Review: Ford B-Max
IS there any point in a people carrier if it's a really small one? It's a fair question that supermini-MPV models in the Nissan Note, Citroen C3 Picasso and Vauxhall Meriva segment have often struggled to answer.
With Ford's B-Max, we have at last a credible response to that query, its unique design and unrivalled versatility offering more ways to use a car of just four metres in length than you might ever have thought possible.
Most important here of course is the issue that dominates discussion every time talk turns to this car: the doors. The front ones open normally but the back ones slide aside on cleverly concealed runners, so there's no more worries about offspring re-sculpting the side of adjacent parked cars in tight supermarket spaces.
With the side doors open, you're ready to admire this car's party piece: the absence of the kind of centre B-pillar that almost every other car in the world has to have for structural rigidity. Here, that same stiffness is provided by the edges of the doors themselves when they shut tightly together, clamping themselves against the body. What this ingenuity creates is a car that's incredibly easy for anyone of any age to get in and out of. And get things in and out of.
There's a 1.5m-wide aperture through the side doors, into which you can slide items of up to 2.34m in length if you fold flat the front passenger seat. Of course, most of the time, you'll be loading in through the 318-litre boot, extendable to 1,386 litres.
Under the bonnet? Well, get beyond the 90PS 1.4 and auto-only 105PS 1.6-litre petrol units at the foot of the range and there's plenty to admire, most notably with the three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol powerplants, offered in either 100PS or 120PS guises. Diesels? There's a choice of a rather slow 75PS 1.5 TDCi or a 95PS 1.6-litre TDCi engine.