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The Top Gear car review:Ford B-Max
For:Capable new mini-MPV makes us forget all about the silly Fusion
Against:You need one of the pricier, more powerful engines to show off its best
1.0 EcoBoost Zetec 5dr
Ford enters the small MPV fray with a Fiesta-based five-seater with a very interesting set of doors…
The next big thing for small families comes with exciting slidey rear doors as standard
What we say:
Ford finally joins the mini-MPV fray with a clever car packed with potential
What is it?
Making practical variants of supermini-sized cars is big business nowadays: Nissan Note, Citroen C3 Picasso, Kia Venga – all take the bones of a small car and build it upwards to give it the flexibility of a much bigger car. Clever. And, what has Ford had to offer in this sector up to now? The dreadful Fusion.
Finally, though, Uncle Henry’s pulled his finger out and launched what could actually be the smartest, most intelligent supermini-MPV this sector has yet seen. Not only is the B-Max a ground-up design rather than a Fiesta with chunky wheelarches, it also has two firsts in this sector: twin sliding side doors and no central B-pillar. That’s right: open front doors and slide back rears, for an obstruction-free 1.5m-wide aperture on each side. And if that’s not enough to make you notice the B-Max, we don’t know what is.
Ford hasn’t forgotten the rest of it, either. Like so many blue oval cars these days, it’s a neat-looking thing with lots of groovy surfacing in the side panels that make it less van-like than some in this sector. The all-new interior is also stylish, and can be packed with the on-board tech Ford is becoming known for over in the US.
Despite being a practical mini-MPV, it’s also a true Ford: the B-Max really scores with the way it drives. The ride initially feels a bit stiff, but you quickly realise it’s firm, not hard – and so unlikely to make the kids seasick. The benefit for the driver is that it’s fun to drive too, much more so than most in this sector. The way it feels bigger and more expensive than it actually is also impresses.
The 1.4-litre Duratec engine is a bit humdrum, mind. You’ll be better off with the 1.0-litre Ecoboost or, better still, one of the torquey yet fuel-sipping diesels. We’d probably stick with the 1.5 TDCi, but do the sums: if mileages are low, the cheaper EcoBoost will cost less overall.
On the inside
The slick sliding doors are genuinely practical. If you’ve ever tried to undock a toddler from a tight car-parking space, you’ll know how helpful sliding doors and no central B-pillar will be.
The solidly-constructed interior is also spacious and very practical, with a multitude of seat-fold operations. And the neat details, while not particularly revolutionary, all combined to make it a useful car to live with. We love how the front seatbelts are built into the seats themselves, too.
Prices start from £13,195, so it’s not the cheapest MPV on sale, but it’s among the best – and besides, the Vauxhall Meriva has proven people will pay a premium for this type of vehicle, so long as they still come in below Astras and Focuses. An added B-Max benefit is fuel economy: diesels claim over 70mpg and even the 1.0 Ecoboost can return nearly 58mpg, with the CO2 tax benefits that result from this. Zetec should be your minimum trim, though. Stuido is studio flat basic.