IT'S funny how over time MPVs, or people carriers as they were once known, have faded from favour.
Perhaps it's down to the unstoppable rise of the SUV but the MPV seems to be more of a niche product now.
Once upon a time they were the only real option if you wanted to transport more than five people but these days there's a raft of choices when it comes to fitting seven people in and many of those are SUVs.
The biggest downside of the MPV traditionally was that one had to sacrifice driving dynamics for squeezing extra people in. It was a compromise some were happy to make, while others had to, but for many it was something of a turn-off.
Then manufacturers hit on the idea of more compact MPVs - cars that could still transport seven but offered a drive that was more car-like than minibus-like.
Vehicles like the Volkswagen Touran and Vauxhall Zafira were trailblazers but the one that really emerged triumphant was the Ford S-MAX.
Ford hit on the idea of creating two distinct vehicles on its MPV platform - one a conventional people carrier (the Galaxy) and the other more of a driver's car (the S-MAX).
Launched in 2006 it proved a real hit and in many ways offered the perfect blend of practicality and a fun drive. The new version continues that trend and should still see the S-MAX win plenty of friends.
Sensibly Ford hasn't altered the looks too much and the current model looks very like its predecessor.
It's a little sharper and more sleek perhaps but still a real good-looker.
On the inside the latest S-MAX is again a clever creation that maximises interior space to transport seven in comfort and also has plenty of little nifty storage touches to make it as family-friendly as possible.
Like a lot of smaller MPVs that third row doesn't offer a huge amount of legroom, so is best used for smaller passengers rather than fully-grown adults.
There's a choice of three trim levels Zetec, Titanium and Titanium Sport, with standard features on all fairly generous. All buyers get a SYNC 2 infotainment system, 17-inch alloys, parking sensors and a DAB radio.
Titanium models comes with a few extras, the key thing being a sat-nav, along with privacy glass, and LED daytime running lights.
Plenty of engine choices also make the S-MAX a tempting choice and there are two petrols and four diesels. The diesels are all 2.0-litre variants with differing power levels (118bhp, 148bhp, 178bhp and 207bhp).
This was the 148bhp version that's probably the biggest seller. If you want to maximise the driver experience both the 178bhp and 207bhp versions will certainly deliver and for petrol purists there's a 2.0-litre 237bhp range-topper. The other petrol option is a 158bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged EcoBoost.
It's hard to imagine many going down the petrol route with the diesels on offer but horses for courses and all that.
The good news is that the S-MAX continues to excel as a driver's car. Out on the road it feels light, nimble and agile and goes around corners in a way no other MPV can.
When it comes to power this particular diesel felt perfect in most respects, smooth refined and potent when the occasion demands it - even with a full load. If you want to up the ante there's even a four-wheel drive version that offers added grip, though it's not really necessary.