C-MAX EcoBoost
Ford C-MAX EcoBoost

The top diesel (and the For suspension, it's mostly detail tweaks on the outgoing Focus's set-up, but there's absolutely no shame in that. It was the best-handling, and pretty much best-riding, hatch. The big change is that it's now got electric power steering.

 Instead of the horrid videogame feel these usually have, it feels barely different to drive than the old hydraulic set-up (ie, just fine), but lets you go about 10 miles further on a fuel tank. It would be a porky to say this high-seated vehicle drives like a car. It rolls more, and reacts more slowly, than the best Fords. But, boy, does it come close. There's none of the loose, wispy feel ofthe French opposition, or thepuddingy responses of the German.

 The handling is safe but utterly predictable, yet it maintains a sprinkling of wry amusement. All this with a ride that's taut and well-damped but does a superb job of reducing big fast bumps, and rounding off the grumbly broken roads of suburbia. From the driver's angle, the cockpit is a fine job. The busy, attention-grabbing dash design demands that it's nicely made. And it is, using convincing amounts of soft plastic and real chrome, and beautifully fluid graphics on the two display screens.

 On the downside, the highline nav screen is a bit small, and the top-end Sony stereo's fascia is as nice as the regular Ford buttons. Sounds good, though. You could ferret around and grumble that the glovebox and door bins are crappy plastic, but that'd miss the point. As Fords tend to, this one feels like the money has been spent in the right places. The action and calibration of the throttle, clutch, gearshift and steering is wonderfully sorted.

 Their efforts are matched; their actions, graceful. It's so good you never think about it, but actually it greatly reduces the effort of being smooth in normal traffic-soaked driving. As a five-seater, the C-Max fares well. Everyone has enough legroom, and the boot's deep enough to have an echo.

 With only four of you, the central rear seat folds up, and the outer pair slide towards each other and then back between the rear wheelarches. It gives colossal legroom. By contrast, folding into the max-luggage mode is a bit of a mess. A Meriva shows how to do it. The shell is designed for the tougher Euro NCAP and all global crashing rules, so I trust it's strong.

 So the C-Max manages to give as much room as the old one while stirring in a far more eye-catching design, all faceted ends, arched roof and kicked-up waist. The boxier, glassier Grand C-Max comes with pretty well all the same dynamic advantages, though it wallows a trifle more. Mind you, if you filled it with people and drove vigorously enough to find that out, anyone in the back would be projectile vomiting. If you want a Grand C-Max, you know who you are.

 As a seven-seater, it's OK for the primary-school run or occasional trips at the zoo with the grandparents. But the opposition feels roomier. With all seven chairs erected, the boot is miniscule, and the back seats themselves are tiny. Anyone of teenage years wouldn't fit in there unless the middle-row occupants slid forward.  If you regularly carried six or seven, they'd be perpetually squabbling over allocation of the meagre space, and you'd wish with every passing mile that you'd sprung for an S-Max to shut them up.

ford C-MAX EcoBoost
 side view C-MAX

C-MAX EcoBoost and grand C-Max
C-MAX vs Grand C-MAX

engine C-MAX EcoBoost
Turbocharged petrol EcoBoost 1.6 litre engine produces 148 bhp

interior C-MAX EcoBoost
Interior C-MAX EcoBoost