Ford B-MAX mini MPV
Ford B-MAX mini MPV
Price £12,995 - £19,095
- Wide door opening
- As easy to drive as a Ford Fiesta
- Cheap to buy and run
- Quality isn’t up to Volkswagen standards
- No seven-seat option
- Automatic only comes with one engine
At a glance
"The Ford B-MAX is a mini MPV with unique doors designed to maximise its practicality. It's fun to drive, too."
The Ford B-MAX is characterised by its unique side doors, which open away from each other to reveal a huge pillarless 1.5-metre uninterrupted opening. This is great news for families who need to strap in their most precious cargo or fit bulky child seats, and gives the Ford unique selling point over models including the Vauxhall Meriva, Citroen C3 Picasso and Hyundai ix20. A tall roof also makes interior headroom and legroom a real highlight.
The B-MAX is safe too, with a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and no skimping of safety kit for lower trim levels. While it's no rocket ship, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol is the best all-round engine, thanks to its decent performance and economy. The diesels are thriftier but cost more to buy and the 1.5-litre TDCi lacks pace – we'd go for the 1.6-litre TDCi if your budget will stretch that far.
We’d avoid the basic Studio trim level, but Zetec adds essential tech like air-con, while Titanium and Titanium X are very luxurious for a car in this class.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Ford B-MAX diesels are costly to buy, making the impressive EcoBoost petrol very appealing
The Ford B-MAX is available with four petrol engines, which are cheaper to buy than the diesel versions. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost is the star of the show, with emissions of 119g/km of CO2 for the 99bhp model and 114g/km for the powerful 123bhp version (which has stop and start technology fitted). These engines return 55.4mpg and 57.7mpg respectively and cost £30 in annual road tax.
There's also a less high-tech 1.4-litre which has 89bhp, emits 139g/km (with a £130 tax bill) and manages 47.1mpg. A 104bhp 1.6-litre completes the petrol line-up, and is the only model fitted with an automatic gearbox. This version is by far the most expensive B-MAX to run, with an average 44.1mpg and emissions of 149g/km, costing £145 each year.
With 74bhp, the 1.5-litre TDCi diesel returns 68.9mpg and emits 109g/km, while the more powerful 94bhp 1.6-litre TDCi is slightly better, managing 70.6mpg and 104g/km, placing both versions in the £20 tax bracket.
Ford's petrol engines are more advanced than the 1.4-litre you’ll find in the Vauxhall Meriva, which emits between 139 and 166g/km. However, the cleanest diesel Meriva emits 99g/km, making it exempt from road tax, a trick the B-MAX can’t quite manage.
A fixed-price servicing plan is available, with two years cover costing £330 and three years £550. This price also includes roadside assistance throughout Europe and up to seven days of vehicle hire.
Interior & comfort
An easy car to live with, the the Ford B-MAX's dashboard feels cluttered
The Ford B-MAX is based on the Ford Fiesta, so you’ll recognise most of the dashboard layout and design if you’ve ever sat in one of those. Ford's interior materials are fairly attractive, beating the Meriva and Kia Venga for quality, but the centre console has too many confusing buttons.
The seats are comfortable and hug you in corners, while it's easy to adjust the steering wheel for reach and rake. You do sit fairly upright in the B-MAX, which will appeal to drivers who like feeling higher up, with good visibility of the road ahead. However, long pillars frame the windscreen, and there are thick pillars either side of the back window, causing big blind spots. Parking sensors are certainly useful for negotiating tight car parks.
The B-MAX has a firm but comfortable ride which has been tuned specifically for British roads. There's very little lean through corners and bumps are dealt with admirably. However, the lack of a sixth gear means engines tend to be working hard at motorway speeds, introducing some noise into the cabin.
Practicality & boot space
The Ford B-MAX gets a small boot, but unique side doors and thoughtful design makes up for it
The Ford B-MAX has a unique party trick, whereby its front and rear doors open away from each other, with no central pillar, which is said to create a space 50 per cent larger than you'll find in the Vauxhall Meriva. This makes it much easier to hop in and out of the car. The back door slides on a runner, so it can be opened fully even in a tight parking space. This is especially important for easily and comfortably accessing rear child seats, which thanks to ISOFIX mountings, can be fitted on the two outer rear seats.
A tall roofline means there's plenty of headroom for all passengers, with ample legroom as well. The boot can hold 318 litres of luggage, which is two more than a Ford Focus but almost 80 short of the Vauxhall Meriva and more than 120 less than the Hyundai ix20. But the B-MAX has some neat tricks, like 60:40 splitting rear seats which fold flat and a front passenger seat which can fold forwards to allows you to carry items up to 2.35-metres in length.
