What is it?
We've been mightily impressed by every Ford C-Max we've tried so far, both at home and abroad. The seven-seat Grand version scored four and a half stars in its road test a fortnight ago, and now it's time to see how its compact five-seat sibling performs on UK roads.
We're testing the entry-level 113bhp 1.6 turbodiesel version, which will be the biggest seller among five-seat C-Max buyers. Ours arrived in loaded Titanium trim at £19,745, although most buyers will opt for the £18,245 Zetec model.
What's it like?
Ford should have another hit on its hands with this model. Most noticeable at start-up is just how quiet the engine is, so much so that there's no major audible way of telling it's a diesel. Pulling off the line isn't as smooth as we'd like, though; the engine feels underpowered in first and at the bottom of second.
This can lead to the car feeling hesitant at junctions and requiring a firm press of your foot on the right pedal and a small slip of the clutch to ensure you don't stall.
But this lack of initial grunt is the engine's only real flaw, and it's certainly no deal-breaker, requiring a small adjustment in driving style that becomes second nature after a few miles have been negotiated.
The delivery of both power and torque is linear (the hesitance disappears once the turbo properly kicks in and peak torque arrives), the gearchange is slick and the engine remains quiet and incredibly refined at almost all speeds and situations, whether it's sat in the outside lane of the motorway or tootling down the high street.
The supple ride and superb body control of its seven-seat sibling are equally impressive in this shorter five-seat model. The fully electric steering is accurate and nicely weighted, too. This is a car with handling characteristics you wouldn't expect of a car in its class; practical doesn't always mean dull.
Should I buy one?
If you don't need the extra seats and interior space offered by the Grand, it's hard not to recommend this excellent five-seat version that blitzes rivals such as the Vauxhall Meriva. It also looks promising for the next five-seat car Ford will spin off the platform: the new Focus.