Thursday, 19 September 2013

REVIEW - Ford B-Max Zetec

One of the best selling cars in the UK is the Ford Fiesta. It has been a resounding success for many years, and the newest instalment is the best yet. Well what you may or may not know, is that the Fiesta has a big brother. Called the B-Max, it takes the Fiesta platform but adds a bit more height, and heaps of practicality. With the familiar Ford 'face' it is recognisable, but the B-Max has some great styling features of its own. What's more, my test car came with the 2013 Engine of the Year; the 1.0-litre ECOboost unit. I was looking forward to getting to grips with this car...

Looks - 8/10

The first thing you notice about the B-Max is the Ford 'mouth' at the front. It is becoming increasingly popular to have a common face amongst a car model range, and Ford's of late certainly have a distinguishable and common front end. I like the styling of the B-Max. The daytime running lights are a smart feature, and finished in 'Race Red' my Zetec test model was rather striking. The wheels were a bit of a let down- at 15-inch they were a bit small. However I sense this has something to do with economy... we'll touch on that later. What you will have noticed is that the rear door slides horizontally- although the runners are colour-coded and blend with the bodywork nicely. The best feature of the B-Max is that once you slide the rear doors away, you can open the front one too, and what you will discover is that the B-Max has no B-pillars. The effect is rather stylish, and I really like how the B-Max looks when showing off its party trick.

On the inside the B-Max is as you would expect from a Ford. There's a sense of good build quality, nice materials and a logical layout. Being a Zetec model my test car had piano black trim, which is rather classy, and nice seats too. What I would say though, is that with all the black going onthe interior was a tad dark, but I never found this an issue.  The steering wheel pays tribute to the Fiesta on which this car is based, whilst the audio unit is becoming a feature of several models now, and is very simply laid out. I like the 'pod' style surrounds for the dials, and the piano black gearstick is a nice touch too. Even the vents are stylish in the B-Max, and that's a level of attention to detail that I appreciate in a smaller family car.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

As I mentioned earlier, my test car was fitted with the 1.0-litre ECOboost engine which has been a vast success for Ford. For the second year running, it was voted International Engine of the Year, and with good reason. Underneath the bonnet of my Zetec was the 100PS version, which also offers 170Nm of torque. Fed to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox, 0-62mph is dealt with in 13.2 seconds and the top speed is 109mph. Considering the size of the B-Max that's not bad at all, and the most important thing is that to drive the B-Max doesn't feel like a 1.0-litre at all. It doesn't bog down, even in the 1-2,000rpm rev range, and that really is a remarkable feat of engineering. It has a sense of the 3-cylinder noise, but otherwise it's quiet and refined. There is no turbo lag either which makes the ECOboost a winner.

Considering the height of the B-Max it handles just as well as the Fiesta, which is a compliment in itself. The removal of the B-pillars hadn't resulted in any unusual handling characteristics at all as far as I could tell. On normal roads the B-Max is extremely comfortable, but is never soft and wallowy. On a twistier road there is good feel from the front, and the steering is sharp like the Fiesta. There is very little body roll, and the car takes corners very well. Rear seat passengers will find the ride comfortable too, so it's thumbs up all around for the B-Max.

Economy - 10/10

The sole purpose of the ECOboost engine is to make economical motoring useful in the real world, which is why it is such a huge success. CO2 emissions for the B-Max are 119g/km which puts it in VED Band C. Road tax will be £30 for the year, with the first year free. On top of this combined fuel consumption is an impressive 55.4mpg which makes the B-Max kind to your wallet. With features such as the eco tyres you can sense that the ECOboost has cost-saving in mind, and you will get out of this car what you put in. The more conscious effort you make to drive economically, the more you will be rewarded with higher mpg figures and lower fuel bills.

Practicality - 10/10

What the B-Max adds most to the Fiesta base is the level of practicality. Firstly, the doors. These not only look good but offer a level of practicality you wouldn't even think exists. By having no B-pillars, jumping in and out of the back becomes effortless, even for people of a taller disposition. I really couldn't get over how easy it was to climb in and out of the B-Max, and in a car park the doors sliding horizontally is a bonus feature too. There's a large boot too, and plenty of cabin space for all occupants. If you go for the optional 'City Pack' then you get power folding door mirrors and parking sensors too, which are a useful option at a very reasonable £200. Visibility is affected slightly by the doors, which are thicker to compensate for the lack of B-pillar. However this is not a problem and you can still see well over your shoulder. This really is a car for everyday.

Fun - 8/10

I personally found the B-Max a relatively fun car to be in and around. From the cool sliding doors, to the jazzy piano black trim, the car just oozes quality both inside and out. Then there's the engine. I appreciate a car that can be economical without requiring all occupants to eat nothing but recycled cabbage, and which only allows you 20% of the power, 20% of the time. There always seems to be a compromise to make a car economical, but I just couldn't find what had been given up here. I wasn't left wanting for anything, or wishing I was behind the wheel of something else. Respect to the B-Max then, because it saves you money day-to-day, which can be spent on having more fun!

Concluding Remarks

I found the B-Max a remarkable car, and was truly impressed by the vast amount of space hiding beneath that small exterior. I was surprised at the price too. The 1.0-litre ECOboost Zetec starts at £16,195 and with £200 on the aforementioned City Pack and another £200 on privacy glass (another stylish extra) my test car hit the road at £16,595. I personally think this a reasonable price for such a practical family car. If you haven't looked at a B-Max, or if you think you need a bit more space than the Fiesta, then I suggest popping into a dealership to see one for yourself. Or you could head online to Ford's website where you can find more information. So all that's left then is to sign off. And I shall leave you with this- the Ford B-Max, for the family who want both style and substance.

Total Score - 45/50

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