Ford B-MAX mini MPV
Price £13,295 - £19,545
- Wide door opening
- Cheap to buy and run
- As easy to drive as a Ford Fiesta
- No seven-seat option
- Automatic only comes with one engine
- Quality isn’t up to Volkswagen standards
At a glance
“The Ford B-MAX mini MPV has the running costs and driving experience of a small hatchback, but the sliding doors of a much larger people carrier.”
The Ford B-MAX is proof, if proof were needed, that Ford knows a thing or two about designing people carriers. Its bigger brothers the Ford C-MAX, Ford S-MAX and Ford Galaxy are all excellent seven-seat MPVs that are impressively car-like to drive. Yet while the B-MAX is a mini MPV that can only seat five, it has sliding rear doors, which are a hugely practical addition normally found on cars one, two or even three classes above.
Factor in the B-MAX's low list price, generous headroom and enjoyable driving experience and you’re left with an excellent family car that comfortably outclasses its nearest rivals the Vauxhall Meriva, Nissan Note, Kia Venga and Hyundai ix20.
Because it's based on the Ford Fiesta, the B-MAX is a thoroughly enjoyable and competent car to drive. While it develops a touch more body lean in corners than the Fiesta, the overall driving experience is more reminiscent of a hatchback than an MPV and the B-MAX acquits itself admirably on winding B-roads, motorways and city streets alike, with plenty of grip and accurate steering.
The B-MAX's standout features, though, are its two sliding rear doors. These make access to the rear seats excellent and mean that parents will have no concerns about dinging other cars’ doors when wrestling uncooperative children into the back seats in crowded car parks. There's also no ‘B’ pillar to worry about between the front and rear doors, so leaning into the rear passenger compartment to retrieve dropped toys and the like is also a cinch.
Ford offers the B-MAX with one diesel and three petrol engines – although the 1.0-litre petrol is available in three power outputs and the 1.5-litre diesel can be ordered with 74 or 94bhp. The entry-level 89bhp 1.4-litre petrol and 74bhp diesel engines are best avoided unless you do most of your driving in town, as they’re underpowered and make the B-MAX ponderously slow. 0-62mph takes an unimpressive 13.8 seconds with the basic petrol and a truly wearisome 15.1 seconds if you choose the less powerful diesel. The 1.6-litre petrol engine has more reasonable performance (0-62mph takes 12.1 seconds) but this is only available with an automatic gearbox and is relatively thirsty, returning 44.1mpg and costing £145 a year to tax thanks to CO2 emissions of 149g/km.
Realistically, then, the sensible option is the 94bhp diesel engine if you cover a lot of miles, or one of Ford's excellent turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrols if you don’t. The 94bhp diesel engine still takes 13 seconds to go from 0-62mph, but it's easier to live with than the 74bhp option. Fuel economy is also impressive, with 74.3mpg and low CO2 emissions of 98g/km for both diesels meaning the B-MAX is cheap to run and road-tax-exempt. The only caveat here is price: while the B-MAX is attractively cheap, the 94bhp diesel is only available in higher trim levels, so you’ll have to spend about £5,000 over and above the starting price if you want it.
There's better news with the turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine. This is available with 99, 123 or 138bhp and can be specified in mid-range trim levels and above. In 99bhp form, the 1.0-litre engine returns 55.4mpg, while the 123bhp doesn’t have to work as hard, so it returns 57.6mpg. The top-spec 138bhp 1.0-litre petrol sits between these two, with fuel economy of 56.5mpg.
Whichever power output you choose, the EcoBoost engine costs just £30 a year in road tax. Performance is reasonable rather than sparkling, with 0-62mph taking 13.2, 11.2 or 10.4 seconds, depending on whether you choose the 99, 123 or 138bhp engine respectively.
Inside, headroom is excellent thanks to that tall body, while the seats make you sit relatively upright, meaning legroom is also generous. There are cubbies and cup-holders galore and, while the dashboard is covered in buttons (the stereo particularly so), there's a decent sense of quality and all the major controls (heating, wipers and the like) operate conventionally, and with reasonable solidity.
The B-MAX's 318-litre boot is about 80 litres shy of a Vauxhall Meriva's, but this is compensated for somewhat by the rear seats (which fold completely flat) and the back of the front passenger seat, which folds to facilitate the loading of longer items.
The B-MAX is available in four trim levels, starting with Studio and rising through Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X – although Zetec models are also available in Red, White and Silver guises, which come in the colours their names suggest, with a contrasting gloss-black roof. The basic Studio is best avoided: it comes with steel rather than alloy wheels and, although you get a DAB radio, it's only available with the unimpressive 1.4-litre petrol engine.
Moving up to Zetec costs about £1,800 and makes all engines bar the 138bhp petrol available. It also adds 15-inch alloy wheels, an excellent heated windscreen, upgraded headlights and Ford's SYNC system, which features Bluetooth phone connectivity and allows for voice activation of your mobile phone and music collection.
Unless you really want a gloss-black roof and 16-inch alloy wheels, spending the £800 or so Ford asks for the Zetec Red, White and Silver editions seems superfluous – although note that these are the only trims where you can get the 138bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine.
Titanium cars get 16-inch alloy wheels, too, as well as automatic wipers and lights, a front armrest, cruise control, a gloss-black radiator grille and power-folding door mirrors. At around £1,200 more than the well-equipped Zetec trim, this seems an expensive package of options though. Titanium X trim, meanwhile, requires you to spend a further £1,200 or so, and for that you get a panoramic roof, keyless entry and go, tinted rear windows, heated front seats and part-leather upholstery.
We recommend the mid-range 123bhp EcoBoost engine in Zetec trim. This keep the B-MAX's price down to a reasonable level, while the extra kit and power make the car easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
The Ford B-MAX performed reasonably well in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, ranking 76th (out of 150 cars). Owners praise the B-MAX's handling and practicality, although a 130th-place finish for reliability is less impressive. There are no such concerns around safety, though, as the B-MAX scored five out of five in its Euro NCAP safety tests.
The Ford B-MAX diesel is costly to buy, making the impressive EcoBoost petrol very appealing
Avoid the sluggish entry-level Ford B-MAX engines and you’ll be driving the most enjoyable car in its class
The Ford B-MAX is an easy car to live with, but its dashboard feels cluttered
The Ford B-MAX has a small boot, but unique side doors and a thoughtful design makes up for it
Ford isn’t performing well for customer satisfaction these days, but the Ford B-MAX is very safe