Ford S-max Estate

Review of the Ford S-MAX Estate

The new seven-seater Ford S-MAX Estate is a stylish and practical large family car that sits at the top of Ford’s ‘MAX’ range. It might be the largest member of the family, but if you want a big MPV that’s also entertaining to drive, this is the one to look at.

That said, combining looks, usability and sharp steering into a seven-seater isn’t going to come cheap. Is this one worth at least £26,500 of your cash? OSV takes a closer look at what it’s all about with our 2018 Ford S-MAX Estate review.

Ford have been making cars for over 100 years and have a long history of making good, practical family cars. Read our brief history of Ford to find out more about the American manufacturer.

Overview of the Ford S-MAX Estate

On the Road

Make no mistake – this is a big car. But it drives like a much smaller one. Its ride is comfortable, its handling is neat, and it’s easy to drive in the towns and cities.

On the motorway, it excels as an excellent cruiser too, and overall the car’s on the road talents are impossible to fault. It’s even fun out on the open road. All of this is what makes the S-MAX stand out from its rivals. On a full load, no other car in this sector can match the S-MAX’s handling prowess.

The best thing about it is its lack of body lean, something which typically counts against cars like this.

Ford S-MAX Estate

Adaptive steering is an optional extra, and it causes the car to feel more wieldy still. Drivers can change the ratio so that the car changes the correlation between output at the road wheels and input at the steering wheel. This is so that you don’t need to make as many turns at low speeds when parking. Is it worth adding? Some of you will find it useful, others won’t.

In terms of its engines, there are two petrol’s available. A 1.5-litre EcoBoost sits at the bottom of the range. It develops 240Nm of torque and 160bhp. 0-62 is dispensed in just less than 10.0 seconds and the car is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. No automatic option is available.

A 2.0-litre EcoBoost SCTi engine rounds things off. It develops 240bhp, comes paired up with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and has a 0-62 time of 8.4 seconds. That makes it considerably faster than the 1.5-litre engine, but it’s also more expensive to run.

Ford S-MAX Estate Interior, Design and Build

Interior of the Ford S-MAX Estate

On the outside, the S-MAX looks sporty, and its sporty image continues indoors. The controls are user-friendly, and the driver sits higher up than normal.

The cabin is airy and bright, and the dashboard continues the sporty theme, too. The controls are logically arranged and everything has been designed for ease of use.

Quality is good as well, with Ford adding more soft-touch materials than last time. Build quality has also been improved, and all the seats are comfortable and supportive.

Meanwhile, the brand’s most recent Sync3 infotainment system is standard on all models. It’s a lot easier to use than its predecessor and comes with Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Is the Ford S-MAX Estate practical? It’s got seven seats, which is a major plus. Its second row can accommodate three adults, and it can recline and individually slide back and forth to boost boot space or legroom.

The second row is also big enough to accommodate a trio of child seats, and each seat comes with an ISOFIX child seat mount.

The third row of seats is probably a bit smaller than most rivals, and leg and headroom back there isn’t great. Kids will be fine, but adults won’t be. Moreover, the third row doesn’t come with airbags.

The boot, meanwhile, measures a massive 2,000-litres when both the third and second row is folded. With all rows in place, it has a load capacity of 285-litres. Fold the third row and it increases to 700.

Is Ford reliable? Read our honest assessment of their cars.

Equipment and Safety of the Ford S-MAX Estate

The Zetec model sits at the bottom of the range, and it’s got pretty much everything that families need. It comes with the brand’s latest 8” Sync3 system, Bluetooth, a digital radio, front and rear parking sensors, all-round electric windows and twin zone climate control.

The Titanium model adds cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers and sat-nav.

The ST-Line nets you heated seats, a body kit, 18” alloys and sports suspension, while the highest spec Vignale trim comes with swankier quilted leather, a 28-ounce carpet, a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat and more soft-touch materials here and there. However, the Vignale mixes all this swankiness with harder plastics.

In terms of how safe the car is, the new S-MAX was awarded all five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. Its standard safety kit includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, electronic stability control and traction control, but to get lane departure warning, you’ll need to go for the Titanium model.

Costs of the Ford S-MAX Estate

Prices for the new car start out from £26,445 and rise to £38,395. For more information on our leasing deals, you can check out our page here.

In terms of its running costs, the hi-tech petrols sound like they’d be cheap to run. They’re definitely cleaner than they’ve ever been, and they also conform to the most recent Euro 6 emissions standards. Opting for four-wheel-drive and an automatic gearbox will bump up costs, though.

The 1.5-litre 160bhp EcoBoost engine can return 43.5mpg at best, while the bigger 2.0-litre petrol engine manages 37mpg on a (very) good day. Not the best numbers, then.

Pros and Cons of the Ford S-MAX Estate



The second row of seats can do all kinds of things.

Massive boot

Fold the second and third row of seats and the boot measures as much as 2,000-litres.

Looks good

It’s one of the most stylish cars of this type on the market today.


Expensive to buy

Some rivals are cheaper (some are more similarly priced) and you can pick up, say, a Ford Tourneo Connect for less.

