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Ford C-MAX 2.0 TDCi 140PS Titanium Roadtest

Forget the dullness of its predecessor. The new Ford C-MAX is a minor work of art.

a huge improvement on the outgoing model

The Ford C-MAX was always a fine, practical vehicle - but dare we say it - rather dull to look at. Not any more. The new C-MAX is a strikingly designed compact MPV, with a sweeping roofline that gives it a chunky, dynamic look. According to Ford, those buyers who opt for a five-seater MPV prefer something that looks more like a car; hence the C-MAX's stylish, passenger-car looks, with its coupé-esque roofline that falls away towards the rear. It's a huge improvement on the outgoing model.

It's bang up to date inside, as well, with such details as the upper console, with its wing-like arrangement of switchgear and air vents. Wherever you turn, there are clever design details - like the handbrake, which looks more like a display from a design exhibition than a functional component in a Ford. Forget the dullness of its predecessor. The new C-MAX is a minor work of art.

The designer looks are matched by comfort and ease of use. Take the driver's seat. Why can't all car seats be this comfortable - with just the right amount of lumbar support? And the comfort theme continues when it comes to the perfectly shaped steering wheel: so easy to hold. The arrangement of the pedals, too, gives you just the right space to rest your clutch foot when it's not in use. Ford's designers seem to have thought of everything.

Every Model Comes Very Well-Equipped As Standard

There is a 7-seater version of the new C-MAX - the Grand C-MAX - a larger, less sporty-looking vehicle, with sliding rear doors. But even within the compact footprint of this 5-seater C-MAX, there's a really generous feeling of space, without resorting to bulky exterior dimensions that hog too much room on the road. Meanwhile, in the rear, the three seats fold individually, to convert the 432-litre boot to a luggage space of 1684 litres. That's with a 'mini' spare wheel. If you opt for a tyre repair kit, the min/max bootspace rises to 471/1723 litres.

Our test car has - for £525 - the Titanium Family Pack, which includes a powered tailgate and rear sunblinds. For the same price again, you can also choose the Convenience Pack - which gives you the ingenious Automated Parking System. Ultrasonic sensors tell you first whether a gap is large enough to park in... and then the steering is operated for you. All you have to do is use the pedals.

But you don't necessarily have to fork out for optional extras, since every model comes very well-equipped as standard. There's a DAB radio and CD, plus Bluetooth for hands-free calls, voice control and a USB connection - as well as a windscreen which de-ices quickly, at the touch of a button. For those with their minds on higher things, the fuel cap that automatically recognises the right fuel can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes at the fuel station... not that you'll be taking that risk very often, since Ford's ECOboost engines offer an excellent blend of performance and economy.

Superb Ride And Handling

But we've left the best bit till last, because the real joy of the new C-MAX comes when you fire up the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine and head off down the road. There's always a balance to be made between handling and ride comfort, and Ford has got the mix exactly right. Rough roads are made smooth, but without losing the nimble agility that Ford is famous for. One passenger, that we collected from the station, commented unprompted on the superb ride and handling. That might mean more when we say that he's a regular racer in Fords: and he even admitted, rather shame-facedly, that he wasn't quite sure from the sound whether it was petrol or diesel - a massive compliment to that smooth, quiet engine.

Use the gearbox and revs with purpose, and you'll discover the bite behind the bark: a car that manages 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds is no snail. But you still get 55.4mpg on the combined cycle, while emitting just 134g/km of CO2. Again, it's all about balance, and Ford seems to be walking just the right line.

Okay we had some minor quibbles. Ford's sat nav controls have flummoxed us in the past, and the C-MAX's navigation system is no exception. And the minor buttons on the lower console - the fan controls, for example - are small and a bit fiddly to use. But we're scraping the barrel to find faults.

Our test car would cost you £21,195, with the various options adding another two grand. For that price, the Ford C-MAX is a very fine thing indeed.

Posted on 31.01.2011 by Charis Whitcombe
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