Motoring review: Ford B-Max

J'adore the doors on this roomy family drive

Price: from £12,995 (£18,195 as tested)
Engine capacity: 1.0-litre Ecoboost
Power Output (PS @ rpm): 120 @ 6,000
Top Speed (mph): 117
0-60 mph (seconds): 11.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 114

Additional options on new cars are rarely worth the money. For instance a sat-nav from Halfords will cost you less than £100 while an inbuilt version from a car manufacturer could cost 10 times as much. And if you're foolish enough to opt for fancy Alcantara seats or bling alloys, you probably have more money than sense. That's fine if you like that sort of thing and you can afford it, but there's one new option that we should all tick the box for at the dealership.

It's called Door Edge Protector and came fitted on the new Ford B-Max I've had on loan. The B-Max is the sort of car for families with children. And how many times have your children (or you) opened the car door into the side of an expensive-looking saloon or SUV in a cramped supermarket car park? It's a crime we're all guilty of (or have been the victim of) and I'm not exaggerating when I say that Door Edge Protector is our salvation. It's only a flimsy £50 piece of plastic but it flips out as soon as you open your door, quickly wraps out to protect it, before folding away as you close it.

It's a particularly useful gadget for me as the drive outside my flat is rather narrow and when the drive is full, I have to contort myself into all sorts of back-breaking positions to slide out without smashing car doors against the wall. The B-Max then was a game changer for me. It's a great a leap forward for humanity as penicillin or sliced bread. Well, perhaps not, but it is a piece of genius. It came from down the road in Britain, too, developed at Ford's Dunton research centre in Essex. Who says we don't invent things anymore?

The team at Dunton has obviously been busy on the door front as the B-Max – Ford's latest mini people-carrier – has sliding doors. These aren't an optional extra. They come as standard and because there is no fixed B-pillar (the vertical where front and rear doors normally meet) the whole side of the B-Max opens up to reveal an aperture 1.5m (5ft) wide. Why would you want this? Well, it's far easier to pack in children and their car seats (or elderly relatives). It hasn't come at the price of reduced legroom or boot space either. Sounds dangerous removing all this metal, doesn't it? Well not really. Ford has installed "crash catchers" to lock the doors to the roof and floor structures in case of an accident. And sure enough the B-Max has won a prestigious five-star Euro-NCAP rating. I had no idea that doors could be so interesting.

Unlike most new cars the B-Max isn't replacing an existing model. It's entirely new and for a company that lost £465m in Europe last year, that makes it very important. The firm's bosses will no doubt be pleased that Ford has managed to sign up 2,500 B-Max buyers before it even hits an Inchcape or Dagenham Motors forecourt.

That should hardly come as a surprise to them though. The B-Max is easy to get in and out of, has plenty of storage space, is packed with hi-tech safety, has a range of increasingly fuel- efficient engines (though I struggled to get above 40mpg) and entertainment features and is reasonably affordable. It's also, like most recent Fords, quite fun to drive. Especially when fitted with the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine which revs and puts power down smoothly. Put simply; it's an excellent family car... with very funky doors.

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