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Ford changes the image of the MPV

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: March 23, 2014

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SOME prophecies are inherently self-fulfilling. I once convinced myself that my busy lifestyle required the use of an MPV for hauling all my gear around but I could never get over the middle aged image of the thing.

I convinced myself I was getting fatter, balder and more sedentary and that the root of the blame was the MPV parked outside. So I sold it and bought a proper mid-life crisis sports car. There's a new MPV parked outside now, but try as I might, I can't blame it for ageing me. Mind you, I have just renewed my gym membership, so perhaps there's something lurking in the subconscious.

It's a Ford C-MAX, probably the least SAGA Holidays of all MPVs, but it still has some work to do to rehabilitate the image of people carriers in my mind. If you're not too familiar with the latest C-MAX, it's a five-seater vehicle that doesn't look at all like a crew bus and which features the same aggressive 'Kinetic Design' styling that you see on Mondeo and Focus models, so first impressions are promising.

The first few hundred miles revealed a few surprises, welcome and otherwise. I loved the car's styling and the cabin is, if anything, even more sharply designed, with plenty of metallic finish on display. I was less enamoured of the diesel engine's propensity to stall at junctions unless you give it some revs. I've since got used to this issue, but just to make sure it wasn't merely me unleashing the power of ineptitude, I've thrown the keys to a couple of friends who have both ended up red-faced and groping for the starter button.

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I received the car in the middle of a cold snap and, when compared to my roadster, which requires about a week to demist its own screen, the C-MAX is a revelation with a heated front screen that makes short work of even the heaviest overnight frosts. The ripply wires in the screen were a distraction at first, but you soon tune them out. Another feature that needs to be on all vehicles is the fuel filler system on the C-MAX which dispenses with a traditional filler cap and also makes it impossible to insert the wrong fuel nozzle.

I'm still undecided as to whether I love or hate the automatic tailgate. On the one hand, it's frustratingly hesitant and on a couple of occasions I've managed to press the release button twice and have it labour up half way only to stall and begin its leisurely downward travel again which is no fun when you're standing in the pouring rain with an armful of camera gear. The flipside of this is that it's possible to plip the button from the lounge, watch the tailgate elevate and then nip outside to fill the car with no faffing.

The 12v power socket next to the handbrake is a welcome touch. A USB connection is all well and good but when you need to charge a laptop, you need some serious juice. I also like the funky interior lighting that you can tune to your own preference. I'm not so delighted with the auto parking feature which I have not once been able to operate. Had I paid good money for this as an option, I'd be thoroughly disenchanted. Rear seats that don't fold fully flat seems like a feature of MPVs of the past too, but at least this C-MAX does offer plenty of space when the seats are down.

There have been a couple of durability issues with this car that were a little unexpected for a modern Ford. Above the navigation panel there's a flat area that's great for putting your keys or a phone in, but after just a couple of weeks, this is noticeably scuffed and worn looking which makes the interior feel a little secondhand. I've also had the key fob go a little temperamental and had a few random engine warning lights. After checking the fluid levels, it seems it was just a sporadic glitch, but it can knock your confidence in the car's durability to have things like this happen to a brand new car.

Mind you, it's hard to lose confidence in the way the C-MAX drives.

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