Ford B-MAX review
The Ford B-Max won the Best Five-Seat MPV of 2013 at the Auto Express awards - it's ultra practical, efficient and fun to drive
The Ford B-MAX won Auto Express' Best Five-Seat MPV award at the New Car Awards in 2013. It's well deserved, too: it's innovative, offers great performance and a wide range of engines.
With the B-MAX, Ford has taken out the B-pillar between the front and back doors, creating a huge 150cm-wide side door opening - meaning accessibility is great. The doors even slide open, so you can be that bit more adventurous when choosing a parking space.
The Ford B-MAX is based on the Ford Fiesta and, despite being taller, it retains the really fun driving experience. Meanwhile, great fuel economy and a comfortable ride mean the Ford B-MAX easily rivals the likes of the Nissan Note, Honda Jazz and Vauxhall Meriva.
The engine range on offer with the Ford B-MAX is impressive, too, including the award-winning 118bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol model that returns 57mpg and emits 114g/km of CO2.
Our choice is the multi-award-winning 1.0T EcoBoost Zetec - the 123bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine is easily up to the job of hauling the B-MAX around. Plus, this engine has scooped the 2013 International Engine of the Year award for the second year in a row.
Every model should be reasonably cheap to run, as each one gets stop-start as standard, as well as regenerative braking and a gear-shift indicator.
It's available in three specifications, the entry-level Studio, mid-range Zetec and top-spec Titanium. However, the Studio model lacks equipment, so we'd opt for the Zetec as being a realistic place to start.
Our choice: 1.0T Ecoboost 125 Zetec
Uniquely, the Ford B-MAX has done away with the structural pillars which usually divide the front and back of the car. Instead, these pillars have been integrated into the design of the doors themselves. But, apart from door runners in the rear wing panels, styling hasn't been compromised by such a clever set-up.
The overall design echoes that of the larger C-MAX, with swooping headlights and wraparound rear lights, too. It's not as appealing as the Ford Fiesta, but it still has the edge over the Vauxhall Meriva and Nissan Note.
There are three main specifications to choose from - entry-level Studio, Zetec and Titanium. Entry-level cars are a bit spartan, 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, 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.
As the B-MAX is based on the Ford Fiesta, it instantly has an advantage over the Vauxhall Meriva and Nissan Note in terms of driver enjoyment. It's got a comfortable ride and, as with the Fiesta, it's great fun behind the wheel. There's lots of grip at all speeds, but the extra height of the B-MAX does mean that it tends to lean through bends sometimes.
It comes with four different petrol engines - the award-winning three-cylinder 1.0 Ecoboost unit with 118bhp, a four-cylinder 1.4 and 1.6 as well as 1.5 and 1.6 diesel options.
Of the four engines on offer, we'd opt for the award-winning three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit, which manages to return 55.4mpg. The 1.6-litre diesel is cleaner still and great value, too. 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.
We wouldn't choose an automatic B-MAX as it's paired with a 1.6-litre petrol which isn't the most economical engine out there.
The Ford B-MAX received the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, 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.
Ford, as a manufacturer, didn't impress in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey - it finished 23rd out of a possible 32 places. The B-MAX itself is too new to feature in the survey.
If you've seen the Ford B-MAX advert showing a man diving through the open doors of the car into a swimming pool, you'll know it pretty much sums up what the B-MAX is about.
Practicality is where the B-MAX excels - with both the hinged front and sliding rear doors open, 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 is simple and increases the boot size from 318 litres to 1,386 litres, which is 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.
The frugal 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Currently shared across the Focus, Fiesta, C-MAX and Grand C-MAX, the 123bhp version offers class-leading economy figures of 57.7mph and CO2 emissions of 114g/km.
There's also an extremely efficient 1.6-litre TDCi in the range, which manages a whopping 70.6mpg with 104g/km of CO2 - impressive . Unfortunately, the B-MAX only comes with one automatic option which is a thirsty 1.6-litre petrol that only manages 44.1mpg paired with CO2 emissions of 149g/km.