It might not be able to out-accelerate its sporty 2.5-litre petrol derivative, but the Ford’s 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi engine suits the S-Max perfectly. There’s a gargantuan 295lb ft of torque available between 1750 and 2750rpm. Such a wide spread of grunt across the rev range means that the lofty Ford will pull away seamlessly whether you’ve just changed gear or you’re halfway towards the redline, so overtaking is utterly effortless. A 0-60 time of nine seconds flat is equally no mean feat for a car that weighs 1802kg, and it won’t top out until it hits 132mph. The S-Max truly is a quick family car.
Save for the Mazda 5, no MPV comes close to the S-Max in the handling stakes. The chassis is robust and the damping is excellent. Steer clear of the option of bigger alloy wheels and stiffer suspension, as these make for an upskittled and uncomfortable ride. If it’s purely a tight ride you’re after then the smaller Fords, such as the Mondeo and the Focus, may be a better option, as the S-Max suffers from body roll due to it’s sheer size – it’s 1658mm tall – and the more compact cars to come out of Dagenham offer bags of space. But if you need the extra seats then the S-Max will entertain better than anything else on the road.
Ford has come a long way from its cheap ‘n’ cheerful status but a few years ago. The brand is now renowned for its exceptional use of materials and attractive “human interface” dashboards. The S-Max is certainly no exception, as the soft touch plastics and silver centre console make for a comfortable and pleasant place to be, particularly on lengthy journeys. Watch out for leaking from models fitted with the panoramic glass roofs and make sure that early 2006 models went in for the recall to cure an earthing fault. There are few other problems though, so don’t expect too much trouble during ownership.
Few cars will offer as much protection for those inside than the big Ford. A Euro NCAP score of five for occupant safety and four for child safety is top notch and you’ll always be safe in the knowledge that’s it’s a reasonably bulky car. Anti-lock brakes and electronic brake distribution are on hand should you need to stop in an emergency and all S-Maxs benefit from a total of nine airbags, which include driver’s knee airbags and curtain airbags for the front and rear seats. All models also get front foglamps for better visibility in naff weather and a perimeter and volume sensing anti-theft device to keep it in one place overnight.
The S-Max shares the bulkier Galaxy’s seating layout, which is known as the fold flat system. In short, this means that there are multiple seating arrangements and, more importantly, there’s no need to haul out all of the seats if you want to access the van-like flat load space – simply fold all the seats down and you get the benefits of a whopping 2000 litres of boot space. What’s more, the middle seat bench slides back and forth to strike the right balance of legroom depending on who or what you happen to be transporting at the time. The high driving position and wide cabin means that there’s no shortage of room in the front, either.
Seven-seat MPVs aren’t really in favour with many buyers at the moment thanks to the current trend for buying a smaller car. But a fast, smooth, spacious and comfy MPV with as many goodies as the S-Max is inevitably going to be worth more than the huge array of lesser people carriers on the market. Expect an average of 42.8mpg – not bad for a lofty car – and 54.3mpg when cruising. The government’s recent recall of the crippling emissions-based tax hikes means that the big Ford will cling to its value even more.