The 2015 Ford C-Max and its big brother, the Grand C-Max, have always challenged people to literally think outside the (two-volume) box. But regardless of how unconventional you think you are, appeal will always be appeal and Ford's recent refresh for the C-Max wants to make sure the car winks at you.
I've always preferred hatchbacks over sedans, simply thanks to the practicality advantages the first category offers. In my book, sedans are for uber-traditional people and whenever there's an enticing alternative, such as a hatch or a shooting brake, that's where my vote goes.
With the C-Max non-identical twins, Ford wants to double that bet. Thanks to the Focus
base, we get all the treats of their compact, but with the added practicality of an MPV
This sounds a bit like a hatchback Holy Grail, but until now the styling meant you definitely knew this was not the effervescent Focus. The 2015 facelift is here to change all that.
When the Blue Oval introduced the first generation back in 2003, the design was pretty sporty but, being the first of its kind, the car was not perfect. The second generation, which landed in 2010, upped the ante on the refinement level, but lost its design edge.
At the first glance, the visual and the comfort updates for the 2015 mid-cycle revamp top the list. While this means the car has learned all the lessons of its predecessors, I recently went deeper into this first impression to see just how versatile the 2015 C-Max and Grand C-Max are.
Styling-wise, the C-Max has its appeal, looking just as good as a Focus.
The Aston grille is here and there are plenty of details that please the eye. From the arched roofline to the more compact taillights, which somehow remind of the previous-generation Mondeo, this car spells "active". As in the case of the S-Max, the styling is a well-balanced job, with no part of the car being left behind
When it come to the Grand C-Max, it shares the attractiveness in terms of the front end. The roofline is much more conservative, and this is fully understandable, since this one has to offer headroom for the 6th and 7th seats located in the boot.
I've always been a fan of sliding doors, so I appreciate their presence on the Grand C-Max. However, it seems I'm part of a minority since many people avoid this type of access. The only issue I see with sliding doors is that you have to use a bit more force than you would with conventional ones. Still, the Grand C-Max's rear doors aren't difficult to operate.
Alas, the rear end styling of the 7-seater version lets the rest of the car down. Had the designers used sharper taillights, everything would've been just fine.
Returning to the standard doors, these close with a solid feel. As you enter the cabin, you get the feeling of well-protected personal space. We'll dive deeper into this later on when we discuss the open road experience.
Most of the dashboard is shared with the Focus, which means we get a bit of a sporty design. I couldn't help notice how the dynamic-looking instrument panel doesn't allow the rest of the family to see very much of it, addressing the driver only. I'm not complaining though.
I'll keep that bit for the nasty sides of the Sync2 infotainment systems. The menus are not exactly intuitive, and the navigation sometimes has unfortunately-timed delays. Nevertheless, the 8-inch-size of the screen and its graphics are nice.
And yes, I did tell the car "I'm hungry", with the voice control system responding by offering me a list of restaurants.
Alas, the cabin still uses certain pieces of plastic that look like they don't belong here. As for the bits that are different compared to the Focus, the center console doesn't go too far down that road. Instead, I'll mention the abundance of stowage spaces, from the top of the dash to the headliner.
Speaking of the family, there's plenty of room in the second row and even the middle seat provides proper accommodation. As for the two extra seats of the Grand C-Max, these are suitable for children, but due to the high floor, they can only support adults on long trips.
Access is facile though, with the second-row seats being easy to maneuver. When it comes to the luggage capacity, the C-Max offers between 437 and 1851 liters (15.4 and 65.4 cubic feet), which places it in the middle of its segment. From now on, the C-Max features a space saver spare wheel. As for he Grand C-Max, this offers 115 liters / 448 liters or 1,715 liters (115/15.8/60.6 cubic feet), depending on how many seats are folded. Perhaps the most interesting part of the C-Max is its driving versatility - inside the city, the car feels agile. The only drawback brought by the extra cabin volume comes in the form of the slightly reduced front visibility. Yes, there’s a pair of small side windows up front that address this issue, but only partially succeedes.
The parking sensors also fully cover the sides of the vehicle, not just areas around the front and rear bumpers. We came to truly appreciate this feature on the narrow streets that make up most of the urban settlements in Palma de Mallorca, where the press launch was held.
The rocky walls in the area are enough warning, but the relaxed Spanish attitude means people will sometimes park on such a narrow street without any hesitation. More than once, I found myself in a situation where I had no more than a few centimeters on each side of the car during what was supposed to be a "normal" driving scenario. The C-Max sensors came in pretty handy.
The car can also park itself. However, as in the case of just about any other system of this kind we tested, a decent driver will outmaneuver the autonomous system. Actually, it’s a semi-autonomous feature, since the vehicle controls the steering, while you have to take care of the throttle and brake.
I admit I had a bit of a surprise once I stepped into the colorful landscape of the island. That's because the C-Max is just as happy on long journeys as it is through the city.
