Since it was launched in 2006, the Ford S-MAX has been widely regarded as the sportiest people carrier, both to look at and drive.

Now Ford has taken the wraps off the all-new second generation S-MAX, which promises to be cleaner, greener, more upmarket and just as good to drive.

The new car carries the latest Ford family ‘face’, but is still recognisably an S-MAX, with a rising waist and sloping roof. The roofline is slightly lower, but interior space hasn’t been compromised.

The interior is available in five- and seven-seater guises. In the latter, the second row of seats provides one-touch access to the third row, which itself folds flat at the touch of a button. A new, less bulky seat design frees up legroom, while a massaging function is a sector first.

The driver-focused dashboard gives the cockpit a sporty feel and plush new materials give it an upmarket feel. The instrument cluster can be swapped for a 10-inch digital screen, and an eight-inch touchscreen controlling Ford’s latest Sync2 infotainment system lives in the centre console.

Beneath the new S-MAX is the same chassis found under the upcoming Mk.5 Mondeo. It features a new integral link rear suspension system that improves the handling and ride, and Ford’s variable ratio Adaptive Front Steering is optional.

Under the bonnet, there’s a choice of petrol and diesel engines. On the petrol front, there’s a pair of turbocharged EcoBoost units, a 158bhp 1.5-litre and a 237bhp 2.0-litre, connected to an automatic gearbox.

A single 2.0-litre TDCi diesel is available in three power outputs: 118bhp, 148bhp and 176bhp. All come with a six-speed manual ‘box as standard; the more powerful two can be had with a PowerShift dual-clutcher and all-wheel-drive.

Fuel economy and Co2 emissions improve across the board, helped by regenerative braking and stop-start.

Ford is launching a clutch of big cars in the next couple of years, all sharing the same chassis. The new Mondeo goes on sale before the end of this year, the S-MAX and Edge SUV arrive in 2015 and a replacement for the Galaxy MPV is expected some time in 2016. All bar the Galaxy with be available in Vignale trim, which will be positioned as a separate sub-brand.

Further details will be announced before the new S-MAX goes on sale next summer. It will make its public debut at the Paris Motor Show in October.

Visit the Ford website here

Ford S-MAX

Still recognisably an S-MAX, but classier

Ford S-MAX

Dashboard has been significantly cleaned up. Plusher materials, too