Recommended. Brilliant door system, excellent Ford dynamics and the option of the great little 1.0 Ecoboost engine. Only the price is a problem.
The Ford B-Max is not so much the replacement for the Fusion, as the antidote to the old car. The Fusion did reasonable business selling to old people who wanted an easy-access Fiesta estate, but this one is meant to be a small MPV that the children of Fusion owners can be proud of.
Ford obviously drew up a list of everything that was wrong about the Fusion and methodically dealt with every issue. Dull styling? Make it look like a smaller S-Max, with a hint of Kuga thrown in. Me-too character? Give it the most radical doors ever fitted to a production car which provide double the opening of conventional items. Utilitarian nature? Make it feel like a small premium car, with supple suspension and excellent refinement.
The doors really are the star turn. The rear pair slide backwards to reveal...nothing at all. There is no post (known in the trade as the B-pillar) between the front and rear doors. Instead, the two doors use clever latches and high strength steel to provide the same solidity as a conventional post. Common sense says a latch cannot possibly be as strong as a rigid steel post, but the five star safety rating by the independent Euro-NCAP organisation says common sense is not always a reliable guide.
On the move, the first impression is that it is a typical modern Ford. That may sound like an insult to anyone who has not driven one for a while, but the current Focus and Fiesta demonstrate that few mainstream manufacturers are as good at combining ride and handling in such a sophisticated way. The ride is excellent - supple without being soggy or bouncy - which makes the car feel more sophisticated than its size would suggest. The handling is very good for a small MPV, which necessarily has a high centre of gravity. While a Fiesta is considerably more fun to hustle along, we can think of some conventional supermini hatchbacks which are less fun to drive than the B-Max.
For outright economy, the version to choose is the 1.6 TDCI, but we would go for the 1.0 Ecoboost. This is the first engine where size really does not matter. Compared to a conventional 1.6 litre, it is smoother, more flexible and more economical. Its faint, but distinctive, three-cylinder warble is simply a nicer sound than most four cylinder engine, although most passengers would be blissfully unaware that there was any particular engine sound at all.
The only fly in the ointment is the price. The accountants clearly believe it is a car able to compete with much bigger cars, because they have priced it at near-Golf figures. Up to nearly £20K for a B segment MPV seems ludicrous until you try it. We would not recommend paying for a top-of-the-range Titanium, but a 1.0 Zetec is actually worth the money - providing you have the £16K-plus asking price.
1. Doors really are a touch of genius
2. Looks and feels a cut above most small MPV models
3. Ecoboost engine is a major step forward
We don't like:
1. Prices initially take your breath away
2. The Fiesta's superb handling is naturally slightly compromised by the tall body
3. Performance is refined and reasonably swift, rather than eager.
Most fun: Ecoboost 120 PS
Most sensible: 1.6 TDCI
Next: ratings and breakdown