People carriers have become a less common sight on our roads as SUVs take over the world.
For those with families, though, a people carrier has the edge over an SUV when it comes to practicality, if not style.
That said, Ford’s S-Max has always been something of an outlier. Paired with sharp alloys and a strong body colour, it’s not bad looking at all. More importantly, Ford’s people carriers have always bucked the trend and managed – somehow – to be rather good fun to drive.
The S-Max was updated last year, with a sharper nose and rakish headlights that help disguise its overall van-like shape. The front grille has a shutter that opens and closes when the engine needs air, maximising aerodynamics.
Based on the same platform as the Mondeo, the S-Max is a seven-seater, with a third row of seats that fold up from the floor. They’re fine for children and small adults, which is all many buyers will need them for.
Prices start at £30,200, and my high-spec ST-Line model cost £37,510.
Ford used to offer two petrol engines for the S-Max but ditched them both because nobody bought them. Now choice is limited to two 2.0 litre diesels, a 150hp model or the 190hp version I drove, which was paired with eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s an excellent combination. The autobox moves through the gears seamlessly. You’re not going to beat sports cars away from the lights, but the diesel engine pulls well even when the car’s fully laden.
I drove to Edinburgh and back in it. At motorway speeds it’s very refined indeed, eating up miles with ease. While it’s no hot hatch, it handles much more sharply than a car like this has any right to. Adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking add to comfort and safety.
The interior is similar to the Mondeo, with an adequate but slightly dated touchscreen and lots of clever storage. The middle seats fold and slide in one action, giving easy access to the rear. The middle seats also slide forward to give a bit more legroom in the back. The tailgate’s electric, and buttons in the boot fold each seat flat, creating a load space up to 2,200 litres. With five seats there’s a good 596 litres, and even as a seven-seater it still has 233 litres.
Anyone wanting a refined and fun-to-drive people carrier should look here.
- Model: Ford S-Max
- Price: £37,510
- 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
- Top speed: 128mph
- Economy: 47.9mpg
- CO2 emissions: 151g/km