Motor Mouth – Ford’s MAVellous B-Max

First Drive: We open the doors to Ford’s MAVellous B-Max
Furniture truck with windows

Ford acknowledges that its new B-Max is a niche player because “B” market-segment MPVs (Ford calls them MAVs or Multi Activity Vehicles) account for only about one-percent of sales volume. The company believes it has a winner, though, and remains cautiously optimistic.
Three models are available; that’s one engine with two power ratings, one gearbox and three equipment levels. The motor is the 998 cc, three-cylinder, EcoBoost turbopetrol unit found in other small Fords. Consecutive four-time winner of the World’s Best Engine trophy, it’s offered for B-Max in both 74- and 92 kilowatt form.
Despite its diminutive size, the power plant offers both lazy pulling power and energetic performance – while remaining economical – as little as 4,9 l/100 km overall or 6,0 in the city. Power is fed to the front wheels by a five-speed manual gearbox.
If demand justifies supply, the company will later offer other variants; a diesel perhaps, a six-speed manual or possibly an automatic.
At first glance B-Max looks much like EcoSport but despite the common Fiesta platform, same engine, very similar size and possibly the same drawing board, Ford points out that EcoSport is pitched as an urban SUV. Look to its greater ground clearance (200 mm vs. 132 mm) and larger boot (362 litres vs. 318), although part of the reason for that would lie with its door-mounted spare wheel.

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B-Max (B-segment with Max-imum versatility), on the other hand, is more a city car with pantechnicon pretensions. Its seats can be collapsed, with single-handed tilt and fold actions, to lie completely flat in seven configurations. Choose from five, four, three or two chairs – or just the driver on her own in a “furniture truck with windows.”
Then there are the doors. While the front ones open normally, it has sliding rear portals just like Tourneo Connect, Ford’s less-pretty truckling that began life as a cargo van. But B-Max takes the game one level higher. Although those sliders are useful in narrow garages and cramped parking spaces, there’s more – or possibly less. Ford took away the intervening pillar so it’s easier to manipulate bulky parcels, for mums to muscle baby chairs, or older folk to climb in and out without bruising shoulders or hips.
The car comes in 11 colours – three solid and eight metallic – of which five are available on even the basic Ambiente version. Evocative names like Race Red, Deep Impact Blue and Tectonic Silver add to the car’s youthful appeal.

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Entry-level Ambiente offers pollen-filtered, single channel air conditioning, powered windows and mirrors, steel wheels, tyre pressure monitoring, fabric upholstery, six-speaker radio and CD unit with the usual sockets, Bluetooth, satellite buttons, a 3.5” dot matrix screen and SYNC® connectivity. Safety kit consists of seven airbags, ABS brakes with EBA and EBD, ESP, traction control, hill launch assist, remote central locking and immobiliser.
As specification levels and prices rise, items like alloy wheels, eight-speaker sound, 4.2” colour screen, leather upholstery, trip computer, automated air conditioning, cruise control, rear view camera, panoramic roof, keyless access and pushbutton starting are added.
Because time was limited, the familiarisation drive was short and restricted to urban crawl and freeways. As always with this engine, performance was impressively brisk for a city car and the broad torque band meant there was little need to stir the pot. Our only “moment” happened on the first stretch of freeway, when we absent-mindedly tried to shift up to a non-existent sixth gear. It’s something we have come to expect with teeny turbo engines, so it was surprising to find that the bean counters had sanctioned only five.
Ride quality was moderately firm but not excessively so, the gearbox was as smooth as silk and almost everything was placed for easy access. A little grumble was that more manufacturers are putting big, hi-res touch screens up on their control panels these days, so Ford’s busy array of buttons looks dated.

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B-Max will arrive in SA showrooms around mid-September 2015.
Information gathered at a manufacturer-sponsored media event

The numbers
Prices: Ambiente – R221 900, Trend – R246 900, Titanium – R271 900
Engine: 998 cc, belt driven, DOHC, 12-valve, three-cylinder turbopetrol
Specification – Ambiente:
Outputs 74 kW at 6000 rpm / 170 Nm between 1400 and 4100 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 13.2 seconds
Maximum speed: 175 km/h
Average fuel consumption (claimed): 5.1 l/100 km
Specification – Trend and Titanium:
Outputs: 92 kW at 6000 rpm / 170 Nm between 1400 and 4100 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 11.2 seconds
Maximum speed: 189 km/h
Average fuel consumption (claimed): 4.9 l/100 km
Tank: 48 litres
Luggage: 318 litres – 1386 litres (to roof)
Warranty: 4 years / 120 000 km; with 3 years’ roadside assistance
Service plan: 4 years / 60 000 km; at 20 000 km intervals