Ford B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost – review

4 June 2013

Ford B-Max side view

Ford B-Max
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: Eager and agile, with unrivalled access to the rear seats
Bad: Fiddly minor controls and a small boot
from £16,195
It’s always been unwise to judge a book by its cover, and the one-litre Ford B-Max provides a rolling proof of the old saying. Open the doors wide and the absence of a central pillar holding the roof and floor together might lead you to expect a wobbling blancmange of a car, while the tiny 999cc capacity of its three-cylinder engine suggests something of a tedious slug. Happily, neither is remotely close to the case.

Ford has deployed lashings of high-strength steel and clever door latches to ensure the B-Max can hold itself tightly together on the move, providing the stiff structure needed for secure handling at speed. With its doors closed, the B-Max is actually stiffer than Ford’s own Fiesta, which shares many of the same underpinnings.

Ford B-Max side view with doors open

Similarly, the turbocharged three-pot engine proves a real zinger. In the £18,195 Titanium model I tested it provides 125PS (123bhp) and 200Nm of torque, enough to zip this modest people carrier to 62mph in 11.2 seconds. Official economy, meanwhile, comes out at 57.7mpg on the combined cycle paired with 114g/km of CO2, both figures aided by the start-stop system fitted to my car.

But even these reassuring facts on paper don’t prepare me for actually driving the thing. Having completed an all-too-brief spin at urban, B-road and motorway speeds, I now understand why the EcoBoost engine has won awards. It pulls like a diesel but feels as smooth and free-revving as a petrol. It is by no means quiet, but the noise that thrums around the cabin is melodious enough. If you like to hear an engine working, you’ll love this.

Ford B-Max front view

Faced with even a steep incline, the B-Max seems to be able to shrug off its 1,279 kilos and canter to the top. I must confess I tested it empty, mind you. A full load of bodies and baggage might slow it down a tad.

The poise with which it carved through corners also surprised me. I drove the B-Max right after the Mini Paceman, and the practical people-carrier put the supposedly sporty coupé to shame. Excellent steering, brakes and body control combine to make the B-Max feel uncannily light and agile, inspiring bundles of confidence. I doubt it would be wise to chuck the B-Max at bends with kids slumbering in their chairs, but it’s very reassuring to know that the chassis can respond with quick wits in a tight spot.

Ford B-Max console buttons

Of course the B-Max is not all good news. Even a brief glance at the centre console, strewn with its haphazard collection of fiddly buttons, is enough to learn that the B-Max won’t be cutting any mustard in ergonomics. The big Sony label under the CD slot reminds me of when I last saw this class of clutter – on a clock radio I owned about a decade ago.

I have very few other grumbles on first acquaintance with the car. It feels comfortable and well screwed together, while the signature large opening makes access to the rear seats a trifle. Any of the five doors can be opened independently, and the rears slide very easily to and fro on their runners, closing securely without the need for a hefty slam. The doors don’t feel as heavy to swing as their thick frames might suggest.

Ford B-Max front interior

I even like the way it looks. True, the style is a bit cookie-cutter Ford, but the designers have come up with some neat touches. For example, by stretching the rear lamp clusters forward along the flanks of the car, they’ve disguised the length of the rear-door slots.

The B-Max is smaller than average for this kind of car. It’s fully 20cm shorter, and a mite narrower and lower than a Vauxhall Meriva, for example. The Ford’s 318-litre boot is also about 80 litres less capacious than the Vauxhall’s, and the rear bench doesn’t slide to help it swallow awkward items. Interestingly, the B-Max is roughly the same size in every direction as the Citroen C3 Picasso, but still falls short of the French car’s boot capacity by about 70 litres.

Whether easy access to rear seats outweighs a cramped boot may be a key question for likely buyers of Ford’s smallest MPV. In the final reckoning, getting a baby buggy neatly aboard is probably more important than any amount of eagerness from the engine or agility at the wheel.

Ford B-Max rear view

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