Ford has ditched its forgettable Fusion and replaced it with what could well be the new class-leader in the B-segment MPV market.
What is it?
It's one of the first cars in a massive product offensive from the Blue Oval, designed to keep the car giant profitable in Europe. The B-Max replaces the forgettable – but much-loved among certain UK buyers – Fusion and goes up against rivals from Vauxhall, Honda, Nissan and Citroen. But to steal sales away from these firms, the B-Max has a party-piece – no B-pillars.
You're probably wondering what the B-pillar is. Well it's the bit of metal between the front and rear doors. Thanks to the removal of this and a sliding door, the B-Max has unrivalled access to the front and rear passenger compartments with a 1.5-metre wide opening. It's based on the Fiesta platform, and retains the supermini's fine driving abilities.
What's under the bonnet?
Petrol buyers will be able to choose between the new 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine with either 99bhp or 118bhp. There's also a 1.4-litre Duratorq with 89bhp and a 1.6-litre Ti-VCT unit with 104bhp and an automatic gearbox. Diesels include a 1.5 with 74bhp and a 1.6 with 94bhp. Ford says the best-seller will be the 1.6-litre diesel, but, in time, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost could claim that title.
What's the kit like?
The range kicks off at £12,995 for the Studio 1.4-litre petrol which comes with electric mirrors and electric windows front and rear, while prices top out at £18,895 for the Titanium 1.6-litre diesel. That model comes as standard with 16-inch alloys, auto headlamps and Ford system – a clever voice control and device integration system. It's a £250 option on all models bar the Titanium.
The biggest rival Ford is pitching the B-Max against is its arch-rival Vauxhall and its Meriva. That too has an unusual door arrangement but doesn't offer such impressive levels of easy access. Other rivals include the Citroen C3 Picasso, Honda Jazz and Nissan Note.
Is it any good?
It's hard not to be impressed by the B-Max. At launch we drove the lower-powered 1.0-litre Ecoboost and the 1.6-litre diesel – and it's clear which one is more fun to drive. The 1.0-litre is a blast yet still offers agreeable fuel economy figures – 55.4mpg combined is quoted – while the 1.6-litre diesel is sluggish. The B-Max has light but accurate steering, and visibility is rather good, too.
The Autoblog verdict
This could well be the new class-leader as it makes other cars in this sector seem terribly conservative. Without having the benefit of trying all the engines and specifications, we can only really recommend the 1.0-litre Ecoboost 99bhp Titanium model which retails at £17,595. It's not cheap but probably worth the money.