Early Christmas as Ford maxes the value

Everyone likes the idea of a bargain, and what better way to celebrate Christmas a bit early than courtesy of your Foray Group dealer.

There's great news for families contemplating car purchase because until December 31, or earlier if the limited stocks are sold, buyers can take advantage of some seriously good offers on the Ford C-MAX and C-MAX Grand that could see them saving much more than a grand in cash.

For a start, qualifying cars all come with £500 off the list price but in addition many have option packs fitted worth up to £700 and no charge is being made for them at all. Starting the run-up to Christmas by owning a new car and knowing that you could be up to £1,200 better off than if you waited until the New Year has to be a good idea.

There are other ways in which a new car makes sense - there's the warranty to cover unexpected repair costs, extra fuel efficiency from more modern designs, and the possibility that you may not even have to buy a set of tyres while you own the car. Buying new and selling the car at 24 months of age has its attractions.

But is the C-MAX or C-MAX Grand good enough to tempt you? As the owner of an S-MAX seven seater I was particularly interested to see how the seven seat C-MAX Grand stacks up and the immediate impression was very good. It didn't tarnish over several hundred miles of motoring, either.

You may think it curious that I opted to test a 1.6 petrol C-MAX but the reality is that many private buyers still choose petrol rather than diesel to avoid the higher purchase price. If you don't do too many miles, the figures stack up well.

My car was averaging more than 40 mpg on a run, comparing more than favourably with my diesel S-MAX. I liked the compactness of the C-MAX Grand because it is slightly narrower and obviously shorter although at 1,742 litres its load area is only 258 litres shy of the S-MAX.

The test car was the Zetec, the starter model in the range at £19,295, but it felt pretty good to me. I'd be tempted to spend another £1,300 on the Titanium, though, to get such delights as cruise control which I love for both its ability to lift economy through its steady pace and to keep your speed down to avoid licence points.

One thing that struck me about the C-MAX Grand was the smooth ride - the wheelbase is long enough to give it a quality glide over most roads. But it handles well, without too much wallow, although if you want serious performance you'll need the 2.0 TDCi diesel or the 1.6 litre petrol Ecoboost, the ultimate seriously quick yet economical C-MAX.

When I first saw the C-MAX and its Grand sibling I wasn't too sure of the styling. But both cars have grown on me with the Grand making the biggest impression. But then, with a name like that, I suppose it would. Maurice Hardy

One of the things that should attract family buyers to the C-MAX and C-MAX grand is that they obtained five star ratings under the tougher EURO Ncap safety tests.

The cars come liberally equipped with air bags and other safety systems and gained the highest score ever for whiplash protection. They also do pretty well at protecting pedestrians thanks to the high bonnet line, special wiper system, and soft outer panels for the bulkhead below the windscreen.

Something I really liked was the rear access, thanks to sliding doors that don't need power assistance to make them easy to use. They just glide so effortlessly. But I also loved the power tailgate on our test car - a quick blip of the button on the remote and it was rising on its hinges. Press a button in the bottom edge and it shuts again.

You can have all the luxury features you like, but give me a roomy car with a power tailgate and I'm your friend for life. Annette Hardy

Car: Ford C-MAX Grand 1.6 Zetec

Does it fit your ego... 0-62 mph: 12.3 secs Top speed: 115 mph Bhp: 124 @ 3600 rpm Torque: 118 lb ft @ 1750 - 2500 rpm

...and your wallet... Price: £19,295 Urban: 31.7 mpg Extra urban: 49.6 mpg Combined: 40.9 mpg CO2 emissions: 159 g/km Insurance Group: 13

Best bits: sensible; stylish; spacious.