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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Fitted with one of the less powerful of four available 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines, the S-Max struggles to pull off the impression that it is truly sporting. 

However, owners are unlikely to be disappointed by only average outright performance in such a car and we’re certainly not minded to criticise a large, heavy, modestly powerful model for failing to excite.

If you have frequent heavy-loaded motoring or towing in mind, the extra torque of the 177bhp and 207bhp diesels will be important

A lack of low-range flexibility does seem a relevant bone of contention, though. Like the Ford Mondeo Estate we tested with the same engine, the S-Max is a bit slow and unwilling in its response to the accelerator pedal below 2000rpm. It just feels that bit longer geared than it really is.

Use the lower intermediate ratios as you should at low speed and you won’t perceive much of a problem. But in the higher ones, the issue is there all right, as our fourth-gear 30-70mph time makes plain. More than 16 seconds for this benchmark isn’t becoming of any car making a claim at dynamism – worse still one likely to carry heavy loads.

In other respects, though, the S-Max is easier to drive. Like most modern Fords, its control weights are substantial but uniform, and so its pedals, wheel and gearlever are easily mastered. The gearlever’s action is taut and slightly notchy when shifting between planes, but slick enough vertically through the gate.

Refinement is particularly important in a big passenger car, and the S-Max delivers well on it, producing markedly less cabin noise than a Zafira Tourer cruising at both 30mph and 70mph. Wind noise and road roar are well controlled.

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Fuel economy, meanwhile, is far from outstanding. Our True MPG testers produced 43.6mpg from the car, having recorded better than 50mpg from some of its rivals. Here, as on drivability, S-Max buyers will pay a price for the car’s size and heft.