New Ford C-Max first drive

Ford C-Max Families are about to feel more financial ‘heat’ with the increase in domestic energy prices which increases the pressure on family budgets.

One of the major items in the family budget is the cost of motoring. If we cannot reduce the size of our family vehicle we can at least downsize the size of engine to save fuel and tax costs.

Ford has such a model, their five seater C-Max MPV people carrier, a seven seater Grand C-Max is also available, powered by their award winning tiny 1.0-litre, 99bhp Ecoboost turbocharged petrol engine with CO2 levels at a low 117g/km, the same as their more expensive to buy 1.6-litre turbodiesel model.

With emissions that low the VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then only £30 for the second year onwards. Should the 1.0-litre C-Max be a company car then the Benefit-in-Kind tax rate is just 15% against the 18% for 1.6 diesel. The 1.0-litre’s fuel economy figures look low cost as well with an official Combined Cycle figure of 55.4mpg, but that is short of the 1.6 diesel which is 62.8mpg.

I have recently had a longer driving spell in the C-Max five door, five seater MPV fitted with the 1.0-litre 99bhp petrol engine, with auto start/stop and a six-speed manual gearbox with Titanium specification. This model costs £19,345. The same spec model but with the 1.6-litre TDCi 114bhp turbodiesel unit costs £20,345 so there is a £1,000 saving to spend on petrol.

Ford C-Max If more seats are needed then the Grand C-Max which will accommodate up to seven people will add around £1,400 to the price of its comparable five seat version.

No matter which C-Max model, standard or Grand, petrol or diesel a customer chooses all versions are loaded with Ford’s ECOnetic technologies to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and lower overall cost of ownership. Not just easy on the pocket they are big on safety as befits family transport with Ford’s Intelligent Protection System and they are smart with options that include automatic lights/wipers and park assist. In short most families have enough financial concerns balancing motoring costs with their budgets to run a home, educate their children and so on, the last thing they need to worry about is the safety of their family transport.

The C-Max is an MPV or ‘people carrier’, but in reality it feels, handles and drives like a family hatchback, a Ford Focus in fact on which it is based. With an elevated seating layout, higher roof, large windows, wide opening side doors, versatile and easy to use folding seats and a huge boot, it meets our motoring needs and it looks good as well as it is no van with windows!

The three individual rear seats easily slide fore/aft and fold independently. There is no fuss in making changes to the seating layout. With all the seats in use there are still 471-litres of boot space. With the rear seats folded this goes up to a huge 1,723-litres so not only is it a versatile vehicle for family use it easily doubles up as a business user’s workhorse if required.

Ford C-Max Ford C-Max The facia and instrument layout is like most modern Fords, just scaled from range to range to fit. I always find the centre fascia section above the gearlever too ‘busy’ with confusing switches and the information screen is very small and mounted too far away from the driver within the facia panel. However the driving position is first rate and the range of adjustment of the steering column and the driver’s seat means it will be suitable for any height/size of driver, an important requirement where family transport is concerned.

So the C-Max is commendable for packaging and the array of new fuel saving technologies is equally impressive. We have the EcoBoost direct injection turbocharged petrol and Duratorq TDCi turbodiesel engines to choose from and the option for some with the Powershift dual clutch efficient auto gearbox. Other efficiency items include Auto Start-Stop, regenerative battery charging, electronic power steering which requires less engine power, Ford’s active grille shutter which improves aerodynamics, Eco mode indicator showing the driver when they are driving economically and there is an optimum gear indicator as well.

In addition the latest technology options include driver alert, traffic sign alert, active city stop emergency braking, active city park, power tailgate, lane keeping alert and blind spot indicator plus lots of goodies which do nothing to reduce motoring costs, they are just nice to have.

The Titanium level of specification is generally one of the most popular in the Ford line-up of models. For the C-Max it includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, ambient lighting in the front compartment, cruise control with speed limiter, hill start assist, Ford’s Easy Fuel mistake proof refuelling system, pushbutton start, electric windows and door mirrors, Sony DAB radio/CD system, Ford SYNC with emergency assist and Bluetooth, air con, heated front screen, tyre deflation warning (no spare wheel I’m afraid) and full range of front/side airbags.

The C-Max as a family transport package is hard to beat. It has all the specification and safety equipment, it’s roomy and with lots of carrying space, it’s easy to drive, handles really well, has a comfortable ride with very little body-roll to upset passengers and it’s easy to park. It is also good-looking so that has considerable appeal as well for style conscious owners.

That’s the niceties of the C-Max over but how does a tiny 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine with just 99bhp cope with the real task in hand, that of providing acceptable and safe performance?

Ford C-Max Ford C-Max The performance figures say it all, 108mph, not really an important figure but the acceleration time to 62mph takes 12.6 seconds, on the face of it not slow but that is in ideal conditions with only the driver on board. Load it up with the family and baggage and ‘clutter’ and the performance falls away and it feels sluggish on hills as well. The turbocharged direct injection engine is quite responsive at low to mid range speeds due to the 125lb ft of torque from around 2,000rpm but the six-speed gearbox needs to be well used to keep the engine in its ‘happy’ power band on winding and hilly roads. It will cruise quite easily at 70mph on motorways without showing signs of distress but be aware cruising at those speeds will harm the fuel economy as the little engine works hard. As an example of this I saw the test vehicle drop 5mpg whilst cruising at 70mph on a motorway journey when compared to driving at 50mph on country and slower on urban roads. This gave an overall average of just 40mpg rather than the official 55.4mpg. Small engines look good on paper but they have to work harder in real life and that can destroy the official fuel economy figures.

There is also a 123bhp version of this 1.0-litre turbo engine in the range which will give a little more performance whilst the official fuel economy figures and CO2 emissions are the same as its 99bhp version I tested. It costs £500 more to buy but it will be worth it if petrol power is your choice. Best of all I’d still go for the 1.6-litre TDCi turbodiesel, it costs £1,000 more for the same Titanium spec, it will do more mpg in real life, has the same road tax costs and it’s a little faster for acceleration. However BIK company car tax and insurance costs are slightly higher, but it’s a better all-round performer over higher mileages.

MILESTONES: Ford C-Max 1.0T Ecoboost 100PS Titanium 5-Door mid-sized MPV. Price: £19,345. Engine/transmission: 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol, 99bhp, 125lb ft of torque @ 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 108mph, 0-62mph 12.6 seconds, 55.4mpg, (40mpg on test), CO2 117g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 year two onwards, BIK company car tax 15%. Insurance group: 10. Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,380mm, W 1,858mm, H 1,626mm, boot/load space 471 to 1,723-litres, braked towing weight 1,200kg. For: Versatile family transport, comfortable, excellent handling, easy to drive and park, low running costs in terms of tax. Against: Real-life fuel economy is far less than the official figure, fully loaded or going up steep hills dulls the performance, confusing centre fascia layout of controls, tiny info screen.  Miles Better News Agency

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