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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
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
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
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
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