Ford B-MAX review
The Ford B-MAX brings the verve of the best-selling Fiesta to the small MPV sector
The Ford B-MAX is a versatile mini-MPV that rivals models such as the Nissan Note and Vauxhall Meriva. Based on the popular Fiesta, the B-MAX features sliding side doors and no B-pillar, which helps deliver easy access to the spacious interior.
There’s more to the B-MAX than family-friendly practicality, though. Sharp handling and a smooth ride combine to make the Ford fun to drive, while the light controls and compact exterior dimensions result in excellent agility in town.
There’s a decent line-up of petrol and diesel engines, but the punchy and smooth turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost is the pick of the bunch. However, the sluggish 1.5-litre TDCi diesel is best avoided – not only is it slower than the larger 1.6 TDCi, it’s thirstier and emits more CO2. All versions get a slick five-speed manual gearbox, but the six-speed Powershift transmission is only available with the outdated 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine.
A huge part of the B-MAX’s appeal is its roomy and classily finished interior. Those sliding doors make for easy access, while decent packaging means you can seat five adults at a pinch. There’s also a decent 318-litre boot.
Quality is good, too. Everything is solidly screwed together, while there are plenty of soft touch materials. More expensive versions also benefit from upmarket gloss black trim and silver metal finish for the ventilation and infotainment controls.
The model line-up is straightforward, with buyers able to choose from Studio, Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X trims. Entry-level models get a DAB radio, powered mirrors and four electric windows, while the popular Zetec adds alloys wheels, air-conditioning and a heated windscreen among other things. Step-up to the Titanium and you benefit from cruise and climate control, automatic headlamps and powerfold mirrors. The Titanium X gets all this kit, plus a panoramic glass roof, part leather and heated seats and keyless entry
Our choice: 1.0T Ecoboost 125 Zetec
Ford has been smart with the design of the B-MAX and has removed the structural pillars that strengthen the middle car. Instead, Ford has integrated these pillars into the design of the doors themselves, creating a vast opening without compromising the body’s integrity and crash protection. And apart from door-runners for the sliding side doors in the rear wing panels, Ford hasn't compromised the styling of the B-MAX.
The overall design of the Ford B-MAX echoes that of the larger C-MAX, with swooping headlights as well as wraparound rear light clusters. It's not as appealing to look at as the Ford Fiesta, but the B-MAX still has the edge over the Vauxhall Meriva and Nissan Note – although the car looks a little slab-sided on smaller 15-inch wheels.
Ford offers the B-MAX in four specifications - entry-level Studio, mid-range Zetec and the flagship B-MAX Titanium and Titanium X models.
The entry-level Ford B-MAX Studio cars are sparsely equipped, but Zetec versions get loads of kit and accessories, including Ford's My Key system (which lets you limit the volume of the radio or the car's top speed when the driver uses the spare key), 15-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights and air-con.
Meanwhile, the Ford B-MAX Titanium gets desirable additions such as 16-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, heated seats, a start button, climate control and cruise control. Options include a City Pack, which features parking sensors and power-folding door mirrors, while the Ford B-MAX Titanium X Pack gets part-leather seats, heated front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the Ford B-MAX doesn't match the quality of the Volkswagen Polo supermini as the dashboard is rather cluttered with buttons and dials but it's still ahead of the Kia Venga and Hyundai ix20. Zetec models and above benefit from gloss black trim for the centre console and classy metal finish controls for the air-conditioning and infotainment controls.
Ford B-MAX buyers wanting a diesel can choose between the 73bhp 1.5-litre or 93bhp 1.6-litre TDCi units. However, we wouldn't recommend the Ford B-MAX with the 1.5-litre diesel engine, which is a sluggish performer, both on around town and on the motorway. The 1.6-litre is smoother and more muscular on the move, plus it’ll be cheaper to run.
The entry-level Studio model is only available with Ford’s elderly 89bhp 1.4-litre petrol, while the larger 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol is the only choice if you want Ford’s slick six-speed Powershift twin-clutch gearbox. All other models are fitted with a precise five-speed manual transmission.
Of all the engines that Ford offers on the B-MAX range, we'd opt for the award-winning three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit with 98bhp, which can get from 0-62mph in 13.2 seconds. The more powerful 123bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost is the most powerful unit available, carrying the B-MAX to a top speed of 117mph.
Given its Ford Fiesta underpinnings, it’s no surprise to find the B-MAX is good to drive. Direct and well-weighted steering, excellent body control and strong grip combine to inspire confidence through a series of corners. Yet this composure doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, because the B-MAX soaks up bumps and does a good job of keeping wind and road noise out of the interior. Better still, with its decent visibility, light controls and compact external dimensions, the B-MAX is a doddle to drive around town.
The Ford B-MAX is one of the safest cars in its class thanks to a full five-star score in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. It scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, and 71 per cent in the safety assist category.
The scores are unsurprising though, as every Ford B-MAX model comes with electronic stability control and traction control fitted as standard, as well as driver, passenger, curtain, side and driver’s knee airbags. Clever safety tech includes brake lights that flash under heavy braking. Zetec models above cam also be specified with autonomous emergency braking for an extra £200.
Ford, as a manufacturer, was mediocre in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey - it finished 25th out of a possible 32 places. The B-MAX, however, was too new to feature in the survey. On the plus side, the B-MAX shares many of its components with the tried and tested Fiesta.
Practicality is the trump card of the Ford B-MAX, and it's clearly been designed with this in mind. It measures in at 4,077mm long, 2,067mm wide and 1,604mm tall, so it has a larger footprint than a Fiesta and it also weighs around 1,300kg, which varies depending on engine size.
The Ford B-MAX doesn't have a B-pillar - open both the hinged front and sliding rear doors, you're presented with a 1.5-metre opening. Tall adults can sit comfortably behind front passengers of a similar build, while fitting child seats is no problem at all.
Folding the rear seats in the Ford B-MAX is simple and increases the boot size from 318 litres to 1,386 litres. However, this is far from class leading – it’s no better than most five-door hatchbacks and lags far behind rivals like the Kia Venga and Citroen C3 Picasso.
The boot in the Ford B-MAX is flat and well shaped, though, and it gets a false floor to hide valuables underneath or drop -own for maximum room. Plus, the front passenger seat folds down to accommodate longer items.
The fuel sipping 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol EcoBoost powerplant found in the Ford B-MAX is an excellent engine.
The start-stop equipped 123bhp version is one of the cleanest units in its class thanks to 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km, while the smaller 98bhp variant returns 55.4mpg and emits just 119g/km. The 1.4-litre petrol engine is also relatively economical thanks to 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km.
The Ford B-MAX is also available with an automatic gearbox, but it's only offered with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, meaning it's relatively thirsty and returns 44.1mpg as well as 149g/km of CO2.
The 1.6-litre 93bhp TDCi diesel in the Ford B-MAX range manages an impressive 70.6mpg, plus emissions of 104g/km of CO2. The smaller 73bhp 1.5-litre TDCi diesel is almost as strong thanks to 68.9mpg and CO2 outputs of 109g/km. Service intervals for every B-MAX are 12,500 miles, plus there are a huge number of dealers to choose from.