The simplicity and opulence of asphalt that rules the toll motorways disappears the moment you hit the small coastal towns and their associated roads. There, everyone, including the Ministry of Transportation, assumes that you are local, that you speak Italian and that you know your way around. Hence, directions, options.
Navigation is quite helpful, but still, it's not easy, and I must admit I did take a few wrong turns here and there. On the plus side, it gave me a good opportunity to test C-Max in a more chaotic ambient. Indeed, the MPV shows its true character here. Punchy, feisty, fun. Ford does nail it, and while I normally ignore the British car magazines with their nothing-drives-like-Mini mantra, they seem to have not erred too much when it comes to Ford cars.
C-Max handles well, it feels small and agile, you're connected to the road, and everything is so predictable and precise. The lack of horse power is less evident as you slam into the second, third and fourth. Sometimes you do lament the extra second or two of engine whine, and the pesky rattle whenever you touch the gas pedal makes it feel like an automatic, but otherwise, it's a smooth and pleasant drive, and your back is well planted, and your hands feel the surface through the intelligent steering wheel. Very clever.
None of this helps the fuel consumption, which gets even worse here. It's not just the B roads, and you can imagine what happens when you try the famous Amalfi serpentine and then find yourself in a cavalry charge in places like Salerno, Avellino, Baronissi, or San Severino. The fuel tank needle drops fast, and you soon need to find a fuel station where they will understand you, and accept your foreign credit card, or failing that, Euro.
In town, it's total madness. No one stops at the Stop signs, and if you do try to be the good Samaritan, everyone around you will loudly protest. So you kind of coast, windows down, and waving thanks to other people, nudging and barging into the oncoming stream of traffic, trying to make your Grazie sounds as Italian as it goes. After a while, you get in the groove, and you enjoy the ultimate chav challenge. Except the fuel, which leaks like mad.
Regardless, C-Max is a decent carrier of people and things, and it rewards more than it punishes. So yes, the engines are made for the family man who will be extra careful and lethargic. And the engine noise isn't the best aural sensation you've ever experienced by far. Nor is the fuel thirst anything to be proud of. But the drivetrain is splendid, and the overall driving package is quite decent. Which makes me think that this could be a blast of a car if fitted with the most powerful 2.0-liter unit, with 160 HP and 340 Nm of torque. That sounds like an excellent choice, and I bet it has a much better fuel consumption than the smaller 1.6-liter family.
The cabin is spacious, comfortable and pleasant enough. There were some squeaky noises from the rear door on the left, and from underneath the aircon vents, as if there were tiny bits of loose plastic somewhere, responding to whatever resonance frequencies. For a vehicle with roughly 14,500 km under its wheels, this is not an impressive feat. The overall quality is not bad, though.
The central console suffers from the same illness like the one in Astra or Insignia. Too many buttons. My mind cannot escape yet another analogy to TV, film and media, and this time, it's the gray aliens. Do you not see the uncanny similarity? I sure do. And I don't like the 1999-era buttonage orgasm. Get that sorted out, fast.
Let's go back to the roads, where the fun happens. The Amalfi coast trip was the best, if the most demanding. It takes about an hour to master some 30 km of asphalt, with an average of 20 almost full 180-degree turns per kilometer. The road is so narrow you have to honk so the other side will know you're coming, and in some places, stop to let the oncoming traffic slalom by. Trucks and buses help not. But it's engaging and refreshing. Especially if you think you're a better driver than you really are. Which means 110% of men everywhere.
Ford C-Max handled both legs well, to Amalfi and back, climbing and descending and all that. Really nice. My back was relaxed, but the left leg was a bit tired from pumping the clutch so often. The spring could be a little less tight, but then it would probably make the whole precision thingie a bit off. In this regard, Ford engineers seem to understand what they're doing, and they've created a car, or rather, a family of cars, with a very delicate balance between comfort and handling, only slightly marred by the wrong engine choice. If you want to let your customers enjoy the fine work you've done tuning the weight distribution, the suspension, the brakes, the fine steering, and the overall chassis behavior, then you ought to give them the right energy, or it will be slightly wasted.
But you can't regret it. Not one bit. Italy is a charming country. It's a proof there's order in chaos, and it works beautifully. So yes, you might ask for more logic and precision, but instead you find precision in the car of your choice, and in this regard, Ford's troops carrier is a pretty decent option overall.
The worst part, though? When you learn that most of your video footage from the dash cam is simply not there, corrupt or whatever, and you don't have the best part to showoff. So you will have to imagine the most of it, and draw satisfaction from my awesome words. Mi stupido. Mi scuzi.
Let's see. I did not like the plastic parts coming loose, the design of the central console, the engine noise when strained, handling at very high speeds, and worst of all, the fuel consumption. I very much did like the small-big car feel, the excellent steering and the behavior at mid-range speeds and gears, the front seats, and the way it all comes together. C-Max is a very decent player, and a fun car, especially if you're a family man, and you want a bit more than your median income allows. You do get that, for free.
Would I buy this car? Absolutely not. I don't need the extra luggage space, the extra head room at the back, in fact, I have no need for the second bench whatsoever. But the good experience makes me wonder what Fiesta or Focus can do, when equipped with the right engine. How about the ST version? That sounds like an interesting option. While I ponder this for my upcoming third part of the Eurotrip to Germany, let's grade. Ford C-Max, with its 1.6-liter TDCi gets a decent 7.5/10. With a much improved fuel consumption, it could get an ever better score. And let's not talk about the car's profile. It's a family car, remember. Everything looks bad once covered in child vomit. So there. A most pleasant surprise marred by an undiesely engine thirst. Not bad, not bad at all. And we're done.