The facelifted iteration of the Ford S-Max remained at the top of its class. We came to this conclusion not only because the S-Max is such a pleasant car to drive, but also because it delivers on space, flexibility and ease of use.
It has plenty of room for an expanding family, while it’s rare among MPVs in providing both a drive and a style that don’t mark you down as the driver of a parental taxi.
Whether you choose to drive in two-seat or seven-seat mode (or anything in between) the car remains comfortable and secure, yet can also put a smile on your face. And while moving the seats around isn’t as easy as in some cars (the two-stage rearmost seats in particular), it won’t stop you from buying an S-Max.
Quality, on the whole, is pretty good, although the best materials are found where you’re most likely to look and touch. Elsewhere, close scrutiny reveals cheaper materials.
Were we to ignore the issue of price and rate the S-Max simply on fitness for purpose, it would be difficult to deny it anything other than unequivocal praise. However, we could not overlook the fact that, even with price reductions and an abundance of offers, the S-Max was still more expensive than its direct rivals.
Nevertheless, as enthusiasts, we must say it was mission accomplished for Ford with the S-Max. On the one hand, it has to fulfil its function as a multi-purpose, family-friendly holdall. On the other, it has to transcend its essential usefulness to become an object of desire, a car you’d want to look at, admire and, most of all, drive.
It might not be the greatest or cheapest MPV ever conceived but it is, without question, the best to drive.
What the owner says
Gareth Chapman: “I’d like to tell you my S-Max has been a pleasure to own… It’s certainly been great to drive: it’s a 2013-reg 2.0T 203PS Ecoboost automatic that is quick, comfortable and practical. But it’s also unreliable. I’m the third owner. I bought it with a high mileage and it’s now done 118,000 miles. The first thing to go wrong, in 2021, was the transmission, which cost £3000 to fix. Then the brake vacuum pump failed – twice. Now there’s an odd noise from the engine, and I’ve been told it’s a timing chain issue. The garage has said they will have to remove the engine to see what’s going on. In fairness to the car, its service history isn’t great.”
Ford S-Max (2006-2014) common problems
Engine and gearbox: Given how many have been sold, you can expect all sorts of horror stories. The best you can do is insist on a full service history, ideally from a Ford dealer, with invoices detailing every job. Fresh oil, both engine and transmission, plugs, coolant and brake fluid at the right intervals are essential. On low-mileage cars or cars that have spent a long time in the city doing stop-start driving, be aware of issues with the dual-mass flywheel.
Electrics: Many issues with the S-Max concern the electrical system and features, so check for things such as warning lights and failed parking sensors. There have been reports of blocked drain channels flooding the wiring loom and of water ingress into the wiper arms and alarm module.
Brakes and suspension: Expect the suspension to have suffered a hard life and be feeling a little tired. Don’t rely solely on the handbrake on a steep slope, either – engage gear to be on the safe side.