From the engine bay to the thicker side glass and the beefier door seals, the engineers have worked hard on the soundproofing and it all feels premium. This is where the C-Max defeats the S-Max, as the latter's peace and quiet is sometimes disturbed by the door mirror wind noise. Factor in the pleasing suspension comfort (all-round independent, remember?) and you end up with a good family hauler.
The best part of it all is that the passengers enjoy these benefits just as much as the driver does, a testament of the family destination.
The car maintains the Focus' slightly playful handling, giving you clear hints that it enjoys a bit of spirited driving. Even so, it's the S-Max, not the C-Max, which offers the livelier feeling behind the wheel.
Our pick of the range is the 150 HP
1.5-liter EcoBoost petrol. One generation ago, we used to have this level of power on a two-liter, atmospheric Fiesta ST. Now the EcoBoost feels like a reliable and discreet presence. It's not particularly sporty, but it will deal with just about anything you throw at it. The same goes for the six-speed manual gearbox.
If you want extra grunt, you can have the same engine with 182 hp, but the overall character of the car isn't the kind that requires a warm hatch approach. As for the 100 HP and 125 HP incarnations of the 1-liter EcoBoost engine, keep those for the on-paper discussions.
On the diesel front, the new 1.5-liter TDCi diesel does a good job at replacing its 1.6-liter predecessor. With 120 hp, it never feels underpowered. However, the refinement and driving experience levels of the car resonate better with the 1.5 EcoBoost petrol I mentioned above. There’s also a 95 HP version, but we didn’t play with that one, with the same being true for the entry-level petrol engine, a naturally-aspirated 1.6-liter unit. With 85 HP and 150 Nm, you should definitely avoid this one.
Those who are on the diesel side and like to have extra grunt musn’t be worried. Ford offers the 2-liter TDCi in two power levels, so you can choose between 150 hp and 170 hp. As for customers looking for two pedals, the 1.5-liter EcoBoost is offered with a 6-speed automatic. The carmaker also introduced its PowerShift six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but only on the pair of 2-liter diesel units. 14 centimeters (about 5.5 inches) of extra wheelbase and the pair of sliding doors we discussed above. This is what essentially separates the C-Max from its Grand brother.
The Grand C-Max is a compromise between the standard C-Max and the S-Max. The only problem is that... it feels like a compromise, especially in terms of driving.
The Grand C-Max reduces the entire experience to simply being fair, somehow reminding us of Ford's commercial vehicles.
Just like in the case of the 2015 Ford S-Max, the C-Max hasn’t been tested by the Euro NCAP yet. In spite of that, we gave the car nine out of ten points when it came to this chapter. It all starts on the road, where the C-Max gives you confidence. It also has the assets to back this up, even when it comes to the Grand version.
As for its Focus base, the hatchback has achieved a five-star Euro NCAP rating with excellent scores.
The C-Max also places a high bid on the active safety card. The car can go as far as autonomously braking - the Active City Brake feature handles this between 30 km/h (19 mph) and 50 km/h (31 mph). We also have Active Braking, which targets moving objects and operates between 8 km/h (5 mph) and 180 km/h (112 mph).
I had the "opportunity" to test the later when a driver in front of me decided to jump on the brakes after having missed a turn. While the system's warnings can be a little aggressive at times (it warned me even after I had started to turn away from the car in front), its presence is a clear advantage.
Adaptive cruise control, steering-controlling self-parking, Adaptive Front Lighting System. The C-Max has plenty of such aces up its sleeve.
Ford has built an entire cult around breaking the tradition with its MPV approach. While the S-Max may require specialized clientele, the C-Max is easier to understand.
Unless you're the kind that can't go without an ST or an RS badge, the C-Max can easily play the role of a Focus.
The overall experience offered by the car is its best asset. When you take into account the comfort and the slight driving orientation, this becomes one appealing mix.
And it's all packed in a sharp design, so won't have to explain your car to people.
The worst side of the 2015 Ford C-Max has to be the Sync2 infotainment system, which is why we're eagerly awaiting for the already presented Sync3 to start making its way into production.
As for the price, this starts at EUR 17,850, including 19 percent VAT. We are talking about the German market, where the Grand S-Max starts at about EUR 2,500 higher compared to the standard version.
However, the actual pricing difference sits at around EUR 1,000 since the rest comes from the fact that the entry Grand C-Max has a superior powertrain. Oh and if you want to get a decent engine/trim configuration, be prepared to pay around EUR23,000 for a C-Max.
While that difference is reasonable, the car itself is too much of a compromise. The extra pair of seats in the boot is cramped, and the driving experience is no longer enticing. You should either stick to the C-Max or make the real upgrade to the S-Max
. Nevertheless, if you want adults to use the third-row seats for long distances, the also-new 2015 Galaxy is the car for you.
The point is that, if you're open to venture into new segments, Ford has assured that, one way or another, it has the right size for you.