03:01PM, Friday 07 February 2020
With 14 years of history behind it, it would be fair to expect that the Ford S-MAX has been dislodged from the top of its game.
But truth it still punches above its weight in the MPV sector. We’ve had two S-MAX Titanium models in the past and currently drive a Ford Galaxy but our lease is up soon and it’s time to look for a replacement.
Poor deals on S-MAX last time we renewed and unbeatable deals on Galaxy persuaded us to switch although we also thought S-MAX ride quality had deteriorated when it was last upgraded in late 2015. Unlike previous tinkering that had left the body shape the same, the ninth anniversary revisions brought subtle but significant changes to the body structure (such as accommodation for a spare wheel which puzzlingly is now deleted, becoming a possible deal breaker) and also to ride which we felt had too much edge to it so no longer smooth.
But in making the judgment over whether we should go back to S-MAX or reluctantly abandon the Ford MPVs altogether we found that the very latest S-MAX has much to recommend it, with Ford’s programme of rolling revisions and upgrades giving even the more overtly sporting ST-Line a compliant ride.
It probably also helped that the car was equipped with the £2,500 Lux pack which brings 10 way powered and heated driver and front passenger seats, along with heating for the steering wheel and a handsfree tailgate. The seats were cosseting and superb and while we won’t be ordering the ST-Line we might be lining ourselves up for the Titanium with Lux pack because old age and stiff hands, plus the effects of a motorbike crash half a century ago, dictate a car with powered rather than manual seat adjustment.
Some people might consider an MPV with sporting pretensions a bit of an anachronism but the ST-Line really delivers seating for seven in comfort and style without detriment to Ford’s renowned fine handling. The Titanium would suit us but anyone who likes their driving time to be entertaining will prefer the ST-Line. It has few, if any, equals in the UK MPV market. It’s a real shame that drivers are turning their backs on this body shape in favour of far less practical SUVs, which have the bulk without the interior capacity.
Our Galaxy will swallow as much as a small van with the rear seats stowed in the floor while the S-MAX offers, at 2,020 litres, about 300 litres less. However as we’ve never filled the Galaxy to the roof and can get everything for a long holiday in the boot under the load cover it’s unlikely to be an issue – the volume difference only exists because the S-MAX roof has a lower profile.
Our test car used the 190 PS version of Ford’s 2.0 EcoBlue turbodiesel coupled with the latest automatic eight speed gearbox. This replaces the old Powershift DSG box on all our Ford MPVs until now and is a vast improvement. Shift quality is much better, ironing out ratio changes more capably than the DSG, which sometimes gives a jolt and can be reluctant to engage and pull away when cold. With its torque converter rather than twin clutches – the old technology has turned out to be the best – there shouldn’t be any issues on this score.
If we order S-MAX, it will have the lesser, 150 PS, version of the engine - more than enough for a car of this size. It should also discourage a heavy right foot although our 180 PS Galaxy has averaged 42.5 mpg over the entire 23,500 miles we have driven it. It’s likely to get several thousand more under its wheels before it departs.
The driving seat has always been a pleasant environment in these cars, more so in the latest models with their twist-knob gear selector and even clearer touch screen and other controls. There are sufficient electronic aids to make light work of the task at hand but nothing too intrusive.
It’s amazing that after all this time another mainstream maker has yet to come up with a car vastly better than these Fords.
Car: Ford S-MAX ST-Line 2.0 EcoBlue 190PS eight speed automatic
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 9.5 secs
Top speed: 129 mph
Torque: 400 Nm
...and your wallet...
Combined: 38.7 – 46.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 138 g/km
Best bits: can any MPV do it better?