Gavin Braithwaite-Smith | April 2015
The Ford Grand C-Max is an MPV in the very traditional sense. Its rather sombre and dowdy exterior does little to lift the mood, while a pair of admittedly useful sliding doors suggest you’ve reached a stage in your life where wipe-clean surfaces and ease of use sit highly on your list of priorities.
Face it, you’re not too far off the age of pipe and slippers now.
As we all know, the Grand C-Max is a slightly longer and taller version of the C-Max, which itself is a slightly longer, taller and wider version of the Focus it is based on. This means the Grand C-Max never quite feels like a highly targeted MPV that’s been built with families in mind. It feels compromised. Which isn’t something you could say about the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.
Like the z-bed you bring out of the spare room when the in-laws come to visit, the third row of seats are good for occasional use only. Getting to them is hard enough, but once you’re there, the amount of knee, leg and headroom means they’re only suitable for children. Or your least favourite friends when travelling seven-up to the football match.
For the 2015 Grand C-Max, Ford has given it a subtle refresh to bring it in line with the rest of the range, improved the efficiency of the engines and given the interior a much-needed refresh.
The facelift works, up to a point. The new grille, headlights, smoother tailgate and smaller rear lights certainly smarten up the Grand C-Max’s appearance, but it’s not what you’d call a good looking car. On the inside, the simplified dashboard layout is a big improvement, but still a world away from the minimalist approach we’ve seen in other cars.
It does feel more premium than before, but the new adjustable centre console – which replaces the traditional fixed-size cupholders of before – feels flimsy and very cheap. Up front, masses of headroom gives the cabin a cavernous feel and there’s enough seat and steering wheel adjustment for most people to find a comfortable driving position.
What’s the Ford Grand C-Max like to drive?
Nobody is going to buy a compact MPV hoping for razor-sharp dynamics and off-the-line pace. And let’s not kid ourselves that the concept of a ‘hot MPV’ is a good idea. Remember the Vauxhall Meriva VXR? Seriously, you were better off buying an Astra and using the cash you had saved to buy a weekend toy.
So the biggest compliment we can pay to the Grand C-Max is that it’s perfectly pleasant to drive. Sure, there’s a fair amount of body roll when cornering hard, but it’s well controlled and predictable. On admittedly silk-like Spanish roads it also rode very well, soaking up bumps and smoothing out all but the worst potholes.
The steering? Yep, that’s absolutely fine, too. Lacking in feel, but for occasions when it matters – i.e. car parks and town centre driving – it’s very good. Mid-range punch is impressive, largely thanks to the 295lb ft of torque available from the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel engine we were testing. This should prove to be useful for overtaking and when on motorways.
Ford has also added a 120hp 1.5-litre diesel engine to the range, which offers an extra 5hp over the 1.6-litre engine it replaces, as well as a 20 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions. The diesel engines are expected to account for the vast majority of C-Max and Grand C-Max sales in the UK, but two versions of the excellent 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine are also available.
By thickening the side glass and carpets, along with adding a huge amount of extra sound absorption materials throughout the Grand C-Max, Ford claims to have reduced the amount of noise entering the cabin. For the most part this works, although there’s still a fair amount of wind noise on motorways and plenty of diesel clatter when accelerating hard.
But in the great scheme of things, we’re nitpicking. The Grand C-Max behaves like a slighter taller and wider Ford Focus. And that’s perfectly fine.
So what will the Ford Grand C-Max really be like to live with?
What are the things that matter in a part-time seven-seat MPV? Safety, ease of use, comfort and onboard technology. Probably in that order. And the good news is that the Ford Grand C-Max scores highly on all these factors.
Starting with safety. A number of option packs are available, including the Driver Assistance Pack, which includes Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Alert and auto high beam. Adaptive Cruise Control and Blind Spot Recognition are available on the Titanium and Titanium X models.
As for ease of use. The sliding doors give it an edge over the five-seat C-Max and the electric tailgate will undoubtedly appeal to parents and children alike. The Grand C-Max is also available with a Convenience Pack, which offers Active Park Assist, front and rear parking sensors, Powerfold mirrors and global closing. Again, these aren’t available on the C-Max, helping the Grand C-Max to mount a strong case for the additional £1,600 required for the extra seats.
Overall, the Grand C-Max is a comfortable car, but it all depends on where you’re sitting. Up front, the seats offer plenty of support and a commanding driving position. The outermost seats on the second row are also comfortable, offering a good level of leg and headroom. These seats can also be folded backwards and forwards, either to provide extra space in the boot or to give the passengers in the third row some much needed legroom.
But the central seat on the second row is good for occasional use only and, as we’ve already mentioned, the third row is only suitable for children or pet monkeys.
Onboard technology is an area where Ford consistently delivers. All models feature a heated windscreen, DAB digital radio, MyKey, hill start assist, air conditioning and a tyre pressure monitoring system as standard. In a canny move, Ford will also offer a Family Pack – which adds rear unblinds, front and rear LED reading lights and seat-back trays – for just £150.
Ford claims the majority of buyers will opt for the entry-level Zetec model, but it’s the Titanium spec which offers the best value for money, adding an excellent – if slightly complex – 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, automatic lights and wipers, dual zone climate control, keyless start, cruise control with active speed limiter, auto-dimming rear view mirror and rear parking sensors.
Verdict: Ford Grand C-Max (2015)
For the UK market, Ford has chosen to ditch the tyre repair kit in favour of a return to the use of a mini spare wheel. Good news and a victory for common sense. But be warned, because by doing so, the amount of luggage space drops from 475 litres (laden to package tray) to 448 litres. With all seven seats in place, this drops to a minuscule 65 litres.
Compact MPVs are incredibly popular in continental Europe, but fall behind hatchbacks and superminis in the UK. We haven’t taken them to heart quite like our European cousins. Whether you should go for the full fat Grand C-Max or save the £1,600 and opt for the marginally prettier C-Max comes down to what you want from a car.
There will be a time when you’ll need the additional seats and you’ll be glad you went large. And in Titanium and Titanium X specification, the Grand C-Max does a good impression of more premium alternatives with far higher price tags.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Grand C-Max does absolutely nothing to set your pulse racing. It tells the world you’re entering middle age and – whilst not quite prepared to accept you’re not as young as you used to be – you do realise it’s time to grow up. And the Grand C-Max is an excellent car to help guide you through this stage of your life.
Rivals: Ford Grand C-Max (2015)
- Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
- Vauxhall Zafira Tourer
- Peugeot 5008
- Renault Grand Scenic
- Volkswagen Touran
Cars like the Grand C4 Picasso and Grand Scenic are designed with seven seats in mind and are your best bet if you’re planning to spend most of the time with all seats in their upright position. The Volkswagen Touran has the Grand C-Max trumped when it comes to interior quality, but at least the Ford’s interior feels more exciting. And let’s not forget there’s an all-new S-Max on the horizon. Review to follow shortly.
Specification: Ford Grand C-Max (2015)
Engines 1.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 1.5 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox Six-speed manual or PowerShift automatic, front-wheel drive
Price from £20,295 – £27,615
Power 100 – 150hp
Torque 125 – 295lb ft
0-62mph 8.8 – 13.7 seconds
Top speed 103 – 129mph
MPG 54 – 64mpg
CO2 113 – 129g/km