Road test: Don’t pump up the volume – MAX it!

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Ford's spacious C-MAX


Some of us like roomy cars, even when we don’t want to buy big ones.

So what’s the answer? Buying a car with the footprint of a family hatchback yet the volume of a much larger car seems like a confusion of thoughts but clear your mind and it’s an entirely practical and achievable approach.

For instance, the Ford C-MAX takes millimetres more space than a Ford Focus yet stands much taller. It literally pumps up the volume within an almost identical footprint and that’s great news if you want expanded load space. As a two seater, load volume is almost 40 per cent greater in the C-MAX and in everyday terms there’s more headroom. That’s not to denigrate the Focus, of course, because sales numbers show that it’s exactly the formula many buyers want.

However, there are always those who want more and the C-MAX is a great response while its sister Grand C-MAX brings seven seats to the party along with another 100 litres of load space as a two seater while only increasing in length by 14 cms.

Great news at the moment is that Ford is offering both C-MAX and Grand C-MAX in its scrappage programme.

Trade in a dirtier-running car made before December 31, 2009 and you’re guaranteed a £2,000 allowance on top of the current £2,500 buyer incentive available to anyone who walks through the showroom door. With 0% interest finance as well, it makes managing the costs of motoring far easier and it’s easy to see why so many travel the PCP route when buying a new car of any make.

With the support of the manufacturer’s warranty to deal with any major issues that might arise, costs run to an annual service, maybe some tyres, tax, insurance, and fuel. All these can be budgeted and the alarming risk of sudden huge repair bills on older cars avoided. As millions of motorists have decided, what’s not to like?

As regular drivers of a Ford Galaxy, we thought it would be interesting to see how the C-MAX compares. Our regular steer has the 180 bhp 2.0 TDCi diesel engine and six speed Powershift automated manual gearbox. For the C-MAX ride, we chose a Titanium trim car with the 1.5 litre TDCi 120 bhp unit from Edwards Ford in Salisbury but again with a six speed Powershift box.

Perhaps the only change we would make is to move up to a Titanium X C-MAX with its powered driver’s seat to make reconfiguring easier for each driver. However, to most people that wouldn’t be essential.

The latest C-MAX looks much like the previous one, but the frontal styling is neater. But as we have found in the past, what looks much the same outside can be vastly different inside or under the skin. Revised electronics make the C-MAX a delight to drive and the fascia has the right combination of screens and buttons to make everyday driving a doddle, especially with the SYNC3 system that makes communicating with the car and using your phone handsfree straightforward.

An admirable feature of Ford’s brochures is a clear explanation that smaller wheels with larger tyres equate with a smoother ride. Standard kit would be 16 inch wheels with 55 profile tyres on a C-MAX Zetec while the Titanium and Titanium X get 17 inch items with 50 profile tyres. Optional on both is an 18 inch wheel with 40 profile tyres but the 17 inch items give just the right blend of handling and ride quality.

Our test car also featured the family pack option, which brings integrated sun blinds in the rear doors, front and rear reading lights, seatback trays, and 230 volt/150 watt power converter, an option we wish we’d had on our Galaxy. With so many gadgets requiring power these days, and things like laptops in particular sensitive to the right power source, using a conventional three pin outlet and the computer’s own power lead eliminates the risk of overpowering the hard drive.

After our 180 bhp Galaxy, we thought the one third drop in power with the C-MAX might be a problem and while it obviously has lesser performance the difference is immaterial. With a responsive throttle and familiarly smooth gear changes, the C-MAX is still interesting to drive. And, of course, the drop in power and size brings a welcome saving at the fuel pumps.

So it is possible to max your car without maxing the bills or parking space. The C-MAX formula proves how well it works.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 13.4 secs

Top speed: 111 mph

PS: 120 @ 3600 rpm

Torque: 300 Nm @ 1750 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £25,045

Combined: 67.3 mpg

CO2 emissions: 109 g/km

Best bits: Tardis effect brings maximum benefits

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