Ford B-Max

Debut: 2012
Maker: Ford
Predecessor: No

 Published on 8 Oct 2012
All rights reserved. 

Car enthusiasts cannot understand why doors are so important to modern MPVs. However, if you are housewife or family man with kids to take care, you will see how doors matter. Large doors help parents to load and unload their kids from rear seats. Sliding doors allow opening in tight parking space. Rear-hinged doors are more convenient to parents as they do not block the way to access children, as in the case of Opel Meriva. However, the presence of B-pillars is still an obstacle to perfect access. Many concept cars feature B-pillarless designs, but in practice they are difficult to implement. Engineers have to overcome hurdles like side impact protection, extra weight and costs – none are easy to resolve. Recently, Ford has finally realized the dream with its new B-Max.

The name B-Max is self-explained – a B-segment car maximized for interior space. It is derived from the Fiesta's underpinnings, sharing the same, relatively short 2489 mm wheelbase and a compact boundary. It has the usual convenient features like split and folding rear seats (though not slide), folding front passenger seat, flat cargo space, 2-stage boot floor, lots of storage bins and cup holders… things that are pretty typical in the class. The most special though are the twin-sliding rear doors and a monocoque chassis that does without B-pillars. That reveals a large aperture, perfect for taking care of the little occupants behind. How can Ford achieve that?

To compensate for the loss of B-pillars, Ford reinforced the chassis surrounding the door aperture with ultra-high strength baron steel. Side-impact structure is also incorporated into the front and rear door frames. To avoid the doors falling off during collision, special latches and heavy-duty catches are employed to hold the doors tightly at the top and bottom. As a result, the B-Max passed Euro NCAP test with 5-star rating.

Surprisingly, the sturdy doors are not heavy to open and close. This shows they are very well engineered.

The doors open up to a spacious cabin. Although the B-Max has a shorter wheelbase and smaller footprints than Citroen C3 Picasso, Fiat 500L and Opel Meriva, its interior is roomy, capable of carrying 4 six-footers comfortably. The 300-liter boot is a little small by class standard, but considering the car is the smallest in its class that is understandable. The cabin is generally well made, with soft-touch plastics covering the prominent dash top. Poorer plastics are found elsewhere, particularly the doors. The center console and instrument pod are stylish if you prefer the design of Fiesta, not so great if you adore the simplicity of Volkswagen. Like Fiesta, there are too many buttons, and they are arranged in arbitrary order. You will get used to it though.

The best bit of B-Max, apart from the door openings, is the mechanical side. The now-famous 1.0-liter Ecoboost 3-cylinder engine is definitely the pick of the range consisting of 2 petrols and 3 diesels. As we have seen in Focus, this little engine is incredibly refined, eager and flexible, more like a conventional 1.8-liter engine, thanks to the sophisticated technology it used – such as dual-VVT, direct injection and small turbo – and its excellent engineering. It offers 120 horsepower in this guise (5 hp down from Focus because of more restricted exhaust routing), while 125 lbft of torque is available between 1400 and 4000 rpm. There is also an overboost to 147 lbft to aid overtaking. Mate with a decent 5-speed manual gearbox, the B-Max provides satisfying performance and even a bit premium feel. Meanwhile, the engine returns 57.7 mpg and emits only 114 grams of CO2 each kilometer. There is no reason to opt for the 95 hp 1.6 turbo diesel.

The lightweight 1.0 Ecoboost engine benefits handling, too. Bear in mind that the Fiesta is the best handling hatchback in B-segment, the B-Max is also the most interesting to drive among all small MPVs. Naturally, its softer suspension setup and higher center of gravity result in more body roll in corners than its platform donor, but its steering remains faithful and responsive. Its body control is by all means outstanding for its kind. Understeer is well taken care by the standard-fit torque vectoring. Best of all, its ride quality is superb – supple over low-speed bumps, composed and quiet on highway. Such a big-car refinement beats its rivals.

In addition to the stylish look, which is undoubtedly enhanced by the Aston Martin nose, B-Max follows the footsteps of C-Max to take our maximum 5-star rating. It is easily the best B-segment MPV on the market.

Length / width / height
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Other engine features
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Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
B-Max 1.0 Ecoboost
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4077 / 1751 / 1604 mm
2489 mm
999 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT
120 hp
125 lbft (147 lbft overboost)
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1279 kg
117 mph (c)
10.5 (est) / 11.6*

Performance tested by: *Autocar

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