Ford Grand C-MAX
2.0 TDCi Titanium review
by David Finlay (15 February 2011)
There were some things I liked so much about the Ford Grand C-MAX that I am still shaking my head in awe some time after it left the CARkeys test pool. This medium-sized MPV is based on the same platform that forms the basis not only of the third-generation Focus but a great many future models, and on this evidence the more often Ford uses it the better I'll be pleased.
The Grand C-MAX is an amazing car to drive - far better, in fact, than a vehicle of this kind really needs to be, though I'm not going to start complaining about that. Its ride, thanks to brilliantly set-up suspension and a refusal to fit ridiculously inappropriate low-profile tyres, is marvellous, and the cornering ability verges on the astonishing.
If you're really pressing on, you do sense that the Grand carries its weight higher than a conventional hatchback (though it's not that tall really - this is definitely a car you sit down into rather than up), but most of the time it makes its way along almost any kind of road amazingly serenely. I tell you, I was nothing short of delighted.
I was very keen on the engine, too. Ford offers several options, but the test car used a 138bhp two-litre TDCi turbo diesel which I doubt could be improved upon. It provides as much power as the car needs, and it's very quiet - fine work there by the team responsible for keeping noise out of the cabin. Officially, the combined fuel economy is 53.3mpg, which I didn't come close to, but if the 44mpg suggested by the trip computer is anywhere near the truth I'd be happy to live with that.
No problems so far. Quite the reverse, in fact. But there are downsides.
Unlike the regular C-MAX, the Grand is a seven-seater, in the sense that there are seven seats (I think that's clear enough). However, I don't know seven people who would fit in it. I could make enough room for myself up front, but when I did that there was only just sufficient room for me in the middle row. I didn't even attempt to clamber into either of the seats in row three because it was evident from the most casual glance that I wouldn't be able to use them unless I was prepared to have my legs amputated first.
Now, it's only fair to point out that I am, at six foot three, quite unnecessarily tall, and that you could certainly fit four more reasonably-sized adults inside. But I do wonder what the maximum practical age would be for a child sent into the back. If that child is old enough to be allowed to stay up to watch, say, Coronation Street, I doubt that he or she is going to be able to squeeze him or herself into that third row.
On the plus side, the Grand C-MAX has sliding rear doors, an entirely sensible idea which I'm surprised other manufacturers (with the notable exception of Mazda, which got there first) haven't embraced. The benefits of allowing rear passengers - possibly very young ones - in and out without having to bother about conventional hinged doors and the extra road space they take up are too obvious to be worth elaborating on . . .
. . . but if Ford could be so clever about that, why did it drop the catch so badly when it came to the design of the windows and pillars on the rest of the car? What use is there in creating such majestic blind spots that looking behind, or forward and to the right, reveals so little in the way of what might be vital information?
Fortunately (for Ford, if not for its customers) Euro NCAP does not take this sort of thing into account when awarding its safety ratings. Once the dust had settled after its various crash tests, NCAP gave the Grand C-MAX five stars overall, including a phenomenal 96% for adult occupant protection which was even better than the five-seat C-MAX managed (though the smaller car did slightly better for child occupant protection). Whiplash protection was rated as "good", which is the highest praise any car is ever given in that part of the test procedure.
Overall, then, the Grand C-MAX scores very highly for crash safety, refinement and driving dynamics, not so well for interior space and dismally for visibility. Although it's a very good MPV, therefore, it isn't as good as it could have been.