|The rise of the sporty look in cars that are still comparatively tax-friendly continues, with Ford adding its seventh ST-Line model with its seven-seat MPV S-Max.|
|Key rival:||Seat Alhambra|
|Ford S-Max 2.0 TDCI 180 ST-Line Powershift Auto|
Like most manufacturers, Ford has spotted the rise of the sportier trim level. This adds visually appealing adornments to its regular models to offer vehicles that it can charge a premium for and look smart, but which still have the sensible powertrains that won’t leave the tax man rubbing his hands.Ford has already introduced the sporty ST-Line trim on the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo, Edge, Kuga and most recently Ecosport models, and now even a seven-seat people carrier joins the fold.
That said, the S-Max has never been a regular seven-seat family bus; even now, well into its second generation, it’s still the only large seven-seater that doesn’t look like a big square people-lugger, like its Galaxy sibling or the Seat Alhambra and Volkswagen Sharan.
This generation of S-Max failed to quite capture the charm of the original, but the ST-Line largely rectifies that, thanks to the full body kit and rear spoiler making for a real visual upgrade. Inside, the red stitching across the seats, steering wheel, door trim and centre console might be a bit much for some tastes, but there are also plenty of toys fitted as standard, including heated seats, keyless entry and lane-keeping aid. The new trim costs £1,650 over the equivalent Titanium model, and fills the gap below the range-topping Vignale.
The ST-Line comes with a choice of three engines – 180hp and 210hp 2.0-litre diesels and the 240hp petrol, with the 180hp alone in being offered as a manual, as well as an auto, and also the only one offered with all-wheel drive. Emissions start from 129g/km for the 180hp manual, with the auto adding 5g/km and the four-wheel drive system a further 15g/km, while the 210hp diesel is at 134g/km.To drive, the S-Max is a pleasant and well-sorted big car. The steering, punchy 180hp diesel in our test car and quick-shifting six-speed auto all work nicely together, and the ride quality is good, despite the ST-Line being fitted with sports suspension.
The seating position is a touch high, but the S-Max handles and drives like a car with a much lower centre of gravity. It might not have quite the rear space of a Galaxy if the rear seats are going to be in continual use, but there’s still enough space to carry medium-sized people.