The most significant thing about the new 2010 S-Max seven seat sporty carrier for up to seven people is not the many styling changes, better levels of equipment and classier looks but it is their new Blue Tag lower pricing policy which means good news for retail buyers and less Benefit-in-Kind tax for company car users. The higher residual values will also reduce leasing and PCP contract purchase.
Prices are reduced by 10 to 12 per cent over the outgoing model bringing Ford's official prices down in line with the actual transaction costs being promoted by dealers clearing up the confusion on what the real price is and what the real P11D tax charges should be. Prices now start at £20,645 and range up to £29,495.
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Although currently 94 per cent of S-Max models sold in the UK are diesel powered, Ford expects the petrol engine share to increase because of the introduction of their new 2.0-litre EcoBoost direct injection turbocharged, 203PS/300Nm unit. The 9,373 sales in the UK last year between retail and fleet customers for the S-Max was a 50/50 split.
Having driven the first left hand drive S-Max versions earlier this year it was now time to see if the new model impressed on our UK roads and they impress more now we know the lower pricing structure.
In addition the new S-Max has the first application in a larger vehicle of Ford's twin clutch PowerShift automatic transmission which comes as standard with the new EcoBoost petrol engine and optional on the 2.0-litre 140/163PS turbodiesel units. Around 50 per cent of people-carrier users and retail customers in the UK choose the automatic transmission option.
The seven seat S-Max is not an MPV say Ford of Britain, even though it carries up to seven people in three rows of seats. It is apparently an extension of the Mondeo family even though it shares the same platform with the seven seat Galaxy which is an MPV. S-Max is designed to look and feel sporty and fun to drive. It doesn't shout family bus in styling terms.
As for the other changes for the new 2010 model year, the S-Max gains from Ford's on-going plan to give all their models a more premium look and feel and that has been achieved. There is the choice of Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X Sport equipment and trim levels with Titanium taking 60 per cent of sales followed by 30 per cent for Zetec.
There is now a strongly sculptured bonnet, new front face with the new Ford trapezoidal grille, new lower front bumper with daytime running lights, chrome strips surrounding the glass areas, new style tailgate and LED tail lights.
Inside the S-Max has Ford's 'fold flat' seating system for the second and third rows of seats and high series models get a panoramic sunroof, power blinds, LED interior lighting, premium sound system and all UK models have ESP electronic handling programme as standard.
Driving and performance
Handling remains sharp, precise and agile and coped with our poor UK road surfaces really very well. The larger the wheels in size the more road noise is evident inside the vehicle. The 16-inch ones are best, 17-inch are ok, 18-inch too noisy.
Although the new 2.0-litre, 203PS EcoBoost petrol engine is impressive because of the direct injection and turbocharger which provides 300NM of torque from 1,750rpm giving it turbodiesel responsiveness and on my test drive 27mpg with the new twin clutch auto gearbox.
The reduced CO2 emissions over the outgoing 161PS 2.3-litre petrol unit has reduced by 19 per cent to 189g/km, even though it has over 25 per cent more power. This translates into an official combined cycle fuel consumption of 34.8mpg.
Most customers though will still choose diesel power and there are 2.0-litre engine options with 115/140/163PS outputs and a 2.2-litre 175PS unit. Not all engines are available with all levels of specification.
Below are the results from my UK test drive with the best selling 140PS turbodiesel engine which is just about the right unit for most people.
2010 Ford S-Max Titanium 2.0-litre TDCi 140PS with Powershift Auto
(Manual version of this will be the best selling UK model)
Price: £24,995 (Manual version £23,495)
Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder, direct injection diesel with turbocharger, 140PS, 320Nm from 1,750rpm, 6-speed double-clutch automatic
Performance: 120mph, 0-62mph 10.9 seconds, 47.1 (37.6mpg actual), CO2 159g/km, VED £155, BIK company car tax 23%. Insurance group: 20E. Carrying capacity: 7-seats, 285-2,000-litres
For: Lower pricing, refined and fun to drive, smarter new looks, versatile seven-seat or load carrying layout, higher quality specification, wide range of engine options, seamless shift twin clutch auto gearbox
Against: Some road noise intrusion with the larger wheels, limited headroom in the rear row of two seats