3 | 2010 Ford C-Max
Below the Edge, there's still plenty of room in the Ford model lineup for a smaller, less expensive, and much more economical people mover. As it happens, Ford's European office can help out with a highly convincing microvan. Based on the European Focus, the C-Max, as its name implies, takes the Focus platform to the max. It rides on the same 104-inch wheelbase as all the Focus variants, and its overall length, at 172 inches, actually places it between the sedan and the hatchback. But when it comes to interior space, the C-Max eclipses them all.
The C-Max is strictly a five-seater, but a seven-seat model may arrive for 2010, in time for the next-generation C-Max's widely rumored U.S. debut. The elevated roofline makes the C-Max easy to get into and out of, and it provides a commanding seating position for all occupants. Second-row head- and legroom are particularly generous. Instead of the typical split rear bench, there are three individual rear seats, each of which can be tilted forward or removed. By far the most charming configuration is to remove the center chair, creating a four-seater. The remaining two seats can then be adjusted individually for maximum leg- and shoulder-room. It's a clever and easy-to-use application that doesn't compromise the available load space. We only wish that the individual chairs were more comfortable and supportive and that they could fold flat. Still, behind-the-seats cargo space is a generous 19.9 cubic feet, with a maximum of 57.7 cubic feet available when the rear seats are stowed.
Like all the members of the European Focus family, the C-Max is pleasantly intuitive to drive and benign all the way to its surprisingly high limits. The microvan also deserves credit for its communicative steering, responsive brakes, tied-down chassis, crisp gearbox, and agreeable ride-and-handling compromise. The one-box design does have a couple dynamic downsides, namely an increased susceptibility to crosswinds and higher noise levels. The U.S. version likely will feature the largest of the gasoline engines, a 143-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that, in the European cycle, returns a city/highway combined 32 mpg with its manual transmission and 29 mpg with its automatic (the latter unfortunately is only a four-speed). With any luck, America also will get the top turbo-diesel engine, a 2.0-liter that makes 134 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. With its six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, it not only achieves a combined city/highway rating of 41 mpg, it also outsprints its gasoline-powered counterpart.
Why We Want It:
A European Focus with more people space? How could you not?
Why We Need It:
Because the microvan concept is practical, clever, and promising.