The exterior of a blue Ford S-Max

Ford S-Max review

Space is the Ford S-MAX's forte with seven seats and a huge boot. Yet despite its size, the S-MAX is surprisingly enjoyable to drive with great body control and a smooth ride.

Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Spacious and flexible interior
  • Very economical diesel engines

Cons

  • Petrol models aren’t the most fuel-efficient
  • It isn’t the most reliable people carrier
  • Designed with some low-grade plastics

Summary

“A practical people carrier that’s a great joy to drive.”

The Ford S-MAX gives you the best of both worlds; an impressive ride and enough space to fit in the kids, their friends and all their football kit. The Sport S-MAX is particularly stylish with design details that make it look less like an MPV (multi purpose vehicle) and more like a sleek oversized hatchback.

There’s a wide range of models, including the slightly sporty-looking ST-Line and the luxurious Vignale, so there’s plenty to choose from. All are very well equipped with touchscreen infotainment, flexible seating, luggage space solutions and lots of safety kit.

Both the petrol and diesel engines help to make the S-MAX surprisingly fun to drive and budget-friendly to buy and run.

The exterior of a blue Ford S-Max

What’s the interior like?

“Inside the S-MAX, you’ll find that it’s spacious, versatile and well equipped.”

The S-MAX features digital instrumentation and a SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system which is easy to use. SYNC is Ford’s own system which allows you to do things like make phone calls and control music using voice commands. If you’d like sat nav, then choose the Titanium trim or above.

There’s a lot of plastic but it’s broken up by contrasting trim inserts, while the overall interior looks and feels of decent quality.

The driving position is excellent, but it’s all about space and flexibility. All seats are individual and allow you to move them forwards and backwards or even fold them all down to fit in a small wardrobe-sized load. 

There’s loads of space for the middle row passengers who can adjust their legroom, but space in the third row is compromised slightly by the sloping roofline. This will only be an issue for adults on long journeys though. There’s also plenty of storage up front and throughout the interior for all your everyday essentials.

Boot space with all the seats in place is 285 litres, which will hold a few small suitcases. If you fold the third row down you’ll have 700 litres which is enough for four large suitcases. If you put all the seats down, the boot space expands to an impressive 2,020 litres which is great for loading up your bike or a large piece of furniture.

The interior of a Ford S-Max with steering wheel and dashboard in shot

What’s it like to drive?

“The S-MAX is fun to drive, even during short local trips.”

With its great steering and driving position, the S-MAX handles twisty roads as well as it handles the school run. Its suspension copes well with a wide range of road surfaces and feels remarkably well-composed. It cruises comfortably on the motorway over long distances and is just as good on a country drive. 

It has a good range of petrol and diesel engines. The diesels are the most popular and all have excellent fuel consumption. Most use a PowerShift automatic gearbox which is easier to use in traffic. All-wheel drive is available on the top spec models which is great for winter months but less fuel efficient. EcoBoost petrols aren’t as popular because of their lower fuel consumption but will suit those who want smoother performance or do lots of urban driving.

The exterior of a blue Ford S-Max

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“Great value for money with very efficient diesel engines.”

You’ll pay more for the diesels because of their popularity but they'll also save you money in the long run. Prices are generally a bit higher than the larger Ford Galaxy, again because of their popularity and the amount of equipment.

Diesel models are the most efficient delivering average mpg figures in the mid-50s compared with mid-30s and 40s for the petrols. The diesels can also travel 6,000 miles more between services than the EcoBoost models. Ford servicing costs are generally very competitive so, along with comparatively low insurance costs, the S-MAX should be friendly to your budget in the long run.

Badge shot of the Ford S-Max

How reliable and safe is it?

“Plenty of technology to keep you and your family safe on the road.”

The S-MAX doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, but apart from a few recalls that should have been fixed during regular servicing, most of the issues are relatively minor.

Safety levels are excellent with the S-MAX getting a full five stars from Euro NCAP. There are loads of airbags, including for the third row occupants, and lots of electronic systems. Depending on the model or options, you might find adaptive cruise control or the clever speed limiter which reads traffic signs to make sure you don’t exceed the speed limit.

Engine shot of the Ford S-Max

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - 2.0 TDCi 150

Best for family - 2.0 TDCi 180 Titanium

Best for fun - 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium

All models are well equipped but if you want cruise control and sat nav, then you’ll need to look at Titanium trim. Have a look at the entry-level Zetec as you may find one that had optional extras added when new.

The petrol engines are quiet and smooth. The 240 hp EcoBoost will definitely suit those looking for a bit of extra performance. However, the diesels are going to give you the best fuel economy and are the most popular choice, especially for those who regularly pack in the family and head off on adventures.

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