Ford B-Max: Car review

Posted on November 21st, 2012 by James Luckhurst

An entertaining and practical small MPV, but rather pricey.

Ford B-Max: Car review

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What is it?
The B-Max is Ford’s smallest MPV. Based on the Fiesta, it’s little longer than a supermini but packs in plenty of clever thinking and space for five. It’s a serious rival for the Nissan Note and Vauxhall Meriva.

Would it help me stay safe?
Safety kit is comprehensive, even on the least expensive model. The Ford has earned a five-star rating from safety experts, Euro NCAP.

Who should buy it and how much does it cost?
Anyone looking for a small car which is easy to get in and out of, thanks to the sliding rear doors and the absence of a central body pillar. Prices start from £12,995.


Our review: Good Motoring, Winter 2012

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Ford B-Max: Car review

Practicality may outrank driving pleasure in the priorities of MPV buyers, but the B-Max keeps the driver entertained. Accurate steering, nimble cornering and a firm but comfortable ride make the Ford more fun than most obvious rivals.

We’ve driven the 118bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbocharged petrol engine and the 1.6-litre diesel (there’s also a 1.4 petrol, a 99bhp version of the Ecoboost engine, a 1.6 petrol automatic and a 1.5 diesel).

Ford’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine is downright brilliant, good enough to have been named International Engine of the Year 2012 by a panel of journalists. You might think a 1.0-litre car would struggle to keep pace with its own shadow, but thanks to turbocharging and some very clever engineering this three-cylinder engine puts out 118bhp and 148lb/ft of torque.

It’s eager, responsive and sounds surprisingly sporty, too. Work it as hard as you like and it never seems strained, and at a steady cruise it’s hardly audible.

The diesel is more fuel-efficient but performance is solid rather than spectacular. While the diesel may be the one to choose if you cover a lot of miles, we prefer the cheaper, livelier petrol car.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Ford B-Max: Car review

Whichever engine is chosen the B-Max is an impressively practical small car. The front doors open conventionally but the rear doors slide. There’s no pillar between the two, so the whole cabin opens up. The uncluttered opening makes it easy to get in and out.

The driver and front-seat passenger get plenty of space, and the dashboard looks stylish although some buttons are on the small side. There’s plenty of adjustment for the seat and wheel and the high-ish driving position will be welcomed by anyone who is not as agile as they used to be.

There’s enough room in the back for adults to be reasonably comfortable, and plenty of space for the children a small MPV like this is more likely to carry. However, it’s a shame there are no vents for the air conditioning. Ford take note – this sort of detail does matter because if the kids aren’t happy, nobody’s happy. There are cupholders on either side of the rear bench, and shallow trays rather than door bins in the sliding doors. Some more storage space wouldn’t go amiss.

Luggage space is 304 or 318 litres depending on whether the car is fitted with a puncture repair kit or a 16-inch steel spare wheel. There’s a false floor with lots of space underneath. However, the boot capacity is well beaten by the B-Max’s most obvious rival, the Vauxhall Meriva, which has 397 litres.

The rear seats split 60/40 and fold flat with no need to move the seat bases out of the way first. Unusually, the front passenger seat also folds. Ford claims this allows B-Max owners to carry loads up to 2.3 metres long – remarkable for a car which measures little more than four metres from bumper to bumper.

SAFETY
Ford B-Max: Car review

Any worry that the stiffness of the body has been compromised by the absence of central pillar has been put to bed by the B-Max’s Euro NCAP crash test result. The car achieved a five-star rating, scoring 92% for adult protection, 84% for child protection, 67% for pedestrian protection and 71% for safety assist (which rates the safety devices fitted).

Front, side, knee and curtain airbags are standard all cars, as is stability control. Active City Stop, which automatically brakes the car at low speeds if the drive is inattentive, is an option on Zetec and Titanium models. It’s good to see this level of technology making its way into smaller cars.

EQUIPMENT
Ford B-Max: Car review

The 1.4 Studio model may be keenly priced but even air conditioning is a £700 option. Step up to the Zetec to get chilled air, 15-inch alloys, halogen headlights, front fog lights, a trip computer and an uprated stereo. Top-spec Titanium models come with 16-inch alloys, cruise control, climate control, automatic headlights, heated seats, rain-sensing wipers and several other upgrades.

COSTS
Ford B-Max: Car review

The B-Max isn’t as cheap as it first seems, unless you’re prepared to slum it in the £12,995 Studio model without air conditioning.

At the time of writing there’s a big jump to £15,600 to the next model, the 1.4 Zetec, while Titanium models cost from £17,595 with the lower-powered Ecoboost engine. Rivals like the Nissan Note and Skoda Roomster may not be as clever inside or as enjoyable to drive as the Ford, but they do cost less.

Excellent fuel economy and low Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bills are some compensation. The Ecoboost’s combined fuel economy figure of 57.7mpg is well into diesel territory, while carbon dioxide emissions of just 114g/km put the car in Band C for VED. As you’d expect, the 1.6 diesel is even more economical, returning 70.6mpg according to the official figures. It’s in Band B for VED.

Insurance groups start from 7 and rise to 12.

Fords don’t tend to hold their value especially well, so be sure to haggle a respectable discount if you are buying a new B-Max.

WE SAY
An entertaining and practical small MPV, but rather pricey.

AT A GLANCE:
Price £18,195
Performance 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds
Economy 57.7mpg
Insurance 12 (1-50)
Tax Band C (£30)
(Figures for 1.0 Ecoboost Titanium)