WHEN IT goes on sale in the summer the second-generation (Mk 2) Ford S-Max will bring a number of improvements over the outgoing model. New technology and innovative engineering solutions should ensure the MPV remains one of Driving’s favourite family cars.
Here we compare the S-Max Mk 1 with the S-Max Mk 2, and look at the alternatives, to help drivers choose the right family hauler for them.
How much is the new Ford S-Max?
There are three trim levels: entry-level Zetec, mid-range Titanium and plush Titanium Sport.
2015 Ford S-Max prices start at £24,545 for the 1.5 EcoBoost SCTi 160PS Zetec model, which represents a 5% rise over the old 1.6 EcoBoost in Zetec trim.
The most affordable diesel-powered model is now the 2.0 Duratorq TDCi 120PS in Zetec trim. It costs from £25,245, again a rise of almost 5% on the old 1.6 TDI 115PS Zetec.
An addition to the range is an AWD four-wheel-drive version. It costs from £29,195 as the 2.0 Duratorq TDCi 150PS AWD in Titanium trim.
The most expensive model is the 2.0 Duratorq TDCi 180PS AWD in Titanium Sport trim, which costs £32,945.
How big is the new Ford S-Max?
The 2015 Ford S-Max has a lower roofline than the old car, which, when combined with “slimline lights and muscular haunches around the wheelarches” give it a more “distinctive presence than ever”, says Joel Piaskowski, the man in charge of design at Ford Europe.
At the time of writing, Ford hadn’t released all technical specifications of the new model, so we can’t report on whether squeezing the new S-Max into a parking space will get any easier. However, technology can lend a hand. Where the old car had nothing more than parking sensors to help drivers manage its bulk, the new S-Max has the option of Active Park Assist, which can park the car for the driver in a space that’s either parallel or perpendicular to the kerb, and steer it out of the space when it’s time to leave.
The new S-Max can park the car for the driver … and steer it out of the space when it’s time to leave
There’s also something called Front Split View Camera, which uses a camera mounted in the grille to give a 180-degree view in front of the car, making it safer to pull out of car parks and blind junctions, and Cross Traffic Alert, which looks out for vehicles approaching the back of the S-Max as it reverses out of a perpendicular parking bay.
The planed front corners are designed to both improve aerodynamics and make it easier to manoeuvre in car parks. Essentially, Ford has tried to make it easier to avoid a prang during shopping trips.
How spacious is the seven-seat interior?
The concept of offering five or seven individual seats remains a key feature of this family car. Choose the seven-seater, and the rear five seats can still be folded flat, giving enough space for mountain bikes packed in using an optional Activity Kit, which clamps on to the front forks and rear wheels of bicycles.
The seats are all thinner than before, which Ford says slightly improves legroom. A new feature is Easy Fold; this option enables each rear seat to be folded flat at the press of a button, so cursing levers and resorting to brute force should be a thing of the past.
The seats are all thinner than before, which Ford says slightly improves legroom, and each rear seat can be folded flat at the press of a button
At the same time, easy-entry second row seats provide one-touch access to the third row of seats.
We’re still waiting for Ford to reveal the boot capacity of the Mk 2, and whether it’s more than the original model’s 285 litres with all seven seats in use. However, buyers can now choose Hands-Free Liftgate, which senses proximity of the smart key and opens the boot when someone waves their foot under the rear bumper – helpful if you are carrying shopping bags in both hands. Ford says half the people who buy a new Kuga SUV choose this option.
What improvements have been made to the interior?
As before, a full-length panoramic sunroof will be available, and is expected to be a popular option. However, anyone who has owned the outgoing S-Max with a panoramic glass roof will know that it can get hotter than an oven on Christmas day.
Ford says it has addressed this problem by improving the power of the climate control system and reducing the lowest temperature setting. Rear seat passengers get independent control of the ventilation in the back of the car.
The dashboard is new. It’s dominated by an 8in touchscreen infotainment system, mounted higher up to make it easier to reach, and a 10in digital instrument display directly in front of the driver.
Massaging seats will give stressed-out parents a spa break of sorts during driving holidays on the Continent
One option that may appeal to high-mileage drivers or anyone who takes the family on holiday on the Continent is heated and cooled Multi-Contour Seats with Active Motion; essentially these can massage the driver and front passenger, giving stressed-out parents a spa break of sorts.
