Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • All diesel lineup
  • Punchy and strong performers
  • If you want petrol, you'll have to go used

The bulk of S-Maxs bought in the UK are diesel-powered, so it’s no surprise that the range since 2019 is solely made up of them. Up until then, there were four of them on offer, but this has now shrunk to just two. Choice of petrol power comprises of a 1.5-litre and a 2.0-litre with 165 and 240hp respectively.

Ford S-Max diesel engines

Most popular is the 150hp, with 350Nm of torque to help things along. It’s a flexible option, but also because buyers can opt for a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox. Both the manual and the auto take 10.8 seconds to go from 0-62mph.

2020 Ford S-Max front moving

Offering greater punch is the 190hp, with another jump up in torque over the 150hp. This version offers 400Nm of torque, making it a great option for motorway driving or towing.

It's only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and goes from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds with a top speed of 129mph. If you want the all-wheel drive option on the 190hp S-Max, it’ll have to be with the automatic gearbox, and this version completes the 0-62mph benchmark sprint in 10.5 seconds. Top speed drops down to 128mph.

This engine certainly feels brisk with an even spread of power and decent refinement – it feels a very good fit in the S-Max and makes for a very smooth feel overall.

Diesel engines no longer available

Previously, the entry-level option came with 120hp and 310Nm of torque. It’s the slowest model in the range, taking 13.4 seconds to go from 0-62mph, with a top speed of 114mph.

Crowning the diesel range was the 2.0-litre TDCi bi-turbo with 210hp and 450Nm of torque. This engines comes exclusively with the six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch gearbox, and the fastest diesel 0-62mph sprint time of 8.8 seconds. Top speed is 135mph.

On the move it does feel suitably rapid, working well with the PowerShift dual-clutch gearbox for a smooth and responsive driving experience. The front wheels can be overwhelmed by the power on tap if go for a quick getaway, but once up to speed it reacts quickly if you want to overtake, and never becomes too raucous and noisy.

Petrol engines no longer on sale

You'll have to look for a used model if you want an S-Max with a petrol engine. At least picking one is a simpler affair, with a choice of just two – a 1.5-litre and a 2.0-litre.

The 1.5-litre EcoBoost SCTi produces 160hp (165hp from 2018), and 240Nm of torque, taking 9.9 seconds to complete the 0-62mph sprint. Top speed is rated at 124mph, and this model only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox.

At the other end of the scale is a 2.0-litre EcoBoost SCTi with 240hp, mated to a six-speed automatic (not the PowerShift like in the diesels) and produces 345Nm of torque. It’s the fastest S-Max in the line-up, with a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 140mph, but it’s also the least economical. For the full range of economy figures, head to the Running Costs section of this review.

You’ll need a few more revs to take advantage of the 2.0-litre’s pulling power, as its peak number is delivered at 2,300rpm, though it’ll continue to pull the S-Max forward at full acceleration until 4,900rpm. 

Handling

  • S-Max one of the best-handling MPVs
  • Feels much like a regular hatchback
  • Good body control and sharp steering

2020 Ford S-Max rear moving

The S-Max has always been renowned for its agility as much as its ability to carry seven people and a modicum of luggage. It’s the same with this model, which proves as fun to drive as many rivals’ hatchbacks carrying less weight and a lower centre of gravity.

At the centre of this experience is the car’s lack of body roll – even when you tip it into a roundabout at speed the body doesn't move around uncomfortably. Ride comfort isn’t sacrificed, but along with the low-slung seat, the S-Max feels like a much lower car on the move, with quick responses to input and decent levels of feedback from the electrically-assisted steering.

You can choose to specify the optional Adaptive Steering system which makes the car feel even more wieldy. The S-Max can alter the correlation between input at the steering wheel and output at the road wheels so that at low speed it requires fewer turns of lock to park. At high speed it can reduce the sensitivity to make for a more relaxed drive on the motorway.

It’s a neat system, and we suspect some may find it useful, but we’re not convinced it offers enough of a benefit to justify the extra expenditure, especially since the standard steering is so good.

Alongside the electric steering the S-Max features torque-vectoring control, which brakes the inside front wheel and apportions power to the outside in order to reduce wheelspin.