In the Old World, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) is huge, with Ford's C-Max being one of the more popular offerings in the segment. But here in the land where SUVs roam free, the MPV genus barely exists, consisting almost exclusively of the Mazda5 mini-minivan. Ford is planning to change that next year when it brings the 2012 Ford C-Max to the U.S. market for the first time.

The new C-Max, which shares its architecture with the Focus, goes on sale in Europe in a few days in five- and seven-passenger flavors. Powering both will be the usual buffet of diesel and gasoline engines European car shoppers expect. Five-passenger models get standard rear doors, while seven-passenger versions get minivan-style sliders similar to those of the Mazda5. Internally, they're known as the C-Max and Grand C-Max, respectively, but that distinction will be lost on the customer. Both are adorned with C-Max badges alone, with the word "Grand" nowhere to be found on the bigger model.

For the time being, Ford plans to ship only the seven-passenger C-Max across the Atlantic. That's right, ship, as even North American variants will be built in Valencia, Spain -- at least for now. Should the C-Max become a runaway hit, Ford could easily begin production alongside the Focus in Wayne, Michigan, thanks to the C-platform's flexibility.

Dimensionally, the Grand C-Max is about the same size as the Mazda5 and only slightly bigger than the current Focus sedan, making it a small vehicle by American standards. Appropriately, the five-seat C-Max is even tinier, its overall length being slightly less than that of a Fiesta sedan, though it's considerably taller and wider.