The dashboard plastics are now less prone to fingerprints and the materials in the cabin have anti-stain coatings to resist the wear and tear of family life. Engineers have even simulated the effect of zips and studs, using a metal ball with spikes, to ensure the fabrics are tough enough.
Ford has moved the door rockers – the part of the frame that runs underneath the door –into the door itself, which it claims makes entry and egress easier, and dual seals reduce the chance of rain and mud from getting into the frame and soiling your trouser leg. The improved door seals and extra sound-deadening should make the new S-Max quieter at speed, too
What engines are available for the new S-Max?
Diesel engine CO2 emissions will be reduced by an expected 7%, with options including a revised 148bhp, 178bhp and 207bhp 2-litre unit with a manual gearbox or Powershift automatic transmission.
Petrol engine options are the 158bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost with a manual transmission and 236bhp 2-litre EcoBoost with automatic transmission.
Will it be more economical and cheaper to run?
It should be, but not by much. Ford has released CO2 emissions levels but not fuel economy figures. Reductions in CO2 will lower road tax and imply that the new car should be less thirsty at the pumps, too.
The entry-level 1.5 EcoBoost petrol engine emits 149g/km of CO2, compared with 159g/km for the old 1.6 EcoBoost, moving it from tax band G (£180 for first year) to band F (£145 for first year).
The 2-litre 148bhp diesel sees its emissions fall by 10g/km as well, to 129g/km, judged against the old 138bhp version’s 139g/km, meaning there’s no tax to pay at all in the first year for the new version (and £110 a year thereafter).
Is there a four-wheel-drive version?
In a word, yes. Called AWD (all wheel drive) it is available with the 2.0 Duratorq TDCi 148bhp AWD in Titanium trim (£29,195) and 2.0 Duratorq TDCi 178bhp AWD in Titanium Sport trim (£32,945).
The system is similar to that fitted to the Ford Kuga SUV, and monitors individual wheel speeds and steering and throttle input to judge whether to switch from efficient front-wheel drive in normal conditions to four-wheel drive in a split second, should the front tyres lose traction.
What equipment comes as standard?
Ford’s Sync 2 connectivity system, which offers voice-control of the navigation, in-car entertainment, climate control and smartphones, is standard on all models.
Also fitted as standard are front and rear parking sensors, keyless start, sports seats and a digital radio. The Titanium trim adds privacy glass, auto lights, rain-sensing wipers and features such as Traffic Sign Recognition (to remind the driver of the last speed sign passed), lane-keeping assistance and cruise control.
The top-of-the-range Titanium Sport has a body styling kit, rear spoiler and sports suspension. The hands-free tailgate is an option on all models.
Is there any other major innovation on the new Ford S-Max?
One bit of tech making headlines for the second generation S-Max is what Ford calls Intelligent Speed Limiter. As any mum or dad will admit, it’s all too easy to be distracted by children travelling in the back of the car. Ford’s engineers realise as much, and while they can’t end the argy-bargy over who gets to sit at a window seat or prevent screams for the favourite teddy bear that’s fallen to the floor, the new Ford S-Max can prevent a momentarily distracted driver from creeping over the speed limit.
The system is designed to operate between 20mph and 120mph, and will automatically restrict a vehicle’s speed to either the local speed limit, by recognising traffic signs, or a level chosen by the driver.
What alternative family cars should buyers consider?
You could do a lot worse than buying an approved-used Ford S-Max Mk 1, which would save drivers a small fortune. There’s also the Ford Galaxy, which is larger than the S-Max and more expensive but offers more cabin space.
Another MPV, or people carrier, is the Seat Alhambra, which comes highly recommended. Find out why by reading Driving’s full review.
If you want to spend less money, try the Citroën C4 Picasso, and for an estate car, nothing is bigger than the Mercedes E-class. Of the latest breed of SUVs, Land Rover’s new Discovery Sport comes closest to offering the seven-seat practicality and affordable running costs of the new Ford S-Max.
For other ideas, visit the Driving Top 100 Cars 2014 MPV page: click here