FORD'S S-MAX is the most stylish seven-seater on the market.
Its chiselled good looks prove that practical people movers do not need to be boxy and ugly.
Ford has a solid history of producing successful family MPVs and the S-MAX sits above the popular B-MAX and Focus-based C-MAX. The company also offers the Galaxy which tops the range.
When the S-MAX first arrived back in 2006 it caused quite a stir and gave family customers the practicality they desired as well as an entertaining drive.
Ford stuck to that winning formula when they introduced the new model last September.
Its still handsome, practical and spacious with an upmarket feel and thankfully it is still good to drive on all types of roads.
Seven seats are standard but the rear bench is really only for children or occasional use but otherwise seating and storage space is really flexible.
With just five seats in use up to 700 litres of boot space is available and if you collapse the middle row you can increase that to an astonishing 2,200 litres.
The tailgate is wide enough to allow easy access and it is also electronically operated. In addition the low boot floor makes loading goods easy.
There's a choice of a variety of six petrol or diesel engines and this car came with the sensible 2.0-litre TDCi diesel producing 180ps. This engine provides the right blend of economy and performance for the size of vehicle.
It has enough power to get the S-MAX to 62mph in just 9.7 seconds and can take it on to 131mph if you can find anywhere legal to do it.
Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and with stop/start technology, it is also surprisingly frugal with a claimed combined mpg of 56.4. You won't get that in the real world but you will still be able to achieve decent economy.
The latest S-MAX is as sharp to drive as the last model and it feels more refined. It feels a lot like a Mondeo from behind the wheel, with very little cabin noise and a smooth, comfortable ride.
For such a big machine it is surprisingly agile and is good through corners.
The steering is neat and accurate and while it lacks the feel of the smaller C-MAX, there is bags of grip and more than you would expect from a big MPV.
And if you want even more grip a four-wheel-drive version is now available. It costs more and reduces economy, so if you don't really need it stick to the normal car.
Trim levels are familiar Ford, with Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X options. All models get alloy wheels, SYNC 2 infotainment, air conditioning, DAB radio and keyless start, while upper trim levels gain advanced technology including active lane keep assistance, automatic wipers, automatic lights and cruise control with an adaptive speed Zetecmodels come with 17-inch alloys, SYNC 2 with eight-inch touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, emergency assistance, keyless start, Thatcham alarm, DAB radio, sports seats, power fold mirrors, MyKey, mini spare wheel, tonneau cover, Isofix attachment (second row) and an electric handbrake.
The Titanium model adds Ford DAB Audio and Navigation, privacy glass, rain sensing front wipers and automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, keyless entry system, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, cruise control with adjustable speed limiter and body coloured trim.
It is priced at £28,445 but prices for the range start at £24.545.
The instruments are clear and easy to read and feature a multi-function digital display which can be set to show anything from the music being played to the speed limit on the road - thanks to sensors that read road signs.