Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The real holiday car

As promised, just a little later than promised.  Disclaimers here.

We had an S-MAX 2.2 Duratorq TDCi 6 speed Manual Titanium.  For those not initiated in the ways of the Ford product an S-MAX is a seven-seater that can also be a five-seater or a two-seater depending how many seats are up or down.

I could tell you what I think of the car's looks but you should really judge for yourself.

S MAX Exterior

Of course that's a brochure shot.  I'm not sure the heights and angles of this next shot are quite as complimentary, but at least the wheels match the brochure shot.

IMG 0377

It does however show that, despite a thick layer of French road filth, the car doesn't look desperately dirty.  I think that's down to the choice of the Mica Stone paint.  Our next car will be black and will show every last speck of dirt.

We travelled in five-seater mode with the last two seats folded flat and it was very capacious.  It fitted all of our holiday gear, including all of the unnecessary stuff that we took and never used or touched and we still had room to see out of the back window, although the height of the luggage was too high to allow us to use the tonneau cover.

The storage inside the car was reasonable and we found enough space in the glove box to hide the TomTom satnav and also the 35 DVDs we took.  Door bins, seat pockets, centre console and space under seats allowed for more storage and, because we only have two children, there was a spare seat providing a spot for in-car snacks and drinks.  This spare seat also served as a useful no man's land in between those same two children.  I remember that seat housing the largest coolbox ever when I was a child which served as a barrier separating me from my brother on long car journeys.

We have also taken this car camping which has meant it has been stuffed to the gunnels with "stuff" and it is just amazing how much "stuff" you can fit in the car.  The issue is that the car does not come with my husband fitted as standard and if there is one person who can pack a car to within an inch of its exhaust pipe, it's my husband.

The panoramic roof would, I've no doubt, have been delightful but we had to steal the fuse for that to feed the 12V cigar lighter at the front of the car which failed on our day of departure.  A fuse costs nothing (well the dealer I got the fuse from didn't charge me) and it's easy to change, but it's annoying in a car that's less than a year old to have anything fail.  I did wonder whether Ford ever discovers there might be a problem if everyone just fixes it themselves although that does mean diagnosing the problem too without help.

The seats are very comfortable.  For our return journey we spent about 12 hours in the car and it was more comfortable than an office chair or the sofa at home.  I thought I'd miss the lack of lumbar support on the driver's seat but the seat was supportive enough without it.

The entertainment in the car was provided by Dave's iPhone iTunes library streaming via Bluetooth through the car speakers.  We adjusted the sound so that we used front speakers thus minimising any audio interference with the DVDs being played on the Nextbase DVD players attached to the rear headrests and playing sound through infra red magic through to wireless headphones.  (Think that sentence should probably have had a comma or two.)  It was a set up that worked perfectly (12V power permitting) and if you don't have Bluetooth in your car, you need it.

The engine performed very well and provided all the power we needed even when fully loaded.  We could overtake on hills and pull away from lights without any problems.  We used the cruise control and in sixth gear the car was able to maintain the speed smoothly and without struggling at all.

Fuel economy though was underwhelming.  The car told us we were achieving 35.9mpg which is less than I expected.  I should say we were travelling at French autoroute speeds combined with twisty turny hilly roads with air-conditioning on about 70% of the time, which isn't great for brilliant fuel economy but I expect better.  I know that a new car needs time to reduce the friction in the engine and improve its efficiency but this car had a thousand or two miles under its (fan) belt.

The technology that we used a lot was cruise control.  On long autoroutes with the Gendarmerie being ever watchful we used cruise control to keep ourselves legal.  I noticed that the car had a speed limiter too.  We tried that function too but, because the system can be overridden if you kick down for extra power, I struggled to understand how it was useful.

We also used the satnav, but in conjunction with the TomTom.  I don't like the Ford satnav.  Firstly It didn't show the road that led to our accommodation, but the user interface isn't intuitive for me at all; I would go as far as to say frustrating.  Most of the time it will get you to your destination and it will probably get you there using an efficient route and I'm sure it's possible to get used to the interface, I just prefer my TomTom.

As to the other tech in the car, we appreciated the Quickclear screen and the parking sensors.  The car had a rear view camera but I didn't like it.  I think it might be a spatial awareness thing and men might appreciate this feature more.  I preferred to see nothing and rely on the parking distance sensors; the camera view just confused me.

In summary: We like the car so much we're getting another one, but in black.



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