Almost 10 years have passed since Ford first attempted to prove that a wee bit of style and dynamic rigour weren’t necessarily qualities lost on the seven-seater segment.
The Ford S-Max that resulted has proven popular – not just with buyers who found its mix of practicality and well-groomed design appealing, but also with those of us who prefer to labour under the illusion that we might be piloting a large and high-sided saloon rather than a minibus.
This, of course, was the point. Ford, apparently with its tongue nowhere near its cheek, still prefers to call the S-Max a ‘sports activity vehicle’, a marketing misnomer conjured up mostly to differentiate it from the slightly larger (and less shapely) Ford Galaxy it firmly considers an MPV.
The distinction, though, remains critical because once again the underpinnings – an evolution of the latest Ford Mondeo’s modular platform – are shared between the two.
To bolster the car’s appeal, Ford hasn’t been shy with the application of technology. The S-Max is the first to use Ford’s adaptive front steering system and there’s now the option of intelligent all-wheel drive and an extensive line-up of overhauled or entirely new engines, including the latest range-topping 2.0-litre bi-turbo among a glut of similarly sized oil-burners, as well as the 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol and its burly 238bhp 2.0-litre sibling.
Atop it all comes the crucial renovation of the interior. Ford’s quaint last-decade design theme has been replaced by something more modern and Mondeo-ish, along with a revised version of the Easy-Fold seating that was a big part of the model’s appeal.
Available in Zetec, Titanium and Titanium Sport trim levels, the S-Max starts at £24,545. It’s around the same price as a Seat Alhambra, and still significantly cheaper than the new breed of affordable seven-seat SUVs typified by cars such as the Kia Sorento. For those looking for a little more exclusivity with their MPV then there is the luxury, lifestyle S-Max Vignale up for grabs too.
Time to find out whether or not there’s still a place for Ford’s sportier option between the two.