Friday, 17 August 2012 9:11 AM
Nippy little superminis are best-sellers here in the UK. We like their economy and practicality, but perhaps we would like a little more space. Up to five seats perhaps, with a decent chunk of boot and a little more wriggle room around out heads, elbows and knees. And what about when we want to carry a large, heavy and clumsy box in the back?
Well, Ford has come up with the B-Max for you to take a look at – a downsized cousin of their popular fuller-sized S-Max and Galaxy people carriers. It’s packed with the latest tech, can be had – depending on the higher specs – with the firm’s new 3-cylinder, 1-litre EcoBoost petrol engine for a claimed combined fuel economy of 57.7mpg, and features two rear sliding doors that open up the very widest of apertures.
Today, I’m driving the new B-Max, which, by the way, is usefully based on the zingy Fiesta, in top of the range Titanium trim with both the new EcoBoost petrol engine with stop/start, and a 1.6-litre TDCi diesel. But, the biggest news is the EcoBoost engine, which, in this Titanium trim comes in a B-Max priced from £18,195. The B-Max range, however, starts at £12,995.
Ford B-Max first drive review
An even more modern and taller take on the still crisp-looking Fiesta but with Ford’s new trapezoidal front grille design – that perhaps we’ll see on the coming new Fiesta – and a couple of neatly designed-in slider tracks to carry the rear doors.
In general, a sharp and modern style leads the way with the B-Max body design including some pleasant Mondeo-esque rear lights, and plenty of defining lines and curves.
Sure, it’s taller than the Fiesta for that extra inner space, but we like an MPV here in the UK so we’re used to their taller proportions, and, well, the B-Max is well-proportioned.
Into the interior:
Well, there’s class-leading space for a start with B-Max really maximising its exterior shape to reflect the most in inner space.
Pull open those wide-entrance-revealing sliding doors – which operate with an engineered smoothness – and the middle B-pillars – disappear to reveal a well-appointed and inviting interior space.
The seating system inside the B-Max is multi-moveable (see the pics below) and combining the fold-flat seats with the wide-opening doors means that large and cumbersome loads can indeed be swallowed; to a car-booter’s delight.
You’ll sit higher in the B-Max than you would in a Fiesta; sacrificing the Fiesta’s sporty seating position for a better, higher view of the road ahead and an easy bum-first slide into the seats.
There’s plenty of headroom and at well over 6-feet tall I had enough – if perhaps not entirely ample – knee room around the driving position. And, as usual, the Ford driving position and seat and steering wheel adjustability do not disappoint.
There’s full connectivity for your music player to be controlled and powered by this (uprated) Sony stereo, which also features Ford’s latest SYNC system. The voice-control aspect of the SYNC system worked well when I tried it, and it’ll read your text messages and can find your phone contacts, all with voice commands. I enjoyed some decent Sony audio sound quality on my drive, too.
The Ford Fiesta is one of my favourite back-lane-superminis because of the engaging way it scythes the bends with grip and gusto, on firm but not crashy suspension. B-Max takes the Fiesta platform and keeps most of the good bits, and, with family cruising in mind, brings some enhancements of its own.
The B-Max ride is very smooth and supple and the chassis feels safely engineered underneath you, and while it doesn’t quite corner with the razor-edge of the Fiesta – a taller body with a little more weight bringing a touch more pitch into the turn – it is rattle-free and very quiet. The B-Max is easy to drive and calm and collected on the road.
The new 1-litre, 3-cylinder EcoBoost petrol-turbo engine in this B-Max – with 118bhp on tap – suits the car’s character very well. There’s a merry thrum from under the hood and plenty of easy-torque to work the 5-speed gearbox smoothly. Six gears would surely be an even better idea, but at motorway speeds the engine isn’t exactly howling with revs and what you can hear pleases the ear. The diesel is also very easy to drive though not as sweet to hear as the EcoBoost, and more audible at motorway speeds.
Ford quotes a combined economy of 57.7mpg (CO2 is at 114g/km) for the 1-litre EcoBoost petrol, while my quick test returned an eco-figure into the early 40s. At this point we must remember that diesel fuel prices continue to rocket, so unless you’re doing some very serious miles in a year, this little EcoBoost petrol motor looks like it’ll give you the best return on your fuel bucks. And its refinement and character beat a diesel into the bushes.
Ten second sum up:
The new Ford B-Max takes up a supermini’s parking space footprint, but brings the most inner space and best economy in class, and without loosing out a great deal in terms of handling to its lower-roofed cousins. It’s super-smooth on the road and drives with relaxing ease, while the full range of engines – including the sippy new EcoBoost petrol – tick all of the choice boxes, as does an options list that’s techno-packed if you want it.
Prices and availability:
The new Ford B-Max range starts at £12,995. Price as tested, £18,195, in top Titanium trim, plus some options. Available now.
By Daniel Anslow
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