Just what is Ford’s efficient hybrid MPV like to drive? We take one for a spin and find out if Australia is missing out.
It’s a new MPV! Although Ford won’t thank you for calling it one – it prefers to label the S-Max a sports activity vehicle, on account of the Galaxy fulfilling the people-mover role. But still, a car that seats seven that’s not an SUV is reason enough to get excited.
Now offered with a hybrid powertrain, the S-Max produces 139kW and 201Nm from the combined Atkinson-cycle petrol and AC synchronous electric motor, channeling the power through a CVT to the front wheels.
These are hardly revelatory figures, so it’s not surprising to see the 9.9sec 0-100kmh time, given the near two-tonne kerb weight.
But the hybrid isn’t about outright pace, rather fuel savings. At 6.49L/100km, it gets similar to the diesel S-Max. There’s no plug-in hybrid option offered.
Inside, it’s business as usual, with slightly dated infotainment graphics but an enormous and practical interior. Ford has carefully rerouted the exhaust around the hybrid’s additional battery pack, so the boot space (maxed out at 2020 litres) is the same as in the diesel.
Push the dashboard-mounted starter button and the S-Max starts on electric power but, as ever with a conventional hybrid, the petrol engine kicks in pretty soon afterwards. Electric-only driving is really possible only when you’re manoeuvring around a car park, but the transition is smooth.
As is the CVT if you’re pottering around, although it makes the engine wail annoyingly during any overtaking move. It’s okay most of the time, but the age-old criticisms of CVTs are no different here.
As such, the S-Max’s trump card remains as it ever was: its dynamic abilities. The ride quality is the stand-out, with the sort of controlled damping that beautifully rounds off bumps’ edges. We sadly lost Richard Parry-Jones recently, but his spirit lives on here.
Ford has doggedly stuck with the MPV sector despite most firms quitting. By adding a hybrid option, the S-Max becomes even more of a one-car niche – neither the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer nor the Volkswagen Sharan (also not offered Down Under) offers it, and perhaps it would pull a few sales locally…but it would certainly not be enough to justify its existence in the Australian market when SUVs are so hot.