First Look: 2012 Ford Grand C-Max

Ford thinks it can revive the minivan market with a small seven-passenger vehicle based on the next-generation Focus platform. The Dearborn automaker revealed its Ford Grand C-Max at the Frankfurt auto show, announcing that it will arrive in the U.S. in late 2011.

With two sliding rear doors and a tall roof, the Grand C-Max certainly resembles a minivan, but Ford would prefer you call it a multi-activity vehicle, or MAV, to shy away from any lasting stigma of the ho-hum jelly beans from the '90s. After all, Ford is expecting this vehicle to serve as a step up from a Fiesta or Focus for young buyers who are just starting a family. While this small people mover is a relatively unexplored segment in the U.S., the Grand C-Max faces competition from the already established Kia Rondo and Mazda5 along with the upcoming Chevrolet Orlando. Ford's Frankfurt announcements all included the introduction of the five-seat C-Max that features traditional rear doors and a profile closer to a hatchback, but that car hasn't been confirmed for North America.

In the Grand C-Max, seating for seven passengers is accommodated by a 2-3-2 layout. The center seat in the middle row collapses and disappears under an outboard seat when it's not needed, leaving a center aisle for access to the third row. The middle row also feature one-touch access to the rear and all second- and third-row seats fold flat for cargo hauling. Blind-spot warning, parallel parking assist, and a power liftgate will be offered on the European C-Max range and are likely for the U.S. Grand C-Max.

Ford's not confirming what engines will power the Grand C-Max in America. However, the company also used the Frankfurt stage to introduce its 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and acknowledged that engine will be offered in European C-Max cars when the arrive in 2010. EcoBoost is rapidly becoming the Blue Oval's signature technology, and the company's "One Ford" strategy is all about offering the same products in Europe and North America. With that in mind, it's hard to believe the U.S. market would get the Grand C-Max without the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine.

The smallest and newest EcoBoost engine is a direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder unit featuring independent variable timing for the exhaust and intake camshafts. Power output is expected to be about 180 hp with torque around 170 lb-ft. Ford says this engine will offer performance similar to a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder, but with better fuel economy. Transmissions are expected to be six-speed manuals and six-speed dual-clutch gear boxes.

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