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Ford B-Max review (2012 onwards)
What: Ford B-Max (2012 onwards)
Where: Munich, Germany
Date: August 2013
Price: £12,995 - £18,895
Available: On sale now, in dealerships end of September
Key rivals:Honda Jazz, Hyundai ix20, Kia Venga, Nissan Note, Vauxhall Meriva
Summary: Ford storms the compact people carrier segment with the new Fiesta-based B-Max. From smart sliding doors to Ford Sync, the B-Max has got it all.
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Read more Ford car reviews
We like: "Easy Access" doors, fun to drive, great EcoBoost engine, useful tech, high-seated driving position
We don't like: a sixth gear ratio would be nice, diesel drone
The Ford B-Max was a quiet star of the 2012 Geneva Motor Show; at an event where there is always another supercar just around the next corner, it takes something rather special to make a more run of the mill vehicle stand out. And these days, is there anything more run of the mill than an MPV?
Or MAV even, as Ford likes to call the B-Max (and its bigger C-Max cousins). MAV stands for Multi Activity Vehicle, apparently, though exactly what difference that makes we couldn't clearly say. What does make a difference for the B-Max are the rear doors. They slide.
This Easy Access Door System completely eliminates the issue of tight parking spaces
We've seen sliding doors on small cars before - the troubled Peugeot 1007 being the one that springs to mind. But the Ford is exceptional because it not only pairs the sliding set at the back with a conventional set at the front, it's also been engineered without a B-pillar in between.
Or at least, not a fixed one. Instead, all the strength of the B-pillar has been incorporated into the meeting edges of the doors themselves, maintaining the car's structural integrity and crash safety capability while also creating a marvellous amount of access to the rear seats.
This Easy Access Door System (seriously, that's what it's called) completely eliminates the issue of tight parking spaces as well. But even worse for the opposition, the ease of ingress and egress here is the icing on an exceptionally well-rounded cake. The B-Max is a magnificent little people carrier.
Engine choice consists of 90hp 1.4-litre and 105hp 1.6-litre petrol engines, 95hp 1.6-litre turbodiesel and a new 75hp 1.5-litre turbodiesel derivative, which debuts under the B-Max bonnet. But the engine you really want is the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol that's recently made such a splash in the Focus.
The turbocharged tiddler comes in 100hp and 120hp variants in the B-Max, with Ford letting us loose in the latter. With a fun thrummy noise and such keen throttle response - so long as you keep it over 1,500rpm - the zingy EcoBoost suits the sprightly yet tough feel of the B-Max perfectly.
As if 120hp wasn't impressive enough from such small displacement, the 1.0-litre firecracker also offers up to 147lb ft of torque thanks to an overboost function. That's only slightly less than the 1.6-litre diesel, and should ensure the car keeps on coping even if you've got it crammed to the roof with kids and caboodle.
It helps that the B-Max is based on the same basic platform as the Fiesta
Though the five-speed gearbox is perhaps one ratio short of the ideal, cruising refinement is entirely acceptable thanks to the quality of the engine note and the effort Ford has made to keep wind and road noise under control. The 95hp diesel is, by contrast, drony and draining at speed.
Ride and handling
The gearshift itself is both positive and robust, and together with the EcoBoost engine turns what could be a plain and ordinary family holdall into an automotive experience brimming with joy. And that's before you've factored in Ford's celebrated ride and handling expertise.
Nobody knows how to make an everyday car fun like Ford does - and the B-Max is no exception. From the superbly tuned electric steering assistance to the fluidity with which it deals with bumpy road surfaces, this is a people carrier that simply refuses to accept it has to drive like one.
It helps that the B-Max is based on the same basic platform as the Fiesta. You'd never guess this from the driver's seat as you sit much higher, looking out over the dashboard rather than from behind it - and as a taller car it naturally leans a little more through the corners. But it hardly suffers as a result.
Movements and reactions are so well honed, and the car's capabilities so well communicated that you immediately feel at ease with it - instead of dreading the next lean-inducing corner you begin to hunt for them. Nimble and neat at all times, keeping the EcoBoost engine in its sweet spot quickly becomes a doddle.
Ok, so the B-Max is good to drive - but is it also practical? Those "Easy Access" doors represent a resounding yes for rear seat passengers, since the absentee B-pillar creates a 1.5 metre open space. And that's not the only good news. Just keep in mind this is still a relatively small vehicle.
For instance, when you open the boot you may be mildly disappointed; despite the B-Max looking pretty much like a small van - albeit a stylish one - accommodating people has taken priority over luggage. Yet there is still a moveable load floor, with storage for items underneath, and all the seats fold flat.
This includes the front passenger seat - so long skinny loads up to 2.3 metres in length can be slotted in. The rear seat folding mechanism is a one-handed job, too. Rear legroom is fine for children, a little on the tight side for adults - again, remember: this is a small car.
Overall quality of fit and finish is... clever. All the major touch points are excellent and nothing rattles, while harder, scratchier (cheaper) plastics are relegated to areas like the door tops. The Ford centre console design takes a bit of getting used to for being unconventional, but is clearly marked and relatively intuitive.
All the major touch points are excellent and nothing rattles
Amongst all the usual Ford convenience features, such as the QuickClear heated windscreen and DAB digital radio, the B-Max also hosts the European introduction of Ford Sync. This majors on voice activation for mobile phones and MP3 players, simplifying communication on the go.
Safety and economy
Ford Sync also automatically contacts the emergency services in the event of an accident, including providing GPS coordinates. On top of this, the B-Max is the first small MPV to include an automatic city braking function in an effort to reduce or avoid low speed urban collisions.
Seven airbags are standard, alongside Torque Vectoring Control, which helps the driven front wheels find maximum cornering grip. Then there's the key item of interest - the crashability of those doors. More than 5,000 virtual crash simulations and over 40 physical crash tests have gone into perfecting them.
As a result, and thanks to new innovative "crash catcher" latching mechanisms, Ford says the B-Max is at least as good as any conventional vehicle on sale. 58% of its structure is built using high-strength and ultra-high strength steels. A five-star Euro NCAP rating is confidently predicted in the November scores.
Moving on to the economy, standard fit stop-start makes the 120hp EcoBoost the most efficient conventional petrol car in its class, emitting 114g/km CO2 and returning a claimed 57.7mpg. The 1.6-litre diesel is also top of the tree, emitting 104g/km while returning a claimed 70.6mpg.
The MSN Cars Verdict
With that EcoBoost engine firmly in place it is genuinely hard to fault the new Ford B-Max. The design is smart, it's great to drive, comfortable and more than fast enough. In short: brilliant. And if you have to have a different engine, well, it's still outstandingly good.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.4, 1.6, 1.0 EcoBoost 100hp, 1.0 EcoBoost 120hp|
|Engines, diesel||1.5, 1.6|
|Power, hp||75 - 120|
|Torque, lb ft||92 - 158|
|0-62 mph, secs||11.2 - 16.5|
|Top speed, mph||98 - 117|
|Mpg combined||44.1 - 70.6|
|CO2||104 - 149|
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