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
"The Ford B-MAX is a brilliantly usable, great-to-drive small people carrier."
The Ford B-MAX introduced many people to the existence of the B-pillar by virtue of not having one. The B-pillar is the vertical pillar between the front and back doors – by taking it out, Ford has created a huge 150cm-wide side door opening on the B-MAX, about twice what you would get with a conventional door. The rear doors also slide open, which further increases the car's flexibility in tight parking spaces and when loading anything or anyone on to the back seats.
The B-MAX is based on the Ford Fiesta but is taller to create extra space inside. What it retains from the Fiesta is the really fun drive, great fuel economy and comfortable ride, easily providing competition for the likes of the Nissan Note, Honda Jazz and Vauxhall Meriva. The B-MAX comes in three main specifications - entry-level Studio, mid-range Zetec and top-of-the-range Titanium. The Studio model misses out on a lot of equipment and accessories, so we’d recommend the Zetec as the place to start.
The B-MAX has a good range of engines, including the award-wining 118bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol model that returns 57mpg and emits 114g/km of CO2.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Frugal EcoBoost petrol engines and decent diesels
Ford's impressive 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine is something to be proud of and there are two different versions available for the B-MAX. Both engines are fairly good performers considering their excellent efficiency. The most powerful of the pair is really fun to drive, with decent acceleration and pleasant engine noise. The better diesel is the more expensive 1.6-litre TDCi, which has the lowest emissions and combined fuel economy of more than 70mpg. It also outperforms the 1.5-litre diesel. Unfortunately, the automatic version of the B-Max only comes with the older, less economical 1.6-litre petrol engine.
Interior & comfort
An easy car to live with and enjoy
Without the B-pillar in the way, the B-MAX is about as easy to access as is possible without actually taking the doors off. There's also loads of leg and headroom inside, in both the front and the back. All the seats are comfy and supportive, and the driving position is good thanks to plenty of adjustment in the seat and the steering wheel. Main controls are well positioned and easy to reach, but there a few too many buttons cluttering the dashboard, like in the Fiesta. But that's nitpicking, as the B-MAX is a very comfortable car overall.
Practicality & boot space
Easy to get into, easy to use, a winner on space
The key here is the B-MAX's Easy Access Door System – the lack of B-pillar combined with the sliding doors. You’ll have no trouble getting into the spacious interior, where three tall adults can sit behind tall front passengers. It's a little bit of a squeeze, but certainly easier than in many of its rivals.
The boot is a good square shape, and comes with a false floor to store valuables out of sight or to increase space. The rear seats fold down flat (along with the front passenger seat) to expand the boot to 1,386 litres, which is less than rivals like the Kia Venga and the Citroen C3 Picasso. However, we think the sliding doors add so much extra practicality that any other deficiencies seem relatively trivial.
Reliability & safety
Decent all-round build quality and excellent reliability
Ford did surprisingly badly in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. As a popular manufacturer with such a good reputation, you’d expect it to rank higher than the lowly 23rd out of 32 that it did manage in the manufacturers rankings - which is actually an improvement of two places on the 2012 survey. The B-MAX is actually too new to feature in the survey as a model itself but it feels well put together and Ford does give every model RAC cover.
Inside, the B-MAX admittedly doesn’t match the quality and standards of the Volkswagen Polo, but it's still better than its ever-improving Kia Venga and Hyundai ix20 rivals. To compensate for the absent B-pillar, Ford has designed the B-MAX so that the doors have extra strengthening in the frame, floor and roof. Evidence to back this up comes from its maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Engines, drive & performance
Best in class to drive – feels like a Fiesta
Using the Fiesta as its basic platform gives the B-MAX a leg up over other rival compact MPVs straightaway, thanks to its mix of comfort and fun. The steering is responsive, gives plenty of feedback and is more reactive that you’d expect from an MPV. There's also lots of grip, no matter what speed you drive. The extra height does create some body roll through the corners and it can get somewhat bouncy when driving over dips, crests and rough roads – but not enough to really upset any passengers.
The manual gearbox on offer provides smooth gear changes but we’d avoid the automatic model, as you only get it with the 1.6-litre petrol engine, which isn’t one of the newer, more economical engines. We’d also steer clear of the 1.5-litre diesel as it struggles in comparison with the 1.6-litre diesel and is no more economical.
Price, value for money & options
Keenly priced with good deals on offer
You get lots of equipment and accessories across the entire B-MAX range, with even the entry-level Studio coming with a digital radio, lots of safety equipment, air-conditioning and the sliding doors as standard. The mid-range Zetec adds alloy wheels and a sportier exterior trim, and costs around the same as a Vauxhall Meriva but is much more desirable. The top-spec Titanium model is more expensive but does comes with an upgraded stereo, climate control, and automatic windscreen wipers and headlights. There's a good range of optional extras too, such as the Automatic City Stop system, which stops you from colliding with the back of the car in front when driving in city traffic at low speeds.
Plus, as this is a Ford, you should also be able to get a good deal and low-rate finance. You can also expect resale values on the used car market to be strong when looking for a good second-hand deal.
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.
Last updated: 17 Dec 2013