Ford B-MAX (2012-2018)

Models Covered:

5dr MPV (Petrol - 1.4 / 1.0 EcoBoost 100 & 125PS [Diesel – 1.5 TDCi 75PS / 1.6 TDCi 90PS]

By Jonathan Crouch

* Introduction

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. When Ford’s B-MAX was launched in 2012, we at last got a credible response to that query, its unique design and unrivalled versatility offering more ways to use a car of just 4m in length than you might ever have thought possible.

* The History

The smallest sort of people carrier evolved in the 21st century’s second decade. In the Noughties, we had so-called supermini-MPVs, cars like Nissan’s Note, slotting in below compact Scenic and C-MAX-sized designs, but usually, they offered little more than a slightly pumped-up take on the usual small car theme. New brands entering this segment needed to try harder. So we saw Citroen re-define the amount of space this kind of car could provide with their rounded but squerical C3 Picasso, Skoda offer us more avant garde styling with their Roomster and Vauxhall deliver rear doors that open the opposite way out in their Meriva. Interesting though these various approaches were, none of them really advanced the small people carrying proposition very far. But here’s a car that did; Ford’s B-MAX.

Launched here in the Autumn of 2012, it scores on its doors, but in a very different way to any of its rivals. This was the first car of this kind to use sliding side doors and, more uniquely still, the first to do away completely with a central B-pillar so that with the front door open, there’s an enormous 1.5m of cabin aperture width, stretching all the way from windscreen to rear hatch. A far more innovative design than the Blue Oval bought us with this car’s direct predecessor, the Fusion. And there’s equal brilliance beneath the bonnet, with the option of a three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine that provides a decent alternative to diesel. The idea was to attract the kind of buyer who wants the versatility of a larger C-MAX-style compact MPV but needs something easier to park and cheaper to run. The B-MAX sold steadily until it was discontinued in 2018.

* What To Look For

We came across plenty of satisfied B-MAX customers but there were also a number of rogue examples, with issues that buyers on the used market will need to look out for. we came across plenty of electrical issues. One customer found that his car needed to be used every other day, otherwise it wouldn’t start due to battery drain. There were also lots of complaints about the auto gearbox, so be very careful when it comes to that. One owner said that this gearbox ‘judders and rattles like a box of screws’. As usual, check that the service book is fully stamped up to date. Some ex-fleet models may have missed out on garage visits.

* On The Road

Ford models are generally great to drive and most of the reason why is found in one thing: chassis stiffness. Take that away and you neutralise one of the Blue Oval’s strongest selling points. But isn’t that exactly what’s happened with this B-MAX? With no central B-pillar, you’d expect the whole structure to be flexing all over the place. You’d expect a driving disappointment. But, as you’ll find out once on the move, you don’t get it.

We suppose it’s easy to be impressed when you start with such low expectations but this thing really does confound all your preconceptions. It’s a people carrier for a start and worse, one with sliding doors, previously a sure-fire recipe for dynamic dullness in any car you care to name. Yet as soon as you get going, this Ford feels frisky, even fun: certainly feelsome in the way it responds to the way you want to drive. Of course it helps here that the basics are right. You sit quite high up, positioned far more commandingly than you would be in a Fiesta with everything you need perfectly placed around you. And at speed, all-round visibility’s great.

And under the bonnet? Well there’s nothing too impressive at the bottom end of the range, where the choices on offer remind you of the way Ford technology used to be. These include a labouring 90PS petrol 1.4 that props up the line-up and an auto-only 105PS petrol 1.6-litre variant that’s mainly there for older or disabled buyers. Inevitably, the engines you’d really want are the pricey ones further up the range and if the price being asked enables you to afford one of them, then there’s plenty to admire, most notably when it comes to consideration of the cleverest petrol powerplant on the planet, Ford’s clever 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit, complete with its distinctive three cylinder thrum and offered to B-MAX buyers with either 100 or 120PS.

Alternatively, there’s the 75PS 1.5-litre diesel developed for use across all of Ford’s small car offerings, frugal and clean but somewhat slow, rest to sixty occupying nearly 17s. A better combination of virtues is offered by the 95PS 1.6-litre TDCi unit, an engine that gets this car to sixty in 13.9s on the way to 108mph and offers a bit more all-round performance punch.

* Overall

It’s a tad ironic given the name that Ford’s B-MAX is missing very little – apart from its B-pillar. Were it not for that, this would have been a smart, carefully thought out but generally unremarkable addition to a supermini-MPV segment the Blue Oval had previously never properly addressed. As it was, this one stroke of design genius set this model apart and established it as a class leader.

Other supermini-MPV rivals from the 2012-2017 era might be slightly bigger or more affordable but if you can find a good one, in this Ford you’ve what for us is the perfect growing family’s second car. And finally, a small people carrier that makes perfect sense.