Ford B-Max a convincing small MPV challenger

Ford has lacked a strong player in the small MPV market, until now. Yes, there was the Ford Fusion, but it lived somewhat in the shadow of mainstream models like the Fiesta and the Focus. But, now we have the B-Max.

While most manufacturers make a statement by adding something to their latest offering, Ford has made a virtue of removing something – the B-pillars (that’s the pillar that normally sits between front and rear doors). When you open the front doors and the sliding rear door, you open up the entire side of the B-Max – a 1.5 metre opening.

Ford B-Max

Ford has been making great play of this innovation, and with good reason. It really does make access to the interior that much easier – something that would be much appreciated by a family trying to set up and install passengers into child seats in the rear. There will also be times when it is a boon on a weekend trip to the DIY store, when inveigling bulky items into a conventional car can be frustrating.

Getting rid of the B-pillar was no easy feat. They are structurally important, adding strength overall, but specifically for resisting side impacts. Ford’s solution was to incorporate the B-pillar into the door. As one of my passengers noted, this does mean the Door is a little heavier than you might expect, but in no way unwieldy.

The interior will seem quite familiar to those accustomed to the interior style of the Ford Focus or Ford Fiesta. You sit a little higher and more upright, but many will welcome that, particularly in town driving.

On the road the biggest revelation is the engine. At the end of my time with the B-Max 1.0 Ecoboost I found myself compelled to dive into the glovebox for a second time. Could this really be a one-litre engine, driving what seems – particularly from the inside – such a substantial vehicle?

Ford B-Max

I’ve driven the three-cylinder 1.0 Ecoboost engine in other cars before, but in the B-Max it seemed even more remarkable. You can quite easily detect the off-beat thrum of the three-cylinder power unit, but it is certainly not unpleasant with its subdued throaty engine note as you accelerate through the B-Max’s five gears.

What is particularly impressive is its eagerness. You simply have to touch the accelerator to get an immediate response. In most conditions the power just keeps coming, in a manner that seems quite outlandish.

For the manual versions of the B-Max 1.0 Ecoboost there are two different power outputs 100PS and 125PS. While the first can run out of puff more easily, the latter produces a very respectable 0-60 mph acceleration time of 11.2 seconds – although if anything it feels brisker. The top speed is 117 mph.

The combined fuel consumption of the 125PS model is 57.7 mpg. Against that my average of 35 mpg might seem a little disappointing, but during my time I did quite a high proportion of town driving and must also admit to enjoying the performance. Carbon dioxide emissions on the more powerful car are 5 g/km lower at 114 g/km, putting this B-Max into Band C for UK car tax.

The prices of the Ford B-Max 1.0 Ecoboost begin at £16,195, rising to £16,795 for the 125PS version, or £17,280 for the Powershift-equipped model.

There’s no doubt that Ford has re-established itself in the market for small family MPVs with a very strong and desirable contender for the smart money.

Ford B-Max

You do have to pay a sizeable premium of £3,200 to upgrade from the base 1.4-litre model to the 1.0 Ecoboost, but it’s a price that many will be willing to pay when they see the 10 mpg improvement in the combined fuel consumption.

Having made that decision, it only remains to find the extra £600 for the more powerful version. You can always justify it by pointing out that it is also more economical and has lower emissions!
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