Space and Style to the MAX

Our weekly motoring magazine dropped on the doormat with the cover proclaiming "Stunning new S-MAX; at last a people carrier to own with pride".

That would normally be interesting but on this occasion it could have been alarming - we were just about to head into town to order our replacement S-MAX as the three year lease on our current one came towards it end.

There's nothing wrong with the current S-MAX - in fact it's still winning awards seven years after its launch - and if there was, we wouldn't be getting another. That same magazine also rates it best among all seven seat MPVs from which you can choose, as does the Sunday Times. What Car? rates it the best used MPV. The next generation looks much like the current S-MAX so our new chariot, resplendent in pearlescent candy red, won't look out of date before its time.

Three years with the S-MAX would have been too long for us to endure one car in the past but this is such a consummate MPV that it has remained inviting.

Our S-MAX has never had the third row of seats put up except to clean underneath them except to try them in the interests of science which revealed they are a pretty good place to sit. This car is a cavernous family model so even if you only ever use five seats you'll love it. Everyone who has travelled in it has revelled in the comfort and a 2,000 mile trip with five adults, loads of luggage, and a roof box was accomplished with no strain.

Our Powershift 138 bhp 2.0 diesel car averaged 37.5 mpg on that run but over the three years we've driven it the economy has steadily improved from 39.5 mpg to 43 mpg as we prepare to part with it. For such a large and capable car, that's a really good result.

We ticked a few things on the options list - electric handbrake and heated, power assisted memory front seats - and we ticked the same boxes for the next car, along with the pearlescent paint.

The S-MAX makes sense for us, retired with the kids long flown the nest, because its easy entry and egress saves a lot of bending and stretching about. In Titanium trim it also has cruise control and a speed limiter to make it the perfect long distance drive.

While it's capacious, it doesn't feel as if it's big. It handles well, too, with a serene ride, those seven comfortable individual seats, and great visibility making it a car to be appreciated. The rear five seats fold into the floor individually so they are always there when you need them, out of the way if you don't

Along with its great comfort and economy, it has also delivered good reliability. The engine has never stopped when it wasn't meant to and apart from a couple of glitches with an interior light not wanting to talk to the courtesy light system nothing of any consequence has happened.

Even its tyre consumption has been excellent. The first front set lasted for 21,000 miles but a switch to a different tyre brought a slightly increased wear rate so replacement came at 38,000 miles. But the rear tyres lasted 31,000 miles and the new ones look hardly worn at all. It's those details that help add up to economical motoring.

Car: Ford S-MAX Titanium 140PS Powershift

Does it fit your ego...

0-62 mph: 10.9 secs

Top speed: 119 mph

Bhp: 138 @ 3750 rpm

Torque: 236 lb ft @ 1750 - 2750 rpm

...and your wallet...

Price: £27,405

Combined: 47.1 mpg

CO2 emissions: 159 g/km

Insurance Group: 19

Best bits: it's big; it feels small.