Yes, it’s big and boxy – yet in the seven-seater people-carrier world, the Ford S-Max range is considered a spritely, stylish and agile vehicle. The top-of-the-range model is the Vignale - and it’s the best equipped of the lot. This car is Ford’s attempt to give a premium badge to its biggest MPV, so expect every conceivable extra.
The harsh truth is that MPVs aren’t as popular as they once were. With chunky styling, SUVs and crossovers are top of the people-carrying charts.
The S-Max has none of the muscular bulges and rugged panels of a modern crossover - its sleek box-like shape actually conceals more space and versatility. The slightly sloping roofline is designed to create a sportier profile – it does however reduce headroom inside.
Look out for the ‘Vignale’ badge on the tailgate - there aren’t many other clues that this is the ultra-premium version. Perhaps car-spotters will notice the V-shaped inset on the front grille and the 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s dark chrome detailing on the door handles too but most of the up-market extras are inside.
The S-Max has none of the muscular bulges and rugged panels of a modern crossover.
What’s it like to drive?
The S-Max is generally considered one of the best MPVs to drive. It’s almost sporty compared to some of the wallowing bouncy-castle rivals. There’s a good level of grip when cornering and the steering feels nicely weighted. At the same time, the ride over bumpy roads is very good so passengers feel comfortable, even on the most pothole-filled roads.
The Vignale also comes with extra soundproofing too, so motorways and high speeds are a quiet experience. The powerful turbodiesel engine packs plenty of punch, even when the vehicle is fully loaded. It is matched to a smooth-changing eight-speed automatic gearbox, as standard in the Vignale. Buyers had a choice of front-wheel drive, like a normal hatchback, or a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system.
The S-Max is generally considered one of the best MPVs to drive.
The S-Max interior is a study in simple practical design. It’s neat, durable and child-proof. Add in the flagship features of the Vignale and it transforms into a luxurious cabin. You’ll slip into the soft leather seats, heated if you need and with a built-in massage function available. Ford originally described these special seats as ‘medically-approved’, whatever that means - you’re more likely to notice the opulent level of adjustability. They can be moved with powered buttons to adjust in 18 different ways.
The dashboard in front of you is covered in leather and this neatly stitched hide stretches across the door panels. At the centre of the dashboard is a sophisticated touchscreen infotainment system including Bluetooth, DAB and sat-nav. It’s a significant upgrade from the standard S-Max.
The extra cost of a Vignale is reflected in the extras fitted. These include front and rear parking sensors and a rear camera system, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and access to the Ford Pass Connect live information and vehicle status system.
The Vignale also features details you may not notice at first – for example, its door seals vastly improve noise and environmental insulation creating a refined environment on the move.
The S-Max offers the great seating versatility of an MPV, like most of its rivals and unlike many crossovers. Ford claims there are 32 different load/seat combinations.
Three rows of seats give room to carry seven people in a 2-3-2 layout. The rear two fold up from the boot floor and are a little tight on headroom because of the sloping coupe-style roof. With those seats folded flat, the boot is big. Fold the middle seats and it’s enormous. There’s an underfloor storage area too.
Seats are particularly easy to fold flat at the press of a button which makes access to the rear seats easier than it might be. The big tailgate also rises high though to reveal an easy, wide opening with a low loading lip and a flat luggage bay.
Running costs and reliability
The powerful diesel engine can return 48mpg even with the auto gearbox and sheer size of the vehicle. Choosing a four-wheel-drive model will cut that fuel economy slightly to around 47mpg.
Other running costs should be lower than average, even for the premium level of service Vignale owners get at Ford’s dealerships. Vignale owners get access to a special 24-hour helpline and special VIP waiting areas and express treatment at Ford dealers.
Reliability reports are rare for specialist people carriers like this. Ford generally has done a little better than average in recent years. Its MPVs have been among the best of its models for reliability and there have been no particular serious common issues with the S-Max.
What we love
The Ford S-Max is a stylish and spacious MPV that is surprisingly good to drive. It has a wide range of seating configurations and a big luggage capacity. The Vignale is the S-Max version with the highest level of equipment and luxuries. This top-of-the-range package creates a premium travelling environment to rival vehicles from more prestigious brands.
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Town and country drivers
The S-Max reminds you of all that’s great about people carriers – the space, practicality and versatility. It’s one of the most stylish, fun and drivable MPVs too. This ultra-top-of-the-range Vignale adds a premium level of trim across the whole package.
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