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LIVE it to the Max; If you are looking for a great family transporter or just want to pamper your pals, then Ford have the answer, says RUSSELL BRAY.

Byline: RUSSELL BRAY

IF you're being really logical about cars, then Ford's C-Max, the chunky people mover version of the Focus, is a tough vehicle to beat as an ideal family car.

Especially when you see the deals currently available.

Choose a Zetec petrol and you can save pounds 2000, while there's a whopping pounds 3500 off the diesel version.

Zetec prices normally start at pounds 15,270 for the 99bhp 1.6-litre petrol, which returns 41mpg on the combined cycle, tops 107mph and sprints to 60mph from standing in 13 seconds.

Standard equipment includes power steering, central locking, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, and electric front windows and door mirrors.

The bargain price means it even undercuts the normal entry-level 1.6-litre Studio's list price of pounds 13,695.

And the same price slicing deals are available on the luxury Ghia versions, which are better equipped than a lot of homes.

Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloys, heated windscreen to save you time on a cold morning, radio stereo/CD player with steering column controls and a comfort seat system which enables you convert the rear seats from a three-person bench to two-person limousine-style comfort.

That feature to pamper friends, means its no wonder so many C-Maxs are bought by people without children, or at least children still at home.

Cruise control takes the aggro, and leg ache, out of long motorway journeys, as well as reducing the risk of getting a speeding ticket, and there's an observation mirror which foldsdown out of the overhead console so you can keep an eye on any little horrors seated in the back.

Ghia prices normally start at pounds 16,795 for the 1.8-litre petrol five-speed manual model.

But one pounds 300 extra I would be tempted to add is rear parking sensors, because with a full load of passengers rear visibility can be somewhat compromised.

General impressions of driving a C-Max on everyday business is just what a premium-quality product it feels.

It does everything it should, handles well, feels solid and is well built.

Standard on every model are six airbags and anti-lock brakes, while only the base model misses out on air-conditioning.

Normally, electric power steering is pretty vague when compared with hydraulic systems in terms of giving driver feel for the road.

But Ford have gone for only partly electric with an electro-hydraulic system. And it's the right decision.

Add in strong brakes and willing throttle response - at least from the excellent two-litre TDCi diesel - and for a tall car the C-Max is an enjoyable steer.

Its wider spaced wheels help make it stable through corners, but if you push it too hard the electronics cut in to keep you safe.

This ESP system is pounds 350 extra on most models, but worth it if it keeps you out of the hedge.

The interior is pretty classy with good quality plastics and a nice use of aluminium.

A good steering wheel is something so many car makers scrimp on, but the helm in the Focus C-Max is top-notch.

Buy it in Phantom Black and it even looks super cool.

Factfile:

Model: Ford Focus C-Max Engines: 1.6, 1.8 and two-litre petrol and diesel Power:89 to 143bhp Fuel economy: 38.7 to 58.9mpg Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles Price: From pounds 13,695 On sale: Now

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Roadtest: Ford Focus C-Max
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 2, 2006
Words:565
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