Ford B-MAX review
The Ford B-MAX brings sliding doors and the verve of the Fiesta supermini to the small MPV sector
The Ford B-MAX is a really clever small MPV which rivals models like the Vauxhall Meriva and Citroen C3 Picasso, but is a step up from supermini-MPV's like the Nissan Note or Honda Jazz. It's based on the Fiesta supermini, but with a boxier body it's more spacious inside.
The B-MAX's party piece is its sliding doors. Ford has dispensed with the B-pillar, which means when both front and rear doors are open there's a massively wide and versatile opening - fitting child seats is a cinch.
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 petrol, which is available in two power outputs, is the pick of the bunch. If you want a diesel, Ford introduced a new 1.5 TDCi in 2015 in two power outputs, and both deliver decent economy and pulling power. All cars get a slick five-speed manual gearbox, although if you want an automatic, the six-speed Powershift transmission is only available with the old 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, although back seat space is a little tight. There’s also a 318-litre boot, and the back seats fold completely flat to create 1,386 litres of space.
Build quality is good, too. Everything is solidly screwed together, and there are plenty of soft touch materials. More expensive versions also benefit from upmarket gloss black trim and a 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
If nothing else, the Ford B-MAX has a unique selling point in the shape of those sliding doors. They make access to the back seats very easy, and are ideal if you're going to fit child seats and need to get kids in the back, too. What's more, while the boot isn't the biggest in the class, there's enough space for everything that comes with raising children.
But there's more to the B-MAX than just sliding doors. Thanks to its Fiesta underpinnings, it's enjoyable to drive, and is far more agile than its rivals. However it's also comfortable and easy to drive, while the supermini-size dimensions and high driving position mean it's pretty easy to park.
Ford's 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine is a perfect match for the B-MAX, and it delivers punchy performance even when the car is fully laden, although don't expect to get near Ford's claimed economy figures if you use the engine's full performance. The diesel is only really recommended if you intend to travel longer distances.
Engines, performance and drive
Given that the B-MAX uses the same platform as the Ford Fiesta, it’s no surprise to find that it's a fun car to drive. It features direct and well weighted steering, excellent body control and strong grip, and these combine to inspire confidence through a series of corners. The B-MAX is boosted by a torque vectoring system which distributes power to the front wheel with the most grip, which further improves handling.
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, responsive brakes and compact external dimensions, the B-MAX is a doddle to drive around town. Rear parking sensors are an option on Zetec and Titanium models.
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Ford B-MAX buyers wanting a diesel can choose the firm's latest 1.5 TDCi with either 73bhp or 93bhp. Both engines emit 98g/km emissions and return a claimed 74.3mpg, but they are both rather sluggish performers. If you can afford the extra outlay, we'd recommend going for the 93bhp version, as you won't need to work it quite as hard, so you're likely to get closer to Ford's claimed MPG figure. A 0-62mph time of 13.0 seconds is 2.1 seconds faster than the 73bhp model, but neither car is exactly rapid.
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 - the rest of the range features five-speed manuals. However we'd only recommend the 1.6 if you must have an auto, because Ford's newer EcoBoost turbo petrol engine is far better.
The award-winning three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit with 99bhp can get from 0-62mph in 13.2 seconds, while the more powerful 123bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost does it in 11.2 seconds. The latter also features start-stop, so has better claimed economy figures than the slower EcoBoost engine. The EcoBoost engines deliver a traditional three-cylinder thrum from under the bonnet, but it's not very loud, and adds a bit of character to how the B-MAX drives.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder turbo petrol engine is the one to go for in the B-MAX. It comes in 99bhp or 123bhp guises, and while both deliver decent pulling power for a car of this size, its actually the more powerful engine we'd recommend, because it features stop-start and has claimed economy of 57.7mpg, which is 2.3mpg better than the 99bhp model. It also has CO2 emissions of 114g/km, while the smaller 99bhp variant emits 119g/km. In our experience, you're unlikely to get near the claimed economy figures, but the stop-start-equipped model will hopefully get closer to its claimed figure.
The entry-level 1.4-litre petrol is relatively economical at 47.1mpg, but CO2 emissions of 139g/km mean it's more expensive for tax. The auto-equipped 1.6 petrol is the poorest performer in the range, with emissions of 149g/km and claimed economy of 44.1mpg, which is on a par with auto-equipped rivals such as the Hyundai ix20 and Kia Venga, but slightly behind the auto Citroen C3 Picasso.
The 1.5 TDCi diesel is the best performer for fuel and tax costs. Whether you choose the 73bhp or 93bhp models, you get a claimed return of 74.3mpg, while emissions of 98g/km mean the B-MAX diesel currently qualifies for free road tax.
Service intervals for every B-MAX are one year or 12,500 miles, while Ford offers fixed-price servicing, although it's not the best value plan when compared to some rival schemes. There's a huge number of Ford dealers across the country, although they don't have the best form when it comes to our Driver Power satisfaction survey.
Clearly the insurance firms see no issue with the B-MAX's pillarless sliding door layout, and insurance groups range from Group 7-13. The 123bhp EcoBoost engine gains the highest rating, with the lower powered version in Groups 9-10, while the 1.5 TDCi is in Group 11.
