The Ford B-MAX is a compact MPV which comes close to offering the agile driving experience of a Fiesta, but with more space, and it still returns an official 55.4mpg from its petrol engine.
We’ve had the Mondeo-based S-MAX and the Focus-based C-MAX, now it’s time for the Fiesta-based B-MAX. It’s a five rather than a seven-seater, but it offers considerably more space inside than a Fiesta.
There are no surprises with the exterior design of the B-MAX – it’s effectively a scaled-down C-MAX in terms of styling. It’s the same story on the inside – the good-looking dashboard, including the fairly complex central area and its menus, will be familiar to Fiesta drivers. However there is a surprise when you open both side doors; the rear doors slide open, and there is no central pillar between the two doors. This is called the “Ford Easy Access Door System”, and it certainly does provide a wide opening. Although having no central pillar means good access, to provide the required strength in the event of a crash, the front and rear door frames are thicker than normal, and the combination of these two frames means a fairly hefty blind spot over your right shoulder at angled junctions.
The boot, at 318 litres, isn’t particularly large, but the seats do fold flat to create 1386 litres. Unlike some rivals the rears seats don’t do anything particularly clever.
This B-MAX has the 1.0-litre turbo EcoBoost engine which scooped the International Engine of the Year award. The three-cylinder unit provides good performance, good economy and emissions, and it’s very light.
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine results in the B-MAX feeling light and agile. With its free-revving nature it means that the car is more fun to drive around town than it would be with a diesel engine – although you can experience turbo lag at low revs. The B-MAX can also cope with motorways very well, but the manual box only has five gears, meaning that it’s revving away at around 3000rpm at 70mph in fifth gear. Despite this it’s still reasonably quiet at motorway speeds, but not as quiet as it is at tickover, when the hushed experience is very similar to that of an electric car. When accelerating it creates a throaty noise which we think sounds great.
Overall this is a car and engine combination that is more at home in urban areas, which of course is what it was designed for.
The B-MAX combines enjoyable handling with a comfortable ride, together with steering that is light but which still has some feel.
The heated windscreen – which has heating elements that you can see within the glass – came into its own one frosty morning, when it cleared the ice in a matter of seconds.
The official combined fuel economy figure of 55.4 mpg, with emissions of 119g/km CO2, is impressive for a petrol engine in an MPV package, albeit a small MPV. No car is going to match its official mpg with its real-life mpg, and the B-MAX is not going to rewrite the rules. Driving carefully we did manage 51.8mpg, although overall we achieved an average of 43.3mpg in real-life driving. All engines will deliver better fuel economy if driven carefully, and worse fuel economy if driven hard, but this is even more the case with downsized engines such as this 1.0-litre unit. If you want higher miles per gallon, the 1.6-litre diesel has an official combined economy figure of over 70mpg.
The Ford B-MAX Zetec 1.0 EcoBoost 100PS costs £16,195, which is relatively pricey for a car in this sector. There are three trim levels, Studio, Zetec and Titanium, and a choice of four petrol engines and two diesels. There’s also a 118bhp version of the 99bhp unit that was in our test car, along with four-cylinder 1.4 and 1.6 petrol engines – as well as 1.5 and 1.6-litre diesels. Our Zetec test car had good levels of standard equipment, including alloy wheels, air conditioning, a heated windscreen, USB connectivity and Bluetooth, and it had the options of a city pack (rear parking distance sensor and electrically foldable door mirrors: £200), and privacy glass (£200). The B-MAX should offer low running costs.
If you’re looking for a car that’s ideal for the school run, and you don’t need to fit any more than five people, then look no further than the B-MAX. It has compact exterior dimensions, so it’s easy to manoeuvre, yet it has maximum space inside. It also has sliding rear doors and no door pillar, so it makes access as easy as possible in tight parking environments. It’s also light and agile to drive, and for a petrol engine, it’s economical. We’d love to also give you lots of downsides, but in reality there aren’t that many; they’re pretty much comprised of the engine being best suited to urban rather than motorway driving, and the rather large blind spot being created where the front and rear door frames meet. It may not be absolutely outstanding overall, or specifically in terms of economy, but it’s extremely competent in most areas. The Ford B-MAX therefore gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10.