Ford C-Max

Debut: 2010
Maker: Ford
Predecessor: Focus C-Max (2003)

 Published on 10 Oct 2010
All rights reserved. 

Class-leading driving dynamics puts C-Max to the top of keen driver's choices.

Modern family men want a car that can carry their wives and kids to picnic at weekends yet without compromising looks and driving fun that they have to live with everyday. The first car to satisfy this requirement was the 1997 Renault Scenic, but it was the 2003 Ford Focus C-Max that brought driving dynamics to a new level, one can truly let the driver enjoy driving it. Don't know why, European Ford always knows better than most others how to engage its drivers, no matter from excellent damping, communicative and well-weighted steering or fine body control. That is why we rated Mondeo, Focus and Fiesta so high. The new generation C-Max is the no exception. Drive it over a stretch of back roads and you will be amazed with its agility and entertaining character. It beats other small MPVs for driver appeal.

The new C-Max is no longer a family member of Focus but a standalone model, just like how Scenic departed from Megane a few years ago. However, that does not mean it was mechanically unrelated to Focus. On the contrary, C-Max is the first application of the company's new global C-platform, which will underpin the next generation European and American Focus, Kuga and "new Capri". Eventually, it will give an economy of scale of more than 2 million cars a year, so it is the most important platform to Blue Oval.

The new global C-platform still ride on MacPherson struts up front and compact "controlled blade" multi-link suspensions at the back. Ride quality is improved by larger diameter dampers with revised valving. As expected, more usage of high-strength steel in its monocoque chassis improves its rigidity to weight ratio. Slightly wider tracks also benefits handling. The biggest change from the old platform is steering, switching from electro-hydraulic to pure electrical assistance. Unlike rivals, Ford waited until this technology matured, no wonder the C-Max steers with good precision and natural feel.

C-Max is first application of Ford's new global C-platform

While the old car looked a little bland - not bad for its time when everybody was experimenting how to package a large volume smartly - the new car looks far more flowing and sportier. Ford's new corporate look brings it a prominent trapezoidal lower grille which looks big enough for the radiator of Evo (half of the area is actually covered with black plastic). In addition to the low profile tires and large-diameter turbine blade wheels shown in these pictures, it appears to be a performance MPV. No, C-Max has no intention to rival Opel Zafira OPC. There's just not sufficient demand on the market. What most male customers want is just a sporty appearance enclosing a sensible / affordable package. In fact, our reigning champion Honda Stream found the same in the Asian market.

That's why C-Max offers sensible engines. Petrol and diesel sales split about half-half in Europe, so it offers 2 petrol engines and 2 diesel engines. The diesel engines are the familiar 1.6TDCi and 2.0TDCi, each offers two states of tune (95hp or 115hp for 1.6TDCi; 140hp and 163hp for 2.0TDCi). As we always know, they are highly competitive for performance, refinement and economy. However, the biggest news should be the 1.6-liter Ecoboost petrol engine. This is its first appearance on Ford models. Combining dual-VVT, direct injection and exhaust-integrated low-inertia turbocharger, it delivers plenty of low-end grunt (177 lb-ft peaks from 1600-4000 rpm) and 150-smooth horsepower at the top end. It loses not much fuel economy to the diesel but compensated with sweet-revving manner and lovely sound. Later on, a 180hp version will be offered as well. 1.6 Ecoboost is definitely the pick of the range. Finally, at the bottom end there is a 105hp 1.6 Ti-VCT petrol to serve those have limited budget.

As spacious and versatile as you can dream of... though not as tasteful as French rivals.

On the road, the C-Max 1.6 Ecoboost is the best driving small MPVs we have seen. It feels energetic, competent and eager to be driven. Body roll is surprisingly limited by the standard of its class, thanks to the sophisticated suspensions and a tuning biased to the firm side. Its steering is quick and accurate at speed yet light at parking speed. Steering feel might be a bit less intimate than the outgoing electro-hydraulic assisted rack, but still it loads up linearly and naturally. A firm suspension setting results in a slightly harsh ride over big bumps in urban area, but as speed rises its composure approaches perfection. The Ecoboost engine provides effortless performance and superb refinement. 6-speed manual gearbox is slick, while the Getrag-built "Powershift" twin-clutch box is even more satisfying. C-Max never disappoints in driving dynamics and refinement.