Residual values for the B-MAX are pretty good, as it seems buyers are attracted by the sliding door arrangement, as well as the extra space the B-MAX provides over the big-selling Fiesta on which it's based. Estimated resale values are in the 41-47 per cent range, which is slightly ahead of rivals such as the Hyundai ix20 and Kia Venga, and well ahead of the Citroen C3 Picasso.
Interior, design and technology
Ford has decided to go radical with the design of the B-MAX and has removed the structural door pillars that strengthen the middle car. Instead, Ford has integrated them into the sliding doors themselves, which creates a vast opening that doesn't compromise the body’s integrity or crash protection. Apart from the door runners cut into the rear wing panels, Ford hasn't compromised the styling of the B-MAX, either.
The overall design is a mixture of the Fiesta on which it's based and the larger C-MAX, and features swooping headlights and 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 Kia Venga – 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 Studio is sparsely equipped, but Zetec versions get loads of kit and accessories, including Ford's MyKey system, which lets you limit the volume of the radio or the car's top speed when the driver uses the spare key. Other kit includes 15-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights and air-conditioning.
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Move up to the B-MAX Titanium, and you get desirable additions such as 16-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, heated seats, a starter button instead of key ignition, climate control and cruise control. Options include a City Pack, which features parking sensors and power-folding door mirrors, while the Titanium X Pack gets part-leather seats, heated front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the Ford B-MAX has a rather cluttered dashboard, with a lot of buttons on the centre console and a central display that's set well back on top of the dash. Still, it's built to a higher standard than the Kia Venga and Hyundai ix20. Zetec models and above benefit from gloss black trim for the centre console and classy metal trim for the air-conditioning and infotainment controls.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Navigation is an option on Zetec and Titanium cars, although the small 4.2-inch screen is rather small. Ford's SYNC voice activation is available across the range. This recognises voice commands and is meant to help the driver keep his hands on the wheel, rather than fumbling around for the relevant dashboard button or dial. Titanium cars can also be upgraded with a premium Sony sound system, which adds eight speakers to the cabin.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Practicality is the trump card of the Ford B-MAX. From the outset it has been designed to cater for buyers who want something bigger than a Ford Fiesta, and Ford decided to make the most of this by including those sliding doors in the design. It can seat five easily, although back seat space can be a bit of a squeeze for three adults, while the high driving position mean it's pretty easy to get in and out of.
The B-MAX measures in at 4,077mm long, 2,067mm wide and 1,604mm tall, so it's slightly larger than the Fiesta on which it's based, but clever packaging means it's nearly as practical as the even larger C-MAX. By eliminating the B-pillars, Ford has given the B-MAX side openings that measure 1.5 metres wide, and make access to the cabin a breeze. As there's no back door to contend with, you can fit child seats easily, and there's lots of room so you can ensure children are buckled up properly in the back.
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Legroom, headroom, passenger space
The B-MAX's tall body means there's plenty of headroom, and it's easy to get in and out of the car because it has a higher seating position than the Fiesta. Space in the cabin is good, although three adults may find it a bit of a squeeze for shoulder space in the back. But again, the square body means headroom is fine, even if you go for the Titanium X with its panoramic glass roof. Unlike some rivals, the B-MAX isn't offered with sliding back seats.
Folding the rear seats in the Ford B-MAX is simple and increases the boot size from 318 litres to 1,386 litres, and features a completely flat boot floor. However, while the space available is useful, it's not as big as rivals such as the Kia Venga (440 litres) and Citroen C3 Picasso (500 litres).
On the plus side, all versions of the B-MAX feature a folding front passenger seat, so you can load items up to 2.35 metres long. The boot in the Ford B-MAX is flat and well shaped, plus it gets a false floor to hide valuables underneath, or you can remove the floor for maximum room. You get a tyre repair kit as standard in the B-MAX, but if you add the optional space-saver spare, boot space drops to 304 litres, or 1,372 litres with the back seats folded.
Reliability and Safety
The Ford B-MAX is one of the safest cars in its class, and it earned a full five-star score in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests in 2012. It scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, while child safety was rated at 84 per cent, and the safety assist category saw a 71 per cent score. In comparison, the Hyundai ix20 had an 89 per cent adult score, 64 per cent child rating, and a tech score of 71 per cent.
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. The front and rear doors overlap when they are closed to add strength to the car's frame, although unlike other pillarless door arrangements, you don't need to open the front doors to open the rears. Other clever safety tech includes brake lights that flash under heavy braking. Zetec models and above can also be specified with autonomous emergency braking for an extra £200.
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Ford, as a volume manufacturer, has always had a relatively poor showing in the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey - it finished 25th out of a possible 32 places in 2015. The B-MAX, placed 128th in the model survey, some 76 places behind the Fiesta on which it's based. That car earned high scores for handling, reliability and low running costs, while the B-MAX should improve on the Fiesta's low score for practicality.
The B-MAX comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which is fairly standard, but rivals the Hyundai ix20 and Kia Venga have five and seven-year warranty cover. You only get one year's roadside assistance to go with it, too.
You can drive the B-MAX for 12,500 miles or a year before you need to get it serviced, and services vary between minor and major. Petrol and diesel engines are subject to the same regime, while Ford offers fixed-price maintenance covering two or three years. However, while this takes the sting out of service costs - and you can add the service plan to your monthly payments if you're buying on finance - Ford's service plans aren't as good value as some rival schemes.