Sporty seven-seater still takes pleasure to S-Max

As compact seven-seat people-carriers go, the Ford S-Max is still one of the best looking and best t

As compact seven-seat people-carriers go, the Ford S-Max is still one of the best looking and best to drive. - Credit: Ford

Ford's S-Max has worn its age well – it's still good to drive and a pleasure to live with, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Some cars wear their age well and seem to escape the passing of time – unlike their drivers – and are still so good to drive that it makes you realise how ahead of their time they were when launched.

I've always been a fan of Ford's S-Max which shares much with the seven-seater Galaxy people-carrier in a sportier, more dynamic package.

Despite the S-Max being first seen eight years ago, this sports activity vehicle feels as fresh and clever as ever, even against much newer offerings. It's also an attractive used buy.

With three individual seats in the middle, each sliding back and forth and the backs reclining, and two seats lifting out of the loadbay floor, the S-Max also seats seven. If adults are supple enough to get into the rearmost seats, and those in the middle row give up some of their abundant legroom, they can make themselves comfortable even on long trips... and still have enough space in the 285-litre boot for overnight bags with careful packing. In five-seat mode the vast, flat-sided loadbay offers 1,051 to 1,171 litres loaded to the roof. Drop the middle row flat and you have a small van and 2,000 litres of cargo capacity.

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The S-Max is just so practical, roomy and accommodating but the other great strength is that it's enjoyable to drive. This is no worthy, but dull, people-carrier that puts the focus on passengers rather than panache.

Diesel is the pick – there's 140 and 163PS 2.0-litre and 200PS 2.2-litre turbo diesels – all with six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

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The PowerShift auto mated to the 163PS diesel is a good combination, even loaded to the gunnels. It makes easy progress seven-up, cruising comfortably at motorway speeds with power in reserve for overtaking with the slick transmission giving smooth and responsive shifts particularly when used manually and takes the strain out of urban motoring. Expect around 40mpg in mixed driving.

The ride is comfortable and compliant with little tyre noise. Ford builds some great handling cars and doesn't make any allowances for seven-seaters which are equally entertaining with good feel and feedback, taut body control through corners and well-weighted steering.

Ford also builds good cabins and the S-Max's interior is a good blend of upmarket materials and technology but the busy instruments give a lot of information to take in.

Age is certainly no barrier to the S-Max's appeal.

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