Expensive to run

Ford claim the 2.0-litre petrol engine can return 37mpg at best, but you’ll be averaging 25mpg.

Ford S-MAX Estate vs Volkswagen Sharan vs Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

Let’s see how the car fares against its rivals in the comparison section of our 2018 Ford S-MAX Estate review.

Ford S-MAX Estate vs Volkswagen Sharan

The new Volkswagen Sharan might have the worst name ever for Brits (who’s Sharon anyway?), but it’s a solid people carrier. It’s comfortable and refined and feels robust enough to cope with family life on the road.

There’s barely anything to criticise about, and this goes for the way it drives too. It’s a big car but it benefits from sharing its underpinnings with smaller VW models. So despite fitting seven people, it handles like a smaller vehicle.

Don’t expect a sports car, of course, but well-weighted steering and nicely managed body lean are the order of the day here.

VW Sharan

In terms of its engines, this is probably where the Sharan disappoints the most because there is in fact just one petrol available. It’s a tidy 1.4-litre TSI unit that develops 148bhp. That’s a reasonable amount of punch, and a 0-62 time of less than 10.0 seconds seems just fine for a car of this type.

Running costs? The sole petrol engine comes with the brands fuel-saving BlueMotion technology, which includes stop-start. As a result, it can return 43.5mpg on a good day. Emissions, meanwhile, are pegged at 150g/km of CO2. Specifying the DSG automatic transmission barely alters those figures.

Inside, the Sharan isn’t going to win any prizes for imagination, and this is hardly a cabin that’s going to excite you. But it’s comfortable, smooths out most road surfaces and boasts a simply designed dashboard that’s very user-friendly.

It’s well equipped too, with all models getting a digital radio, electric windows, cloth upholstery and climate control.

Is the Volkswagen Sharan practical? Volkswagen really thought about families when they put this car together. As well as having seven seats, head and legroom for all seats is good but if you want to ferry adults around often and can settle for six instead of seven seats, you might want to take a look at the 6-seater Executive model instead.

Storage solutions are literally everywhere and include dashboard storage and a cooled glovebox, while the boot measures 375-litres when all the seats are up. Fold the second and third row, and you can extend it to 2,297-litres.


Ford – £26,445 – £38,395
Volkswagen – £27,900 – £38,130

Ford S-MAX Estate vs Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

The seven-seater Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is roomy, flexible and good to drive.

It’s a slick-looking car but its looks are a bit deceptive in that they drop a hint that this might actually be a fun car to drive. Hate to break it to you, but it isn’t. The S-MAX wins the points over the Zafira on that score, but tidy handling and comfy suspension ensure the Vauxhall isn’t awful on the road.

That said, it bounces a fair bit on open roads, and while its light steering is fine in the towns and cities, it can undermine your confidence elsewhere. It is, however, fairly precise and overall the car is predictable and secure.

Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

In terms of its engines, there’s not much to choose from on the petrol front. Like the Volkswagen Sharan, there’s just one available. This is a turbocharged 1.4-litre unit that develops 138bhp, and which can whizz you from rest to 62mph in 9.9 seconds. That’s perfectly acceptable for a car of this type and size, and it’s easy to keep up with traffic.

A 1.8-litre petrol engine, meanwhile, has been ditched.

Running costs? The single petrol option benefits from turbochargers to keep costs down. It returns 44.1mpg at best, which is competitive in this class. On the other hand, emissions of 156g/km of CO2 are high and result in a BiK rating of 32%.

Inside, Vauxhall have given the Zafira a much-needed facelift and it now looks like a more pleasant place to spend your time. The dashboard is less cluttered than last time, the wheel and seat offer lots of adjustability and all models come with a 7” infotainment touchscreen. All models also come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as a digital radio and cruise control.

Is the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer practical? All round parking sensors help to make this bulky car easy to park, while seats that fold totally flat in less than 10.0 seconds are a massive bonus – the fastest in this class, in fact.

The third row of seats is really for kids only but adults will find that they have plenty of room in the first and second rows. It’s a shame that ISOFIX child seat mounts are restricted to just the pair of outer second-row seats, though.

The boot, meanwhile, measures 710-litres when the third row is folded, which is very generous.


Vauxhall – £20,200 – £31,165

Verdict of our 2018 Ford S-MAX Estate Review

It’s no surprise that Ford was the first brand to produce an MPV that was fun to drive. This was it, the S-MAX. A decade on, it’s still great to drive but it’s now an even better all-rounder.

Ford have really refined their product here. It’s got seven practical seats, comfort is better than ever, and there’s lots of tech that keeps it up-to-date. The only downside is that the Ford S-MAX Estate is expensive to run and – compared to some rivals – expensive to buy.

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So here we have the largest in Ford’s Max MPV range – The Ford S-Max. This large 7 seat MPV turns traditional MPV motoring on its head by making it genuinely exciting to drive, but not at the expense of comfort and practicality. I’m sure this notion is enough to conjure up the image of a…

Presented by Will Titterington


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