By Mike Torpey on 2020-07-05 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Ford S-MAX 2.0
ANYONE who has experienced back problems will understand the importance of comfortable car seats - ones offering the sort of support that eliminate that hunched stagger afflicting so many drivers and passengers when they get out of a vehicle.
It's something recognised by Ford in the brand's continued quest to stay at the head of the people-carrying party.
And the latest, upgraded, versions of its S-MAX sports activity vehicle don't just deliver a more distinctive design than before, but now offer front seats that can be adjusted 18 ways for maximum support.
In the process they have earned a seal of approval from leading spinal health organisation the Campaign for Healthier Backs.
Adaptable and smart, you could say the popular Ford represents everything positive about owning a family car.
SUVs may be the go-to models these days but they aren't as versatile as the S-MAX, nor any more rewarding to drive, and if a raised driving position is what you need, well the Ford isn't exactly flush to the ground itself.
The S-MAX also highlights how family-friendly vehicles, costing from just under £30,000 if you fancy the Ford, can come equipped with the sort of advanced kit that just a few years ago would have been the preserve of the most expensive executive models.
Gear like the FordPass Connect on-board modem which turns the car into a mobile WiFi hotspot with connectivity for up to 10 devices and which enables local hazard info to inform drivers of hazardous situation ahead before they become visible.
There's also a lane-keeping aid with lane departure warning as part of the suite of safety features that include Active City Stop collision avoidance, lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition and cruise control with adjustable speed limiter.
Even without the technology the S-MAX has plenty to offer with its open, airy interior while the individually adjustable seats have thin backs to provide more legroom.
That's in addition to 32 seating and load-space combinations, as well as easy-fold second and third row seats.
So easy in fact that a light kick below the rear bumper opens the tailgate and the press of a button flops down the middle row.
Kids and cargo are also well catered for, with plenty of cubby space around the cabin, tray tables in the rear plus tie-downs in the boot.
Meanwhile, the S-MAX is also now available with Ford's 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine designed to provide the power, torque and driving performance of a larger capacity unit while ensuring the fuel efficiency and low emissions of a smaller powerplant.
In the case of our Titanium variant that meant a 150ps unit as opposed to the 190ps engine in ST-Line and top spec Vignale models.
This may be the lowest powered diesel but it nonetheless brought ample punch and decent torque. Sweet, strong and beautifully damped to drive, we managed to return an average 50 miles per gallon during a period of mixed urban and open-country motoring.
As is the case with all Ford models the standard six-speed manual gearbox is slick and smooth, while those preferring automatic can secure the eight-speed self-shifter controlled via a rotary dial for an extra £2,160.
Gadgets like the Ford SYNC3 communications and entertainment set-up including sat nav and compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also part of the package, supported by an eight-inch colour touchscreen.
Ford S-MAX 2.0 EcoBlue Titanium
Mechanical: 150ps, 1,996cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 123mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 56.5
Insurance Group: 20
C02 emissions: 130g/km
Bik rating: 31%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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