One of the most enjoyable drives of the year, and there’ve been many, was also one of the most unexpected. Ford hardly has a poor record when it comes to serving up decent drive experiences from everyday cars, but my steer in the new C-Max was truly memorable, and for far more reasons than the fact that it occurred over the South of France’s Col de Turini beneath a sun-drenched sky.
Using a Monte Carlo rally stage to debut a compact people carrier seemed an odd idea until we hit the first few hilly twists. Though people carriers are often admirable for their ingenious functionality, few of these beasts ever get the driver in us excited.
But the C-Max is a remarkable devourer of back-road bends, flaunting the kind of grip, agility and suppleness that few medium-size front-drivers of any format can manage. And its highly polished chassis and crisp steering are matched by a 1.6-litre Ecoboost petrol unit that’s flexible, smooth and impressively urgent when required, while a superb gearchange and clutch made ratio-changing a real pleasure.
This C-Max’s comfort, refinement and cabin quality all set lofty standards too, the pliant ride a particular pleasure, and of course it’s practical with those reconfigurable seats and sliding rear side doors - a clever feature found on the Grand C-Max.
That said, the Grand C-Max’s boot is unhelpfully small when all seven seats are in use - some rivals provide more cabin adaptability - and this seven-seat version’s rear end styling is an unsexy mess.
The C-Max then, is the only people carrier that can seriously be considered a driver’s car. Best of all, however, is that the hardware delivering this fine achievement will eventually form the core of at least 10 Fords from around the world, one of them the new Focus. That means that millions of us are going to enjoy a better drive over the next few years – including those with families and flat-packs to cart about.