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Ford S-max 2.0 TDCi Zetec

Date: 05 July 2006

Category: Mini-MPV Prices: £16,995-£21,995
Per month: £415 Key rival: Vauxhall Zafira

Ford S-max 2.0 TDCi Zetec spec

Finally Ford has introduced a true rival to the Zafira. A rival with seven, fold-flat, seats in what is fleet's fourth largest sector.

Ford is setting its mini-MPV contender apart from its rivals by positioning it as a sporty people carrier, one for parents who don't want to sacrifice a good driving experience for load carrying ability.

We already know, from earlier drives of the S-max that the car performs incredibly well in being a sporty MPV. The gearchange is a pleasure, the steering tells the driver what's going on at the wheels and the car will carry a family of five plus luggage on holiday or take dad, his three kids and three of their friends to the football.

What we've yet to see is how the S-max cuts it in the emotionless world of fleet costs and can it beat the market leading Zafira.

As a quick glance at the figures will show, the S-max comes in close to the Zafira for cost per mile. A better residual loss prediction (Zafira £11,964 plays S-max £12,212) and fractionally better SMR cost out weigh the S-max's better fuel figure.

However both cars are beaten by the Toyota Verso (formerly known as the Corolla Verso). The Japanese seven seater comes in at 29.1ppm thanks to a depreciation figure substantially less than the Ford or Vauxhall at £10,556.

Interestingly, the Mazda 5 beats the Verso, but we've not considered it in this class because the 6+1 seating arrangement, with a small cushion seat in the centre of the middle row, isn't as useful as a true seven-seater.

And in terms of ease of seat folding and moving the S-max is as simple as any in this class. The only negative to the way the seats fold is the higher boot floor than the bumper level on the S-max, which could lead to items falling out when the rear hatch is opened, if they are loose in the boot to start with.

The S-max is, however, easily the best driving car in this line-up and is larger inside for passengers, in terms of shoulder room, and luggage. With all the seats upright, the boot space in the Zafira is half the size of S-max's 286 litres, while both eclipse the Verso's interior dimensions.

For fleets and user-choosers needing ultimate space the cost difference will be a small barrier. However, in a harsh cost-only fleet decision the Verso scoops the win.