Used Ford Focus C-Max
The launch of Ford's Focus C-MAX in 2003 caused some consternation among press and consumers who struggled to categorise the vehicle. While based in principle on the excellent Focus, it was not quite a small family hatchback nor a proper MPV and so its virtues got a little bit lost in the mire. 2006's facelift abbreviated the Ford Focus C-MAX badge to the simpler C-MAX and marketed it squarely as a compact MPV as part of Ford's commercial strategy to create a distinct MAX market sector of MPVs. While the improved C-MAX is in theory a better car, a 2003-2006's used Ford Focus C-MAX is not to be sneered at, with its impressive Focus chassis and a number of practical additions to its sister car making it a very worthwhile, comfortable and economical family vehicle.
Similarly to its Focus progenitor, three petrol and two diesel variants are available - 100bhp 1.6-litre, 120bhp 1.8-litre and 145bhp 2.0-litre options along with a 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel and the very desirable range topping, Peugeot sourced 134bhp 2.0-litre TDCi. This last is the one to get.
Bang for your buck
The approved Ford Focus C-MAX sat directly alongside the Citroen Xsara Picasso in the small class of compact MPVs – vehicles designed to be more practical and comfortable than your average hatchback while remaining compact and firmly five-seater. With a small but significant 25mm extra on the Focus wheelbase, the C-MAX has used its extra room wisely, with a very square, 'wheel at each corner' design contributing even more interior space.
Styling is deliberately conservative as befits the car's target market – it's supposed to be practical rather than flash. Nonetheless it is attractive as far as such vehicles go with an exterior design distinctive of other Ford vehicles. The interior is the used Ford Focus C-MAX's ace in the hole, full of clever ideas. A 40-20-40 rear seating arrangement is designed so the centre rear can fold down into the boot, leaving the outer rear seats free to slide along a rail arrangement further towards the centre, leaving extra room on both sides of each seat and giving armchair levels of comfort for two rear passengers. The higher roof and extra legroom make for a comfortable journey for even the most extravagantly proportioned passenger. Even with the standard five seat arrangement, the second hand Ford Focus C-MAX isn't cramped and features very generous luggage capacity.
What you'll pay
Happy owners are hanging on to their used Focus C-MAXes, which is reflected in the residual values. A basic 53-reg 1.6 petrol LX still fetches £7,000, with the plusher Zetec another £500 or so. The nippier 1.8 is only a little more but it's the diesels that really hold their value. A 53-reg 2.0-litre TDCi Ghia still commands up to £9,000.
What to check
As a family car, the cheap Ford Focus C-MAX is unlikely to have been thrashed to within an inch of its life by boy racers. However cast an eye over fabric and trim for signs of child damage or high mileage company vehicles. Engines and mechanicals are pretty bulletproof but check electricals and air conditioning as well as service history.
One of the beauties of Ford is its affordability, including parts. A C-MAX clutch assembly is around £115 and alternator £165. Front brakes for £35 and rear for £45 and a replacement headlight for £140. Radiators come in at about £140, a full exhaust £275 and dampers £60 each.
How it drives
While it is based on the superior Focus the C-MAX is its own car, as is reflected in the driving experience. It's more like the Focus's sensible older brother. Ford have been very careful to retain the Focus's fabulous ride and handling, so the responsive steering and suspension are more than satisfactory for what is, in effect, an MPV. Build quality is superb and the six-speed 2.0 litre TDCi offers a fun factor completely unexpected in this sort of family car. The Ford Focus C-MAX is very definitely a car rather than a van, but is an excellent second-hand purchase if you have a large family and lots of gear to carry around but don't want to sacrifice driving experience. These first generation models make a very convenient saving on the cost of the revised C-MAX while offering comparable features.