Ford is becoming increasingly well known for delivering cutting edge technology to cars right across their range, not just those at the top end.
With features like Park-Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control now available to the masses, they’re setting the benchmark for others to follow. Imagine a world one day without reversing into shopping trolleys at the supermarket or roadside midnight tyre changes?
Take the Sat-Nav on the Ford S-Max, it will automatically recalculate your route should there be a hold up on the road ahead, and let you know when it thinks you have been at the wheel for too long and should take a break. But therein could lie a problem.
The excitement of the unknown is in danger of being replaced by efficiency and predictability.
Of course all safety improvements should be applauded, but I have great memories of driving through the French countryside in search of that ever-elusive campsite, armed only with a baguette, a well worn phrase book and a bad sense of direction.
Once there, I can image cars of the future will wind down the window and offer helpful advice on pitching tents while you struggle to erect the poles in a thunderstorm.
Although actually.. if I think about it, had we owned an S-Max instead of our bashed up Austin Ambassador I might have had more memories of the French girl I met when we finally did arrive, so maybe progress is good.
The S-Max (Titanium) we tested is officially a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), it doesn’t have the HUGE expanse of space of the Ford Galaxy, but it does do a great job of coping with the demands of a big family. It also has the refinement to prevent you feeling like you are driving a minibus.
The rear two seats would be a tad squashed if you were all rugby players, but are big enough for older kids, and provided you don’t have huge amounts of luggage you will all get there in comfort.
There are 32 different seating combinations, lots of space for your surf boards and camping gear or, (more likely) old fridges down to the local tip.
What I think slightly edges the S-max above most cars of this type is that although it’s a long-ish car, for the most part it doesn’t FEEL long when driving. It’s only really when you park and it’s sticking out of the bay are you reminded of it’s size.
The responsive steering and perky engine do a great job of keeping your brain on the front part, and considering we tested the 1.6 version, it still had a fair amount of power and acceleration. Although if you were looking for something to tow a caravan, one of the 2.0 litre or 2.2 litre options might be better suited (there is a choice of petrol and diesel versions with automatic and manual gearbox).
The latest PowerShift six-speed, double-clutch automatic transmission is more fuel efficient and works smoothly up and down the gearbox while the start / stop engine system reduces emissions while stationary by cutting the engine.
The 160PS Ecoboost engine, produces a very reasonable (for its size) 159 g/km of CO2 and a figure of 41.5 mpg (Combined).
0–60mph takes an unhurried 9.8 secs it’s not the hare, but with a top speed of 127 mph and a potential tank range of 639 miles it still might win the race.
I especially like the radar warning system a number of manufacturers are implementing now. Should another car enter the blind spot on either side of the S-Max a small warning light on the wing mirror will indicate it’s presence. It works really well and I am sure it prevents a large number of collisions where people look, but don’t really LOOK.
The car is very quiet on the motorway and will cruise along nicely with barely any audible outside noise, so quiet you can even have a conversation with your passengers. Or listen to the radio. Aesthetically it’s one of the better looking cars in its class, and the new style S-Max is lower, leaner and meaner looking than previous incarnations.
Inside the dashboard is nicely arranged and the seating position is good with great all round visibility. The touch screen system is clear and intuitive and even the most technophobic fingers will have little trouble getting to grips with it.
The interior finish and trim is of a high standard and there are some great millennium falcon type underfloor storage compartments. While these may be unsuitable for smuggling droids out of Tatooine, they are good for keeping your laptop out of view.
The one thing that puzzles me though is the handbrake. It’s more like the thruster handle from a Boeing 747 than a handbrake. It is sort of cool, but did it really need to be so big? It’s huge!
The S-max faces stiff competition in this class from the excellent Seat Alhambra and with prices starting from £22,295 for the 1.6 Zetec is slightly cheaper.
The model we tested had a lovely Panorama Roof, Alcantara/Leather Seats, 18″ 5-Spoke Alloy Wheels, Bi-Xenon Headlights, Keyless Entry with Power fold mirrors and the Touch Screen navigation previously mentioned, pushing the price to around the £30k mark.
Of course you could always try to relive your youth and get one without a sat-nav and all the extras. You would save a few quid, but I wonder if one day your kids would thank you for it?
For more info visit