Ford B-Max Titanium 1.0T 120

Is Ford's B-Max the most family-friendly MPV yet?

Price: £18,195 (range from £12,995)
Engine: 999cc, three cylinders, 12 valves, turbo, 120bhp
Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 117mph, 0-62 in 11.2sec, 57.7mpg, CO2 114g/km

Sometimes a clever idea seems so obvious you wonder why no one has thought of it before. All it takes is a little lateral thought and, presto! Every other car manufacturer will kick itself for not having thought of it earlier.

Here, it's the doors that do it. The front ones open normally, the back ones slide open. Nothing unusual about that in the world of people carriers. In Ford's new B-Max, though, opening both doors on the same side exposes an entry vista unobstructed by metalwork and a good metre-and-a-half wide. That's because there is no central pillar, and getting in and out can be no easier in any other car, be your destination front or back seat.

The sense of space and freedom this gives is remarkable, even if once you're installed you find this is just a moderately roomy MPV with high seating positions but nothing particularly clever about the rear seats, which merely fold down flat rather than sliding or being removable.

But surely, you might think, depriving a car of a vital piece of structure will make it wobble like a jelly over every bump. Not so; the B-Max's bodyshell is actually slightly more rigid than that of the Ford Fiesta from which it is derived, thanks to some very strong steel and very substantial sills which – unusually – the doors cover almost completely.

As a clever piece of family-friendly design, then, the B-Max is instantly admirable. It is also the first non-racy Ford to have the large trapezoidal front grille that is the brand's new "face" – although there remains above it an air-slot with a Ford badge incorporated, giving the effect of a car with two faces.

Prices start at a surprisingly low £12,995, which buys you the Studio version with a simple engine for much less than the cheapest example of its obvious rival, the Vauxhall Meriva. Ford predicts that rather than the Studio version, most buyers will opt for the middle Zetec trim level. More's the pity, then, that the two most appealing engines – a 120bhp version of Ford's brilliant little 1.0 litre, three-cylinder turbo engine and a 1.6 litre, 95bhp turbodiesel – are available only with the highest trim level, Titanium, complete with numerous gadgets which I, for one, would rather do without (automatic wipers and headlights, for example).

There's a sense of solid quality in the Titania available for the test drive, which should also be true of the lowlier versions; all, for example, have their front seatbelts anchored to the very stout seat frames, there obviously being no pillar to which to attach them.

As you might expect, the smooth, quiet, very punchy, high-power 1.0 gives a driving experience far richer than the inoffensive but lugubrious 1.6 litre diesel can provide, offering impressive overtaking punch, relaxed cruising and a characterful, musical engine note.

Then there's the remarkable way the B-Max soaks up bumps and ripples in the road while tackling bends in a way guaranteed to delight a keen driver. For a practical MPV to be such a pleasure to drive is unexpected; only the numb, electrically assisted power steering clouds the picture, sometimes making the B-Max harder to place intuitively on the road than it should be.

In the end, you wonder why anyone could reasonably need a car any bigger than the B-Max. It's a fine riposte to the excess size of too many new cars. But I have to tell you that its lack of centre pillar is not such a new idea after all. I've just been looking at buying a 1938 Lancia Aprilia with just that design feature…

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent