Ford C-MAX is made in Valencia, Spain

Ford C-MAX is made in Valencia, Spain

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Ford’s new C platform makes its first appearance on European roads next month as the basis of the five seat C-Max and seven seat Grand C-Max before underpinning the redesigned Focus early in 2011.

This platform will eventually spawn 10 models – including the Focus starring on the Ford stand at next week’s Paris motor show - and 2m units a year, said Rainer Geschwentner, programme manager for Ford of Europe.

“It’s the first application of the One Ford strategy and by 2012 we will have 10 different derivatives with a total of 2m units. The benefit to the customer will be a huge range of affordable technology and safety features.”

Original five seat C-Max, launched in 2002 – five years after Renault launched the segment with the Scenic - took 8% of European MAV (Multi Activity Vehicle) sales and Ford is predicting that this segment will be worth more than 1m units a year over the next couple of years.

The new seven seat Grand C-Max, which will also be sold in North America starting next year, will also form the basis of a hybrid and plug in hybrid from 2013, said Geschwentner.

The C-Max is also the first Ford to get the new 150PS 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine which is 20% more efficient than similarly-powered motors, said Geschwentner. It replaces the two litre 145PS petrol unit.

Design director Martin Smith said the biggest challenge was creating two versions of the same model for two different customers. Speaking at the European media launch, he described the C-Max as neither an MPV nor a MAV but “a new form of passenger car” redefining "the classic five-door hatchback".

Available C-Max features, either standard or optional depending on model and country, include active park assist, a first for Ford in Europe, blind spot warning, DAB radio [digital HD], Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

The C-Max has traditionally been bought by private buyers (55%) rather than fleet customers, said David Calder, Ford of Britain product manager; the company expects 60% of buyers to opt for the seven seat Grand and believes the two cars will attract very different customers.

The five seat C-Max will appeal to younger, single buyers “who have lots of stuff” as well as older, post-family buyers attracted by the space and high seating position.

The Grand which, according to Smith, is more closely related to the up to seven seat S-Max [five chairs are offered in some markets], will appeal to young families. It has plenty of family-friendly features: the sliding rear doors, a rearview mirror so parents can watch children in the back and a fold away centre rear seat that creates a ‘walk-through’ cabin environment (essential for the US).

Calder told just-auto the full C-platform range will make sense when customers see the reworked Focus (which will be available in the UK only as a five-door hatchback or wagon) alongside the two C-Max models.

This has prompted the UK operation to keep its range as simple as possible. “We want to focus it on where we think the main sales will be,” added Calder. This means the UK will not get the 180PS version of the EcoBoost engine, only the 150PS, for example. And no sedan - they'll go to markets that prefer this body style such as the US and China.

The C-Max is available with 1.6 litre 'TI-VCT' and Ecoboost petrol engines plus 1.6 and two litre diesels priced from GBP16,745 (US$26,500) - GBP500 less than the outgoing model. Trim options are now only nicely equipped Zetec and loaded Titanium.

The longer Grand C-Max gets the same engine and trim options with prices starting at GBP18,745 - GBP1,700 less than the current model.

Ford calculates that buyers will save GBP800 a year compared with the old model because of improved residual values, lower insurance and better fuel economy.

An initial drive showed that Ford has taken the C-segment into new realms of ride quality with handling as good as the current, highly-praised models.

In the same way as Ford has raised the perceived quality of the facelifted Mondeo, so it has with the C-Max with levels of fit and finish that are exemplary.

Watch out Volkswagen.