Ford B-MAX review
The Ford B-MAX MPV goes straight to the top of the class – it’s fun to drive, efficient and ultra practical
Ford has a reputation for building great MPVs, and the B-MAX is one of its best yet. But while the Easy Access Door System is ingenious - and leaves the Vauxhall Meriva and its rear-hinged back doors trailling - the B-MAX is more than just a fancy set of doors. It’s also great to drive, and comes with a whole host of other practical features that ensure its place at the top of the small MPV class. By doing away with the B-pillar, Ford has ensured that getting adults or children into the back is as easy as it could possibly be. And by using the Ford Fiesta as a basis, it has also ensured that it drives with more verve and more comfort than the Nissan Note or Honda Jazz. It’s available with a wide range of engines, too, including the manufacturer’s multi-award-winning 1.0 EcoBoost petrol model that emits 114g/km of CO2 and returns 57.6mpg. But every model should prove cheap to run, as each one comes fitted with stop-start, regenerative braking and a gear-shift indictor as standard. Plus, thanks to a list price that’s on a par with rivals (even before you take into account the generous discounts available), the B-MAX is good value, too.
Our choice: 1.0 Ecoboost 120 Zetec
While the production B-MAX has been toned down from the concept car shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, it has retained the innovative pillarless sliding rear doors, as well as its overall styling. The design echoes that of the larger C-MAX, with swoopy headlights and wraparound rear lights, while the zig-zag lines on the rear doors help to avoid a slab-sided look for such an upright little car. Although it’s only 110mm longer and marginally taller than the Fiesta, it’s not quite as pretty but it still makes the Vauxhall Meriva and Nissan Note look a little dumpy. The interior will also be familiar to Fiesta owners, with a stylish dashboard that’s made up of a few too many buttons, which makes the infotainment system confusing to use. But even the way the seatbelts have been incorporated into the front seats (they have to be as there’s no B pillar to hang them off) has been done with style. There are three specs to choose from – Studio, Zetec and Titanium. Entry-level cars are a little spartan, but Zetec cars come loaded with kit, 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 alloys, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights and air-con, while Titanium trim adds things like 16-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, heated seats, a start button, climate control and cruise control. Options include a City Pack, which includes parking sensors and power-folding door mirrors, and a Titanium X Pack that adds part-leather seats, heated front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The B-MAX doesn’t quite drive as well as the Fiesta, but it does come close. The steering feels alive, with much better response than you’d expect from a small MPV. Its more fun to drive than its rivals, too, while the ride is also far more comfortable than in the Honda Jazz or Vauxhall Meriva. It’s also refined, especially with the smooth and tuneful 1.0-litre three cylinder engines under the bonnet. The 118bhp 1.0 EcoBoost is our pick of the range, thanks to its blend of performance and economy. However, the 1.6 diesel is cleaner still and is better value overall. It has plenty of poke once you’re off the line, but is a bit growly when you accelerate. We wouldn’t recommend the 1.5-litre diesel – although it’s cheaper to buy, its stats show it’s sluggish and no more economical than the 1.6 diesel. The only way into an automatic B-MAX is with the old-school 1.6 petrol, which is not the best performing or most economical of engine. It's also best avoided, in our opinion.
Despite the missing B-pillar, the B-MAX is a very safe car. It was awarded a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, with a score of 92 per cent for adult occupant protection and 71 per cent in the safety assist category. This is because every model comes with electronic stability control and traction control fitted as standard, as well as driver, passenger, curtain, side and driver’s knee airbags, while clever safety tech includes brake lights that flash under heavy braking. The doors do most of the work of the missing pillar, with extra strengthening in the frame, floor and roof of the car. That does mean the doors are a bit chunky, creating something of a blind spot over the shoulder, but they’re not too heavy. Otherwise, visibility at the front and back is good. Ford doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability of late, and it finished 25th out of 30 as a brand in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. The poor result was because its huge network of 700-plus UK dealers was rated as below par, whereas owners had a lot of praise for the handling and practicality their cars . Plus, newer models such as the latest Focus and S-MAX finished in 19th and 24th place respectively in the Top 100, which bodes well for the B-MAX.
This is where the B-MAX excels, as Its B-pillarless body is more than just a party piece. Open both the hinged front and sliding rear doors, and you’re presented with a 1.5-metre opening that makes fitting child seats or climbing into the rear seats easy. Plus, despite the compact dimensions, there’s plenty of space thanks to a tall body that ensures excellent headroom throughout. The sliding rear doors are a further bonus when it comes to tight parking spaces, too. Folding the rear seats is simple and increases the boot size from 318 litres to 1,386 litres, which far from class leading - it’s no better than most five-door hatchbacks and far behind rivals like the Kia Venga and Citroen C3 Picasso. The boot is flat and well shaped, though, with a false floor to hide valuables underneath or drop down for maximum room. Plus, the front passenger seat folds down to accommodate longer items.
Ford claims that the B-MAX offers class-leading economy, and the pick of the range is the firm’s fantastic three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. The more powerful 118bhp version is the best and has an official fuel consumption figure of 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km - although it’s quite unlikely to deliver anywhere near this mpg in real world driving. The 1.6 TDCI diesel is even more efficient, with a claimed average fuel consumption figure of 70.6mpg and the lowest emissions of any current B-MAX model – 104g/km. It’s more expensive to buy than the 1.5 TDCi diesel, but better on economy, emissions and performance. There’s only one automatic option, though, which is a 1.6-litre petrol that claims a disappointing average mpg of 44.1 and emissions of 149g/km