Review: Ford S-Max

A fine-driving MPV

26 Feb 16 Tim Barnes-Clay


  • Comfortable

  • Stylish and practical

  • 7 seats


  • Pricey compared to rivals

  • Not as efficient as rivals

  • Interior quality can feel cheap

Our expert rating

Ford’s S-Max is a multi-purpose-vehicle (MPV) that has been on the roads of the UK for an unbelievable ten years now.

It’s amazing that used versions still looks so fresh. Indeed, the S-Max is one of the most handsome and finest driving family-wagons around.


The masculine looking MPV has an assembly of diesel and petrol engines, with the budget buy being the 35mpg 2.0 petrol. There are 2.3 and 2.5 petrols, but these are fairly expensive to run. The best blend of efficiency and power comes in the shape of the 2.0 litre diesel.

As long as you get the one with a 140bhp state of tune it will return up to 44mpg on an average run. Following just behind this is the 2.2 diesel, tweaked to 175bhp. This is a touch more expensive to buy, but it’s rapid and will still do 42mpg. Road tax on both these cars is £205 per year.

All The S-Max’s come with a smooth-shifting manual gearbox, but an equally slick auto ‘box can be found on both aforementioned diesel models.

Ford S-Max

Ride and handlingAll S-Max’s ride fantastically, and comfort is good due to supportive seats. There is hardly any body roll, which isn’t surprising, given the MPV’s sporty suspension set-up. This doesn’t impact in any negative way, though, as the car soaks up lumps and bumps.

The Ford is even more refined on the straights at 70mph, with road and wind noise kept to the bare minimum. You wouldn’t normally think of a people-carrying ‘mum and dad machine’ as being an entertaining car behind the wheel. Yet, it is.

The steering is positively weighted and the S-Max feels planted at ordinary road speeds. It also has a good turning circle, which means throwing a U-turn is simple. On the safety side of things, a top five-star score from Euro NCAP makes the Ford a secure place for you and your little ones. Standard kit includes seven airbags and ISOFIX mounts for child seats.

Ford S-Max interior

Interior space

The S-Max is a talented car when it comes to space. It has seven seats, but really the extra two in the third row are only of any use for small kids. No adult will want to sit for any length of time in them because they aren’t proper sized and are virtually on the ground.

This means any adult will find their knees up by their ears. Head and legroom is very good, with three individual proper rear seats that ratchet back and forth and tilt backwards.

Practicality is as you would expect in a car made for a family. There are cubbies and trays, as well as pockets in the doors to keep all sorts of bits and pieces, or bottles of water and packs of tissues in.

Boot space is limited to a couple of bags if the car is maxed-out with seven occupants, but the rear two seats can be folded to form part of the boot floor once capacity has lessened. Drop them and room balloons to 854 litres. This is more than enough for a largish family’s needs.

Ford S-Max boot

Certainly, it’s large enough to load in shopping bags around your tot’s buggy. Handy if you give a fellow parent and her child - along with her kid’s buggy, a lift to the nursery. And if you don’t want any rear seat passengers at all, but you need to transport a large piece of furniture, then fold both rear rows down and you have a van-like 2,000 litres of space.

When it comes to trim level, the mid-range Zetec is plenty. It comes with a leather-trimmed gear lever and steering wheel as well as electric windows all around, and climate control.

What to know before you buy

The S-Max has no real issues. However, it’s wise to scrutinise the interior. Don’t forget, this is a vehicle that will have had kids teeming all over it, so look out for loose trim, as well as seat materials that haven’t worn well.

That said, the Ford is a well screwed together machine and it’s very reliable under the bonnet.

Ford S-MAX alternative

Alternative cars

All MPV rivals have good safety, but the smaller Ford Grand C-Max is particularly worth looking at. It drives almost as well as the S-Max and has seven seats. Its boot space is only 92 litres with the all seats in position, though.

Another competitor is the Citroen C4 with a 537 litre load area. The S-Max with its 285 litres of space sounds a bit miserly in comparison, but keep in mind this is with all seven seats up. The Renault Scenic is worth a look, too.

This is inexpensive to buy and has 437 litres of boot space.

Overall verdict

The Ford S-Max is the MPV to opt for if you really don’t want to succumb to the less attractive parent-mobiles. Ford has certainly made sure this is still the best looking model out of the army of MPVs on the market.

That’s why the S-Max is so popular and, because of this, it’s not always easy to come by on the secondhand market. Be patient, though, and a good car will float to the surface.

You’ll be glad you waited, because there are very few such fine-driving MPVs in existence.

Expert review



Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money


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