Based on the outstandingly popular Ford Fiesta, the Ford B-MAX is a contender in the very competitive compact MPV sector. Its most unusual features are sliding rear doors and the lack of a central pillar on either side, giving excellent access to the passenger compartment without compromising safety (Euro NCAP gave the B-MAX a five-star safety rating in 2012).
There's a wide choice of engines, including two diesels, two conventional petrol units and several versions of the award-winning 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo petrol. Most B-MAX's have a manual transmission, but there's an automatic gearbox available with the 1.6-litre petrol engine.
There is no such thing as a fast B-MAX, but in general they perform as well as most customers would need them to. The 124bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost has the best 0-62mph at 11.2 seconds, and like the 99bhp version it nearly matches the diesels in its ability to pull well from low engine speeds. If that's not quite enough for you, the special Colour Edition Ford B-MAX also introduces a 138bhp version of the 1.0-litre petrol engine from the Fiesta.
Diesel models get a 1.5-litre turbocharged motor with either 75bhp or 95bhp. Both offer reasonable performance for this type of vehicle, but neither is quite as refined or pleasant as their petrol counterparts, so we'd only recommend them if you plan on covering lots of miles each year.
Ride and Handling
All versions we've tried are easy and comfortable to drive
Modern Fords usually ride and handle well unless the company fits very stiff suspension or the wrong wheels and tyres. None of this is likely to happen with the B-MAX. All versions we've tried are easy and comfortable to drive, and feel similar to the famously capable Fiesta on which they're based. The B-MAX is nearly five inches taller than the Fiesta, and its higher centre of gravity becomes apparent on country roads. It rarely feels unsettled, though, and it copes well with strong sidewinds on motorways.
Interior and Equipment
The Ford B-MAX has no B-pillars, so the front and rear doors open to reveal a 1.5m long aperture. A reinforced body structure and special locking mechanism ensure crash protection isn’t compromised.
Access to the interior created by that innovative door arrangement is the outstanding feature of the B-MAX. Once you're inside, space is limited. Ford says it's good, but 304 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,372 litres to roof level when they're folded is unimpressive: nearly all rival manufacturers do better. You can have a little more by specifying a tyre repair kit rather than a spare wheel, but you’ll regret it if you suffer a puncture. The front passenger seat can be folded forward to increase the cabin’s load length to 2.3 metres. The seats are comfortable, though taller drivers may find them lacking in support. The rear window design is restrictive, so visibility when you're looking over your shoulder is not as good as it should be. The B-MAX was the first Ford to be sold in Europe with the SYNC voice-activated connectivity system. Developed in conjunction with Microsoft, it includes an Emergency Assist feature which could be extremely useful in the event of an accident, but it's available only in the higher trim levels.
The EcoBoost models are meant to offer a good balance between performance and economy
The 1.5-litre diesel has the lowest CO2 emissions (98g/km) and officially the best combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg. The EcoBoost models are meant to offer a good balance between performance and economy, but in practice we've found it very difficult to get within 10mpg of their EU test figures. The non-turbo petrol cars have higher CO2 emissions and poorer official economy, but they're not going to drink much more fuel than the others in the range if they are used mainly in town. They are also cheaper to buy in the first place. Prices start at around £13k for the Studio trim level, but most owners will probably want to spend more - just over £19k in the case of the 1.5-litre diesel Titanium X - in return for extra equipment. Fords are so well thought of these days that there should be no problem finding a buyer when you decide to move on to something else.
The B-MAX is a clever car, though its only truly innovative parts are the sliding rear doors (common on large vehicles but very unusual on smaller ones) and the EcoBoost engines. Apart from the ease of access it's not outstandingly practical, though it may have as much space as you need, if not as much as you can get by buying something else. More powerful versions offer a good compromise between in-town usefulness and long-journey comfort.