S-Max Smacks the Opposition Hard

The Ford S-MAX has been declared Britain's best MPV for the third successive year at the Auto Express New Car Awards.

The S-MAX, which combines sports styling with seven-seat practicality, repeated its 2009 and 2008 success at the top selling weekly motoring magazine's 2010 honours.

Not content with that success, Business Car Manager magazine has given the new Ford S-MAX its best people carrier award.

Launched in 2006 and further enhanced this year, the S-MAX has benefitted from a refreshed exterior and interior, new high-efficiency engines plus enhanced technologies including blind spot alert and adjustable speed limiter.

Auto Express editor-in-chief David Johns said:  "With its eye-catching interior, razor-sharp chassis and adaptable seven-seat cabin, the people carrier benefitted from a thorough overhaul this year.

"A powerful new line-up of EcoBoost petrol engines and revised diesels, as well as an increase in cabin quality, has helped keep the Ford ahead of the game."

Jon Gunn-Smith, Ford large car product manager, said:  "Ford S-MAX's hat-track of wins at the Auto Express New Car Awards is testimony to a car which has redefined the Multi-Purpose Vehicle segment."

Almost 45,000 UK motorists agree with Auto Express and have bought one for themselves - 6,600 have been sold already this year and Tom Croft, Foray Group sales manager, says buyers are clamouring to get into the car across all of the group's eight dealerships.

It's not just the looks and functionality of the Ford S-MAX but also its driving quality that is proving so attractive.  This has been strengthened by the latest model, which includes a 163PS 2.0-litre diesel engine returning almost 50mpg and 203PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine.

Choosing a people carrier has, I always thought, been a case of finding the biggest and best value car, buying it, and slinging the kids in the back.

For families wanting a seven seat cruiser, the emphasis is still very much on the S-MAX and Galaxy.

And when it comes to making their selection, it's not the cheapest S-MAX that attracts them. This is very much a lifestyle car, so buyers are going all out to get the better Titanium and Titanium X trims.

The emphasis with the S-MAX is very much on the sporting, from the styling and handling to the option of powerful petrol engines which, like the diesels, can be linked to the latest Powershift transmissions.

Even those hard-to-please types at Top Gear got excited by the S-MAX, voting it their best big car just after it launched and saying that the car is an MPV that has arrived by the stealth route. The magazine said it provided a welcome refuge for all those who risk feeling emasculated by MPV ownership and that it's a fresher, edgier, more complex proposition. None of that has changed in the intervening years - if anything it has got better.

Certainly a couple with five kids will find the S-MAX extremely practical with its five fold away rear seats. They don't come out but disappear instead into the floor. Unless you want your MPV to double as a van then it's a very elegant solution that saves lugging heavy seats about. And, of course, you always have them with you so it's easy to swap from load to people carrying.

The 2.0 TDCi engine is a belter in either 140 bhp or 163 bhp form, but there is also a 115 bhp version or a 175 bhp 2.2 litre diesel. My choice is the 140 bhp with the Powershift transmission and I can say that with confidence - I've just ordered one for myself!

                                                                                                Maurice Hardy

Although the Ford S-MAX is not so imposing in terms of dimensions when parked alongside the Galaxy, which shares much of its architecture, there's very little difference in the overall load space volume.

While the Galaxy will manage 2,300 litres of luggage as a two seater, the S-MAX will swallow an impressive 2,000 litres, which is more than enough for many people. And there are impressive extras and accessories available that make the load area extremely flexible should you want to carry things like bikes inside the car.

As a five seater, the S-MAX has plenty of space as the centre row of three individual seats can be slid right back, giving plenty of kneeroom. When you want to carry seven people, the centre row's position can be adjusted to give decent legroom in the third row unless you are only carrying small children there.

The fascinating thing about the S-MAX is the driving pleasure it brings, leaving aside. It handles beautifully and although you are always aware you are sitting in a MPV you are not aware you are driving one. That's the secret of this car's success and no other MPV matches it.

                                                                                                Annette Hardy

Car: Ford S-MAX Titanium 2.0 TDCi Powershift

Does it fit your ego...

0-60 mph: 10.5 secs

Top speed: 120 mph

Bhp: 140 @ 3750 rpm

Torque: 236 lb ft @ 1750 - 2750 rpm

...and your wallet...

Price: call your nearest Foray dealership for the latest deals

Urban: 38.2 mpg

Extra urban: 54.3 mpg

Combined: 47.1 mpg

CO2 emissions: 159 g/km

Insurance Group (50 Group system): 19

Best bits: sensational packaging; best-disguised MPV there is; driving fun.