Review: Ford C-MAX

Decent kit and a pleasing driving experience

29 Oct 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Standard model is well-equipped

  • Great family car

  • Energetic drive

Cons

  • Trim choice is limited

  • Interior can feel cheap

  • Rivals beat it on economy

Our expert rating

The Ford C-Max is a compact Multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) produced since 2003. There are two variants: the C-Max and the Grand C-Max. The more expensive Grand C-Max is a bit bigger and has a taller roofline than the standard car. It also comes with seven seats, so it makes a great school-run machine.

Performance

The Ford C-Max drives with enthusiasm, but the 1.6-litre diesel engine can feel a bit weak. Go for a larger diesel engine or even the EcoBoost petrol, and you will find the power is more evenly spread. These engines also provide abundant overtaking power and good economy.

Rear of Ford-CMAX

Ride and handling

The C-Max handles surprisingly well for an MPV. Its suspension setup dispenses a measured ride over most road surfaces, while the steering is accurate and quick to respond.

Indeed, the Ford feels far more energetic than its external form would suggest.

Comfort isn’t sacrificed, though. The ride quality is excellent and the car’s suspension soaks up most potholes with ease. Wind and road noise levels are well governed too. The overall feeling of protection and room will help keep every passenger happy.

Interior of Ford C-MAX

Interior space

The Ford C-Max offers loads of space in the front and the rear, and the boot space is very good for swallowing all that a family wants to throw in there. Wide-opening doors give the C-Max the fundamental accessibility that makes loading up easy.

The individual rear seats can also be manoeuvred in a variety of ways as well as taken out. In addition, there are many stowage areas throughout the interior.

Boot space of Ford C-MAX

What to know before you buy

On the used market, the C-Max from 2003-2007 has issues with dependability, so you need to give the Ford a good once over before buying. A basic check is easy.

Just look for oil, water or other leaks around the engine, as well as on the ground underneath. If there are seepages anywhere then just walk away - the chances are you will be buying a whole heap of trouble.

If the car looks okay, then check the electronic parking brake. This can give cause for concern because there has been a recall over this. So make sure that any corrective work has been carried out. Similarly, there was a recall on the wiper motor over worries that it could overheat.

Also, watch for misfires on 2.0 diesels and 1.8 petrols, although Ford sorted many under its three-year warranty. Check the car’s history and ask the vendor if the issues have been fixed. You will know the car is misfiring because the engine may shudder or hesitate while you drive.

While accelerating or decelerating, the engine might kick or speed up suddenly, too. If there is any doubt, check online.

What’s more, on early models, there were loads of irritating squeaks inside the cabin, so keep your ears pinned back for them on your test drive.

Alternative cars

Vauxhall’s small MPV, the Meriva is a potential rival, because it feels like a class product - but its cabin isn’t as clever at the Ford C-Max’s.

A more serious contender is the Renault Scenic. The interior of this French made motor isn’t quite up to that of the Ford, but the Scenic is full of family-friendly touches. What’s more, Renaults are pretty cheap on the secondhand market.

Alternative cars to Ford C-MAX - Renault Scenic

Overall verdict

The Ford C-Max fuses practicality and a good cabin with decent kit and a pleasing driving experience. The smaller diesels are a little underpowered but, because it’s so flexible and roomy, it will assuage the needs of most families.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall