Ford has effectively replaced its first-generation C-max model with two new ones. We tried the seven-seat Grand C-max last month, and now we’re focusing on the other half of the pairing in the form of the compact five-seat version.

Ford reckons it will appeal to people coming from family hatchbacks who prefer a more practical layout, high driving position, plus extra comfort and flexibility, rather than next year’s new Focus, which has a more sporty style. The seven-seat Grand C-max is meant to attract those already in Mini-MPVs who are happy to pay the extra £1250 in exchange for a slightly larger model with two extra rear seats.

Inside, the new C-max has had a big overhaul, with a modern, stylish and angular dashboard complemented by larger, triangular door bins. The only slight let-down are flimsy indicator and wiper stalks that feel cheaper than the rest of the cabin, while the steering wheel has a massive 19 buttons for audio, optional cruise control and other features, which takes a couple of minutes to understand.

The rear offers plenty of headroom, while legroom is reasonable, although the optional seat-back tables (standard on Titanium trim) can give knees a swipe. The rear isn’t particularly clever for this class, featuring seats that don’t slide, aren’t particularly easy to fold down, and don’t leave a completely flat floor when they’re down. It’s a two-handed job to flip them when rivals can manage it with the tug of a lever. The boot, though, is usefully big and square.

On the outside, the new design is certainly sleeker at the front, if slightly more fussy and less resolved at the rear.

The C-max has a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines, of which this 1.6 TDCi diesel is the most fleet-friendly at 119g/km and 61.4mpg, placing it in the lowest benefit-in-kind tax band of 13% for now, until the bands are shifted significantly in 2012. The engine on our test car felt a little flat and lethargic for a diesel, but it had covered less than 300 miles at that point so may improve with miles.

The Zetec trim is expected to be most popular, with a 62% take versus the Titanium’s 38%, and standard kit has been improved to now include a DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity with voice control.

On the road, the new C-max maintains its predecessor’s place at the head of the queue for driving pleasure, and while not soft, the suspension does solidly ride over bumps rather than thumping through them.

The new C-max is a fresher five-seat MPV, and the costs equation stacks up against rivals. The only worry is how big a gap it has to work in between next year’s new Focus and the Grand C-max.

Ford C-max 1.6 TDCi Zetec
P11D price £18,190
Model price range £16,745-£21,995
Fuel consumption 61.4mpg
CO2 (tax) 119g/km (13%)
BIK 20/40% per month £39/£79
Service interval 12,000
Insurance (1-50) group 16
Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls
Boot space (min/max) 471/666 litres
Engine size/power 1560cc/115hp
Top speed/0-62mph 114mph/11.3 secs
On sale November 2010
Score 7/10
Verdict Appealing and cost-effective
small MPV, though seven-seat
version may steal its thunder