Ford B-MAX: Short-haul flight

  • First experience of the B-MAX on an airport run
  • Immediately impressed with ride quality and EcoBoost engine
  • Sliding doors are novel; thick pillars and seatbelt mounts awkward

As soon as I knew my first Parkers long-termer was an EcoBoost-engined Ford B-MAX, I was desperate for James Taylor to return from Glastonbury duties so I could get behind the wheel.

Rather than ferrying my three kids around in a family-centric test, my first experience was a rather dull run to Farnborough Airport. Would the practical Fiesta-based MPV with a tiny engine get me to the plane on time feeling chilled and smiling?

Well, yes it did.

Despite its relatively short wheelbase, the B-MAX ate up the motorway miles, riding the high speed bumps and crests with an ability that belied its diminutive dimensions. Whether its tall, narrow stance makes it as accomplished on twisty back roads remains to be seen, but the 200-mile journey was effortlessly dispatched.

Even more impressive was the smooth, unruffled nature of the EcoBoost engine. This is a motor that gains plaudits with great regularity and it’s easy to appreciate why. It spins effortlessly at motorway speeds, quickly returning to your desired cruise control-set speed after sitting behind 56mph battles of duelling juggernauts.

I almost wish it had a giant “1.0” badge on the boot to show off to other road users just how well it was doing, rather than the discreet “Econetic Technology” tailgate plaque.

Two friends have recently become B-MAX owners, primarily sold because of the suggested fuel efficiency of the EcoBoost unit and the sliding doors. Like me, they’re finding the real-world economy differs from the claimed figures but I’ve managed to tease the efficiency up to 40.4mpg since James’ last drive. Clearly my parsimonious ways ensure a featherweight approach to the throttle, over his racing experience and youthful exuberance.

Those sliding doors are the B-MAX’s USP and there’s undoubtedly a tangible benefit to entry and exit when both side doors are open. If just the front or the rear one is opened it feels barely different from a conventional set-up.

That lack of a central pillar does create two minor gripes from me though. Firstly, the strengthening material is now in the pillars and door frames, making them thicker. While this gives a sense of solidity and implied strength, it also means the windscreen pillars cause a significant blind spot, especially on the driver’s side. Colluding with the door mirror, there’s a lot of the road you simply cannot see without moving – even the additional triangle of glass is of negligible benefit.

Additionally, the seatbelts are mounted on the seats rather than higher up on the pillar. It’s a great idea in principle but for someone with my inconvenient stature (6ft tall but most of my length in my upper body) it feels as though my right shoulder is being gripped in an over-familiar manner. Jiffling around in the seat eases it a little, but mounting it a few centimetres higher would be a better solution. The seatbelt itself also has a habit of twisting up, resembling a black length of fusilli pasta.

Sliding doors promise to be more help than hindrance though, especially when transporting kids around. You can let them get in and out of the back in tight car parking spots without taking a sharp intake of breath as they clonk the panels of adjacent cars. An impending weekend away with the mini-Joneses will give the B-MAX the opportunity to shine as a family wagon. 

Total mileage: 5,940 miles Average mpg: 40.4 mpg