Review: Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010)

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Best entry and egress of any car anywhere. Excellent front seat comfort.

Not so practical as an MPV with odd sliding rear seat arrangement.

Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010): At A Glance

"Surprise and delight" was an old marketing term for showroom appeal. The last thing I expected was to be surprised and delighted by the handling of an MPV. I suppose I should have paid a bit more attention to what everyone else has been writing about the C-Max.

This is the first launched but actually the third car I have driven on Ford-Volvo-Mazda's C1 chassis, itself an updated reworking of the original, excellent Focus platform which even set the class standard VW sought to emulate with new Golf.

Ford C-MAX 1.8i Zetec 2004 Road Test

Ford C-MAX 2.0 TDCi Zetec 2006 Long Term Test


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What does a Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010) cost?

Contract hire from £230.88 per month

Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4333–4372 mm
Width 1825 mm
Height 1588–1595 mm
Wheelbase 2640 mm

Full specifications

The ace up its particular sleeve is comfort. Somehow, whether by accident or design or a combination of both, Ford has made it the most comfortable car in the world to ride in. Not the most luxurious by any means. Just the most comfortable. And also one of the easiest to get in and out of.

However you angle the backrest, you sit fairly high even at the seat's lowest setting. But that height in relation to the pedals is as near ideal as it can be. The gear lever is in the right place. The steering wheel is so adjustable it's easy to put that in the right place.

The combined (optional extra) touch-screen satnav, radio, CD and climate control unit is in exactly the right place. Your sight lines are good, despite heavy, protective A pillars. And if the road is clear and you're feeling lazy the cruise control is a doddle to operate.

Child seats that fit a Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

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What's the Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010) like to drive?

At first, as usual, unfamiliarity breeds discontent and everything from the clutch through the switches to the steering feels too featherlight. Then you get used to it and suddenly you find that though the steering is easy on the arms it's also very communicative and, despite the fact you sit on nodding terms with van drivers, the C-Max handles (for want of a better word) delightfully. You expect roll understeer from this kind of vehicle, but you get none of it. The thing digs in, bites and goes round corners like the rabbit at a greyhound track.

And you're comfortable, and you're happy and the touch screen DVD satnav is very good. There's not much noise, except for a slight whistle from the door seal on the C-Max I drove.

Petrol engines are the new Ford line-up. Which means chain-cams rather than belts, so no snap unhappy worries. Can't tell you about the diesels just yet because I haven't been there with the bonnet up.

The boot is cavernous, as you'd expect, but I wasn't terribly taken with the gimmicky rear seats. If you're strong, the idea is you tip over and unlatch the narrow centre rear seat, then find somewhere to dump it. Having done so, you can then slide the other two seats diagonally backwards, gaining legroom at the expense of bootroom. But then you sit awkwardly so, after trying it once, would probably retrieve the centre seat, put it back and forget about sliding the others.

Telegraph motoring editor Peter Hall reckoned it wasn't an MPV at all. Just a car with a cavernous interior. And in writing that he paid the C-Max a supreme compliment. Because after a week in mine, I didn't think of it as an MPV either. I just thought it was a really nice car. With handling somewhere between a Mazda 3 and a new Volvo S40. And, despite the same electro-hydraulic system, much better steering than the 2.0 litre Mazda 3.

So why buy a car when you can have an MPV which drives at least as well?

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.6 41–43 mpg 11.9–12.9 s 160–166 g/km
1.6 TDCi 58–60 mpg 11.3–13.1 s 119–129 g/km
1.6 TDCi 90 59–60 mpg 11.3–13.1 s 124–127 g/km
1.6 Ti-VCT 43 mpg 11.9 s 160 g/km
1.8 40 mpg 10.8 s 169 g/km
1.8 FFV 40 mpg 10.8 s 169 g/km
1.8 TDCi 52 mpg 11.2 s 143 g/km
1.8 TDCi 115 52 mpg 11.2 s 143 g/km
2.0 35–39 mpg 9.8–11.2 s 174–189 g/km
2.0 Automatic 35 mpg 11.2 s 189 g/km
2.0 TDCi 49–50 mpg 9.6 s 149–154 g/km
2.0 TDCi 135 PowerShift 48 mpg 10.1 s 159 g/km

Real MPG average for a Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

21–65 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

I want to replace my Ford C-Max soon - what Estate do you suggest?

I'm thinking of replacing my Ford C-Max next year. The contenders are a Volvo V50, Skoda Octavia Estate or VW Passat Estate? What are the pitfalls of purchasing a high mileage vehicle (75,000+ miles and around 10 years old.) I need an estate with enough room for a large dog crate and comfortable enough for someone with a bad back.
Provided they've been serviced regularly, you'd probably be better buying a high-mileage diesel than a low-mileage one. Diesels are best suited to regular motorway driving to clear the diesel particulate filter. I'd be worried about buying one with low miles that's mainly been used for local journeys around town. Bear in mind that a 10-year-old car with 75k on the clock will only have covered 7500 miles a year, which is pretty low. Out of your shortlist, the Octavia represents the best value for money.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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What Cars Are Similar To The Ford C-MAX (2003 – 2010)?

Key attributes of the this model are: Economical, Versatile interior and MPV.

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What do owners think?

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