A large hatchback and smooth loading lip makes accessing the boot very easy. There's also an artificial boot floor, which can be moved up to create a flat surface or dropped down for extra space. Sadly a spare wheel isn’t standard, but a space saver is a £100 optional extra across the range.
Reliability & safety
Ford isn’t performing well for customer satisfaction, but the Ford B-MAX is very safe
Ford has slipped to 25th place out of 33 manufacturers in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, which could be cause for concern when it comes to buying one of its cars. But rival manufacturers Citroen (26th) and Vauxhall (29th) faired even more poorly.
Safety shouldn’t be a concern, with Euro NCAP awarding the B-MAX the maximum five stars, which includes a 92 per cent score for adult occupant protection and 84 per cent for child occupants. The Vauxhall Meriva also scored five stars, but with 89 per cent and 77 per cent for the above categories. The Citroen C3 Picasso only managed four stars – scored down because not all of its safety equipment is included on lower trim levels.
There are no such worries with the Ford B-MAX, which is fitted with six airbags and technology to help prevent skids all as standard. A system called Active City Stop, which can automatically brake the car if it detects an imminent low speed collision, costs £200 and is an option across the trim levels.
Engines, drive & performance
Avoid the sluggish Ford B-MAX's entry-level engines and you’ll have the most fun car in its class
The Ford B-MAX is based on the Ford Fiesta, which is renowned for being the most fun to drive car in its class. Despite being taller and leaning more than the supermini in corners, the B-MAX shares its sharp steering and responsive handling, making it the most fun mini MPV. But the suspension is quite firm, so the Citroen C3 Picasso is more comfortable along rough roads.
No version of the B-MAX is particularly quick, but the 1.0-litre EcoBoost feels most sprightly, particularly if you go for the 124bhp version which can accelerate from 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds. The diesel engines are slowest on paper, with 0-62mph coming up in a disappointing 16.5 seconds for the 74bhp version and 13.9 seconds in the 1.6-litre TDCi. The Vauxhall Meriva is available with faster petrol and diesel versions which can hit 62mph in as little as 9.9 seconds.
Poor performance limits the 1.4-litre petrol and 1.5-litre TDCi to mainly town driving, with too little power to drive confidently on faster roads and motorways. For longer trips we’d recommend the 1.0-litre EcoBoost or 1.6-litre TDCi, which feel more grown-up and can overtake slower traffic safely.
Price, value for money & options
Well-priced, but Ford B-MAX diesel versions are very pricey
While the entry-level Ford B-MAX Studio is priced very competitively, it's very basic and most customers will need to spend substantially more. For example, to get in the cheapest diesel costs £16,195, which is a significant jump up. A diesel Hyundai ix20 is available for £13,645. We think the Ford EcoBoost petrol engines in Zetec trim offer the best all-round value.
The Studio trim has DAB digital radio, remote central locking and a fold-flat front passenger seat. Upgrading to Zetec adds essentials like alloy wheels, air-con and a trip computer, as well as luxuries like a heated front windscreen and leather interior highlights as well as a child observation mirror. Titanium models get bigger 16-inch alloy wheels and adds a Sony stereo, cruise control, folding door mirrors and auto headlamps and wipers. The Titanium X is one of the most kitted-out mini MPVs, with a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, partial leather seats, heated front seats and tinted rear windows.
We think the £200 Active City Stop safety feature is well worth considering, as it could prevent you having a bump, or even an injury. Other options include a £300 City Pack, which includes rear parking sensors and folding door mirrors – representing good value. A rear view parking camera will set you back £600, while Ford's SYNC system with Bluetooth, USB and voice control costs £260. It's available with a five-inch colour screen and sat-nav for £400.
What the others say
The Ford B-MAX supermini MPV gives a great drive and sliding-door flexibility. It's based on the excellent Fiesta but features a taller roof, innovative sliding doors and versatile five-seater interior. The lack of B-pillars means it is incredibly practical, while loading kids and kit into the back is a doddle. Available with Ford's excellent EcoBoost petrol engine, the B-MAX is sure to steal sales in the compact MPV sector.
Don’t go thinking the B-Max is just a bloated Fiesta, though, it's far more clever than that. The B-Max comes with sliding rear doors and no central pillar, an arrangement that is designed to provide easy access. The B-Max's unusual layout gives it an unobstructed rear door opening space, which Ford claims is more than double that offered by the Vauxhall Meriva, with its rear-hinged doors. All this makes the B-Max very much a standalone model.
The low running costs and excellent practicality on offer should help the B-Max appeal to a wide spectrum of society but it may take a little time for people to get their heads around the absence of mid-pillars. If Ford has got it right and the sliding doors catch on it is sure to be as popular as the S-Max and C-Max. In some respects it’s the perfect compromise: its compact dimensions might well appeal to the city dwellers that want something that's easy to park in tight spots and its clever use of space could prove irresistible to young families where spaciousness is a top priority.