals
- Engines aren’t the greenest
- No third-row airbags
Ford’s ‘Sport Activity Vehicle’ is spacious and fun to drive
The Ford S-Max is Ford’s answer to those families who want big practicality, without compromising on driving experience. First introduced in 2006, and now in its second generation, the S-Max remains one of the best MPVs currently on sale. Based on the same platform as Ford’s Mondeo and Galaxy, the S-Max is impressively good to drive, as well as featuring seven seats, and sleek aesthetics. There are few in the class that come close to the complete package that the S-Max offers. It’s not quite as big as some of the biggest in the class, but it still offers tremendous practicality.
The most recent update in 2015 featured a complete redesign, with new engines, aesthetics, chassis, and interior.
Solid, but not as special as some rivals
Compared to a lot of its rivals, the S-Max fails to excel in its interior. The build quality on show is solid, and the design is simple, but it doesn’t have as much quality as a Volkswagen Sharan, nor does it have the forward-looking design of a C4 Grand Picasso.
The dashboard of the S-Max is influenced heavily by that in the new Ford Mondeo. That means it’s ergonomically designed, and controls are simple to use. Unfortunately, some of the switches aren’t as well-damped as they perhaps should be, and the design is a little dull in comparison with a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. The quality on show is also a little disappointing. You can still find hard, matte materials used in places, which make it feel a bit cheap, especially compared to the interiors of the Seat Alhambra and the Volkswagen Sharan.
Space wise, the S-Max offers enough storage space for even the biggest of families. With 285 litres even with all seven seats up, there’s enough room for a bit of shopping, a pushchair, or even a small bike. Take the two rear seats down and there’s a cavernous space which will fit anything you can imagine in it. It’s not quite as big as its bigger brother, the Galaxy, but there aren’t many cars out there with this much space on offer.
Spec levels in the S-Max are impressive, even in entry-level models. The standard Zetec trim offers enough for most, with electric windows, front and rear parking sensors, alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, and a touch-screen infotainment system all featuring as standard. Trims further up the range include the Titanium, which adds sat-nav, metallic paint, and cruise control. It’s quite a bit more expensive, but it’s worth considering if you clock up the motorway miles.
Overall the interior of the S-Max is a solid package. It might not have the quality and design available in some rivals, but there’s lots of space on offer, and spec levels are generous.
Class-leading driving experience
One area in which the S-Max really excels is in its driving experience. No other large MPV can offer such an engaging drive, which makes the S-Max the go-to option for enthusiastic family drivers. The chassis is stiffer than that on offer in the Galaxy, so it handles much better. It feels confident through the corners, with sharp steering, plenty of grip, and very little in the way of body roll. Out on the road, the S-Max feels like a car much smaller than its size - it’s nimble, it’s responsive, and most of all it’s fun.
Despite the stiffer suspension system, the S-Max is also a refined, comfortable ride. It irons out all but the worst of rough surfaces and potholes with aplomb. There’s also very little in the way of road, wind, or engine noise seeping through into the cabin, so the S-Max is a great car for long motorway journeys. It’s also great around town, with the chassis feeling much more settled than a lot of rivals.
Gearbox options in the S-Max come in two guises. The most common throughout the range is a six-speed manual transmission, that’s sharp and slick, and a pleasure to use. There’s also a Powershift automatic that’s standard on some models, though optional on most. It’s a pretty impressive auto, and may well be worth considering if you spend a lot of time on motorways.
Good range of strong engines, though not the greenest
When it comes to deciding how you want to power your S-Max, you’ve got the usual two options: petrol, or diesel. There’s a good range of power outputs throughout the range, as well as good fuel efficiency, though there’s no true green option for eco-conscious buyers to get excited about.
If you want to combine the S-Max’s fantastic driving experience with power, the best engine in the range is the petrol-powered 2.0-litre EcoBoost 240. With 240bhp produced, this engine will get you from 0-62mph in just 7.9 seconds. That doesn’t look amazing on paper, but for a car as big and as practical as the S-Max, it feels mightily quick. This performance comes at a price, however, as it’s not the most fuel efficient, nor the greenest option out there.
Indeed, if eco-credentials are your primary concern, you may be disappointed to know that the S-Max falls short of the best in the MPV class. The best option in the range is the diesel-powered 2.0-litre TDCi 150 engine, which produces 129g/km of C02 emissions. Yes, it's green. But, you’ll still be paying £110 a year for road tax, which is a lot more than some rivals. This engine option will, however, save you money on fuel, which will please the money-savers amongst us. With up to 56.5mpg on offer, you can make up for the extra expense of road tax by lower, day-to-day costs at the fuel pumps.
Whichever engine you choose to go for with your S-Max, you’re going to get enough power to cope with those habitual family activities. All can handle themselves in the city, on country roads, and on motorways. There’s enough fuel efficiency to please the money-savers, even if there’s no genuine ecological option.
Full marks in NCAP safety tests, impressive standard equipment
Like nearly every car in its class, the Ford S-Max easily achieved the highest possible 5-star NCAP safety rating. With scores of 87% in adult protection, 87% in child protection, and 79% in pedestrian safety, the S-Max is amongst the best in its class. There’s also the usual array of airbags, though a lack of airbags in the very back seats may disappoint some. Despite this, there’s stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring, automatic city braking, and Isofix mounting points as standard. The S-Max is an MPV that will keep both you and your family safe from harm.
Good value for money, so long as you avoid the cost of new-car depreciation
The Ford S-Max offers family buyers good value for money, though it’s not the best-value in its class. C02 emissions are higher than key competitors, with petrol-powered engines, in particular, being quite expensive to tax, though diesel S-Maxs are still reasonable. Fuel efficiency is, however, quite impressive throughout the range, though once again it’s worth considering diesel power if you really want value for money.
The cost of insurance in the S-Max range depends on which model and trim you choose to go for. It’s roughly the same as competitors, so whilst you won’t be saving lots of money, you won’t be shelling out too much either. The cheapest option to insure in the range is the 2.0-litre TDCi Zetec, which is in group 16, whilst the most expensive is the luxurious, range-topping 2.0-litre TDCi (210) Vignale, which is group 30.
Depreciation is a large factor with the Ford S-Max, but only if you choose to buy from new. With first year depreciation as high as 40%, you’re better off opting for an inspected used equivalent.
The Ford S-Max remains one of the best large family MPVs on sale today. It offers a class-leading driving experience, incredible practicality, and a good range of efficient, powerful engines. It might not have the interior quality of some rivals, but the S-Max really is an incredibly good-looking, solid, family package.
Buying a used Ford S-Max online with Carspring
If you’re after a used Ford S-Max for sale, it can all feel like a bit of an ordeal. What, with long days spent around gigantic car supermarkets, or time spent trawling through classified websites, looking for that ideal used S-Max. Carspring makes it simple. Buy your next used Ford S-Max online with the touch of a button. Simply decide on the model you want and choose how you want to pay.
Looking to finance your used Ford? Not a problem, we work with our carefully selected finance partners to ensure that, if you’re paying monthly for your used Ford S-Max, you know you’re getting the best rates. What’s more, with any Carspring used S-Max, you also get our 14-day money-back guarantee and 6-months free AA Gold Warranty. Plus, you don’t have to leave your home. We’ll deliver your used Ford to you at a time and place of your choice.
*This is an approximate figure based on the range of the car’s list price and the AA’s average 1st-year depreciation cost of 40%.