Ford S-Max, 06-reg to 59-reg
Why it's a great used buy
For an S-Max under £10,000 you'll need to restrict your search to models produced before the car's first face-lift, in 2010, when it received an array of minor updates, inside and out, and newer engines. However, overall the S-Max is little changed since its launch in 2006 and there's plenty of choice on the used market.
What it's like to drive and use
The Ford S-Max is more compact than the Ford Galaxy, and this means its rearmost pair of seats – which can fold under the boot in a few seconds – are smaller, too. That said, even adults can sit in them comfortably enough for shorter journeys, provided those in front are happy to slide their seats forward to provide enough legroom. The S-Max has lots in common with the Galaxy, including three full-size middle-row seats that individually slide and recline. Even the boot isn't too much smaller than the Galaxy's, and with seven on board there's room for a slim buggy plus a few bags piled on top.
One of the S-Max's biggest appeals is how it feels to drive. It handles like a much smaller, sportier car, so the steering is quick and accurate, and it changes direction with real agility, with little of the body roll on corners from which many high-sided vehicles suffer. While the S-Max's slightly firm ride can jostle occupants at low speeds, on the whole it's comfortable to ride in, especially on the motorway. Bear in mind that the S-Max doesn't include airbags for the rearmost seats, and front passenger airbag deactivation is a cost option so it may not have been fitted.
2.0 TDCi Zetec
Typical price £9733 for '08/58 with 60,000 miles
The 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel is the one to go for if you'll regularly be travelling fully laden; the 127bhp version is an acceptable alternative, however, and the 1.8-litre diesel is slightly more economical but it can struggle when the cabin is packed to the gunnels. Zetec is the most common trim on the used market as it offers the best value and includes dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors and four electric windows.
Typical price £7982 for '08/58 with 60,000 miles
As with the S-Max's big brother, the Galaxy, the 2.0-litre petrol is smooth but its fuel economy (34.8mpg) and road tax may put you off. Zetec includes dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors and four electric windows.
Safety info on these models
Euro NCAP rating Tested only under pre-2009 system: five stars for adults and four for children
Rear airbags? For middle-row only
Isofix? On all three middle-row seats
Front passenger airbag deactivation? A cost option only, so check it's fitted
Problems to watch out for
Owners who've had problems with their S-Max most often complain of electrical faults, so check all the powered systems work properly. As with the Galaxy, the fit and finish of the interior has sometimes given cause for concern, particularly on the centre console and door trims. The interior isn't as hard-wearing as in some MPVs, so make sure that it's in good condition, especially if the car has already done a lot of miles. Also as with the Galaxy, some S-Max cars suffer mysterious clonking noises from the steering, especially at low speed, so listen out for this on your test drive.
Return to list of cars that fit three kids in a row
about 3 years