Inside, the design theme is again sporty. It is not as tasteful as French rivals (e.g. Peugeot 3008 and Citroen C4 Picasso), especially the mix and match between black plastics and fake alloy. Anyway, soft surface of the dash top and piano-black face of center console deliver a generally high-quality feel. The C-Max is as spacious and versatile as you can dream of. The rear bench is 40-20-40 split. The center one may fold away, allowing the other two slide diagonally inward and backward to create a super-spacious environment for two big guys. Luggage space is good with or without the rear seats in place. The rear seats may fold or tip forward independently to make a large and flat loading bay. If not enough, you may even remove all the rear seats, given you have somewhere else to store them.

Grand C-Max takes on 7-seater rivals

Grand C-Max

In Europe, about half of the small MPV sales go to 7-seaters such as Opel Zafira, Renault Grand Scenic, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and the 7-seat version of Volkswagen Touran. Therefore this time around C-Max also offers a Grand 7-seat version. It gets a wheelbase stretch of 140 mm, a taller roof and an extra 110 kg to accommodate the third row seats, which are a squeeze for adults and more suitable to children. By folding away the middle seat of second row, it lets the rearmost passengers to walk easily to the second row. Moreover, unlike the 5-seater, the Grand C-Max has a pair of large sliding rear doors to ease access.

The 7-seater will also be available to the US market. Maybe this is the reason it adopts a softer suspension setting. Predictably, it gives slightly smoother ride in the expense of a little bit body control. Its look is a little compromised by the extra length and height, lacking the sportiness and integrity of the C-Max. Unless you really need to carry more than 5, the C-Max will be the better buy.

Combining class-leading driving dynamics, excellent engines, competitive accommodation and versatility, C-Max is the best small MPV today, and the only one worth a 5-star rating from keen driver's point of view.

 Published on 5 Oct 2012 All rights reserved. 
C-Max Hybrid

The C-Max is our favourite small people carrier as it combines functionality with good dynamics. Now it is added with another merit: green. C-Max Hybrid employs the same powertrain as the new Fusion Hybrid – a 2-liter Aktinson-cycle engine paired with an electric motor and a planetary CVT. Its maximum output is 188 hp, 141 of which comes from the gasoline engine. It is actually the most powerful C-Max on offer. Even though it carries some 160 kg of extra weight, it is capable of accelerating from rest to 60 mph in just over 8 seconds. That is almost 2 seconds quicker than its only rival in the market, Toyota Prius V.

The fact that the C-Max Hybrid is marketed as a rival to Prius V is interesting. Until now the C-Max range is not available to the US market. Ford plans to sell only the hybrid model there so that it could be easier to establish a green image like Prius. As its hybrid powertrain and donor platform (Focus) are already built in the US, the final assembly of the car takes place in Michigan.

Compare with Prius V, the C-Max has a lot of advantages, such as a more stylish look, higher quality interior, more passenger space, higher performance and better handling. It even excels in fuel economy, at least according to EPA figures. It registered 47 mpg for both highway and city, whereas Prius V managed just 40 mpg highway and 44 mpg city. It can run on purely electricity at a speed up to 62 mph, versus 25 mph in the case of Toyota. Its Lithium-ion battery occupies less space than the Toyota's NiMH battery. All in all, the Ford seems to be superior. The only thing it cannot match its rival is the lack of 7-seat option, as the Hybrid model is not available with Grand C-Max body.

In actual driving it also works brilliantly. The powertrain integration is superbly refined so that you can hardly tell whether engine or motor is providing propulsion. The steering is European weighty and confidence-inspiring. There is more body motion than the regular C-Max due to the extra weight, but it is well damped. The chassis feels solid. The ride is smooth and quiet. The only flaw is a touchy brake pedal – a common problem of most hybrids. However, given the experience of Fusion Ford is likely to resolve the problem when the car goes into mass production. We would still choose the regular C-Max for driving fun, but as far as a hybrid people carrier is concerned, nothing could beat the C-Max Hybrid.


Length / width / height

Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power

Max torque

Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
C-Max 1.6 Ecoboost
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4380 / 1828 / 1626 mm
2648 mm

1596 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
150 hp

177 lbft (199 lbft overboost)

6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
1385 kg
127 mph (c)
8.8 (c)
Grand C-Max 2.0TDCi
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4520 / 1828 / 1684 mm
2788 mm
Inline-4, diesel

1997 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
163 hp

251 lbft

6-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
1634 kg
127 mph (c)
9.2 (c)
C-Max Hybrid
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4409 / 1828 / 1623 mm
2648 mm
Inline-4, Atkinson cycle, electric motor
1999 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
Engine: 141 hp
Motor: 118 lbft
Combined: 188 hp
Engine: 129 lbft
Motor: 117 lbft
F: strut
R: multi-link
1636 kg
115 mph (c)

Performance tested by: *C&D

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