What is it?
Ford is launching a new version of its Focus-based people-carrier, the C-Max. It uses for the first time the chassis and running gear Ford will employ for all worldwide models of this size, including the all-important new Focus range, due to be shown at this year's Paris Show.
The first C-Max was launched six years ago amid controversy: Ford was late into the sector, and chose a five-seat arrangement despite the fact that rivals like the Vauxhall Zafira were offering ingenious seven-seat arrangements.
The European market for MPVs of this size nowadays displays a 50:50 demand split for five- and seven-seaters, so Ford is launching separate, related models for each buyer: a five-seat C-Max, and 110kg heavier Grand C-Max, which is 140mm bigger in both overall length and wheelbase.
Both models will be on sale in Europe by the year-end – with three trim levels for the UK – and the longer model will hit the US market at the end of next year.
The C-Max will also be the basis of two of the five electric-drive models (a full hybrid and a plug-in hybrid) Ford has promises by 2013. All C-Max models will be made in Valencia, Spain.
The new five-seater C-Max keeps the previous version's clever seating system which allows the centre rear seat to fold under the left-hand seat, and the pair to move diagonally inwards and back, to give four-seat luxury. The seven-seater, which is deceptively spacious, also allows the centre seat of the second row to fold away, leaving a 'walk-through' space. Ford calls the bigger model a 'six-plus-one' rather than a seven seater. It all works nicely, with a VW-like precision.
Five engines (three 1.6 petrols; a 1.6 diesel and a 2.0 diesel) will be offered, each with two power outputs. All have an impressive low fuel consumption story attached, and most can be prepared to meet the next Euro 6 exhaust emissions standard.
The star of the show for us is the 148bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre Ecoboost, a naturally sporty engine which (because of its direct injection, low-inertia turbo and dual variable valve timing) has diesel-like thrust from below 2000rpm. It truly begins a new era of Ford four-cylinder petrol engines.