Being late to the party failed to prevent the C-Max from grabbing a substantial share of the retail MPV market.
And another late entry should prove no barrier to the next-generation line-up winning Ford a stake in the burgeoning sector for versatile fleet and family transport.
Despite lagging behind Renault and Citroën in offering a choice of five or seven-seats in the key midsize segment, the company believes its new C-Max can still secure vital corporate registrations as well as extra retail sales.
The popular S-Max, while having seven seats, is closer in size to the Ford Galaxy than C-Max and has a more overtly sporty appeal.
Marketing director Mark Simpson said: “Each version has its own virtues, but we think the seven-seater is the spiritual successor to the original design and that is the one that should help us break into the corporate sector.
“Cars with seven seats now account for more than 60% of the market and research shows that a significant number of buyers want the additional flexibility allowed by extra seats.
“Our response has been to make the Grand C-Max as easy as possible to use with a floor that’s completely flat when the seats are down.”
According to Simpson, the bigger version should account for 60% of next year’s registrations.
“Our total sales target is relatively modest at 20,000. There will be no discounts for the sake of volume.
“Ford will not be the cheapest choice in this area, but we are offering a great deal for the money, ” he said.
Both versions reveal a sophisticated blend of comfort and confident behaviour stemming from compliant suspension that also delivers impressive road holding.
The first to use Ford’s new global C-sector platform, their performance augurs well for the next Focus.
The cars debut a slick-change six-speed manual gearbox and the latest Ecoboost 1.6-litre petrol engine – a free-revving unit that delivers a lusty output with smoothness and low noise levels. But the upgraded 1.6-litre TDCi unit is expected to be the most popular choice.
With twin sliding side doors, getting to third row seats is particularly easy in the Grand thanks to a novel arrangement that allows the centre second-row seat to disappear as if
Both Zetec and Titanium trim levels have more equipment and the premium feel is reinforced on the latter by high-grade audio, auto lights and wipers, hill start assist, tyre deflation detection and cruise control.
Improved economy, lower insurance and stronger residuals are claimed to represent annual savings of up to £800 compared with the outgoing C-Max.
Dynamically the new C-Max is streets ahead of the opposition, but in a retail market where there’s more emphasis on reputation, toys and ‘the deal’, that might restrict its sales.
At last, the C-Max comes with the option of seven seats. Remarkably good to drive, but the Grand C-Max is a bit cramped for a big family.
Rivals: Renault Scenic, Citroen C4 Picasso