By Mike Torpey on 2010-09-26 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
C-ing double with
the Max factor
FORD is aiming to take the max factor to a whole new world of buyers with its latest family-friendly arrival.
It's a twin-pronged assault from the Blue Oval marque that sees the old C-MAX compact multi-activity vehicle that first hit the road in 2002 making way for a pair of new models, each with its own personality.
The new regular C-MAX will most likely appeal to current Ford Focus drivers while the new seven-seat Grand version could be a boon for the ‘soccermums' who often find that a standard five seater is simply not enough.
What's certain is that these two cars are vitally important to the company's future as they mark a milestone in its ONE Ford strategy.
The new Focus, to be launched early next year, will also be built on this platform - underpinning a new generation of 10 models worldwide and production of up to two million cars annually.
The five-seater will also be the basis for Ford's five electric vehicles promised for sale in Europe with three years.
So why split one C-MAX into two? Well Ford believes that more than half of current multi-activity vehicle buyers are looking for a car with six or seven seats.
And with three different seven-seater models - Galaxy, S-MAX and Grand C-MAX - now in the line-up, Ford is in a stronger position than rivals like Vauxhall, Citroen and Renault.
It's also the end for any boxy designs because both C-MAX body styles really look the part, particularly the five-door car with its more coupe-like silhouette and sweeping roofline.
A smart interior is also common to each with soft-touch materials, chrome panelling and a mobile phone-inspired centre console in piano black that was designed in conjunction with Sony.
The longer wheelbase Grand, which is expected to account for 60 per cent of sales, features twin sliding doors plus some clever seating tricks that can transform the three second row seats into two inside 15 seconds, opening up a handy walk-through area.
The back pair, though, are strictly for occasional use by kids and when all seven are in use there's precious little space for any sports kit or shopping bags.
Otherwise load space is ample and all the seating functions have been designed for simple operation with one hand.
While a different set of buyers will look to each model, one factor became patently clear from the launch exercise in Provence - both these cars are a real treat to drive.
I marginally preferred the sportier-looking five-door, which also marked the debut of a 1.6-litre version of Ford's EcoBoost petrol engine.
The previous generation C-MAX performed well but this latest car is more agile, more dynamic, quieter and better fun to drive, thanks in no small part to a stiffer chassis, wider track and new electric power steering.
And despite its extra size and weight the Grand also performed with terrific poise and stability along switchback mountain passes.
The EcoBoost engine - designed to provide petrol performance with diesel economy - is also a cracker, offering a punchy 150PS of power, though it is only available in top trim versions of each car.
Sales start next month with prices from £16,745 for the C-MAX 1.6 petrol 105ps while the Grand starts at £18,745 for the 125ps version, and both models will be available in Zetec and Titanium trim grades.
A pair of diesels - 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDCI units producing 115 and 140ps - are also available, the stronger one powering the flagship Grand C-MAX Titanium with Powershift auto transmission at Â£23,245.
All models are well kitted out with 16-inch alloys, leather steering wheel, air-con, Bluetooth and digital CD/radio as standard while Titanium spec adds the likes of seat back tables, ambient lighting, hill launch assist and keyless start.
Six option packs are also on offer plus stand alone extras like sat-nav with rear view camera, pearlescent paint and 18-inch alloys.
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