Brian Joss –
It still amazes me how the Ford engineers can make a three-cylinder 1-litre turbocharged engine so peppy. And it’s the same motor that powers the Ford B-Max 1-Litre EcoBoost, a great mummy-mobile, which I have been driving.
The other week I had the Ford Fiesta 1-litre and the B-Max is based on the same frame, although it’s 109 mm higher and 108 mm longer. The test car with a five speed manual transmission was the top of the range Titanium which came with all the bells and whistles: reverse camera, parking sensors, leather seats, keyless starting, climate control (not aircon), parking sensors, a sun roof and sliding doors on both sides, which makes it a large small car, powered by a motor with a big heart, which puts out 92kW and torque of 170 N.M (the entry level Ambiente delivers 74KW with the same torque).
Ford calls the B-Max a Multi Activity Vehicle (MAV), but whichever way you look at it, it’s still a Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV), and is as much at home in the urban environment as it is on country roads. A feature of the B-Max are the sliding doors on both sides. There is no central pillar so there is plenty of room ( 1.5 metres wide) at the back for you to load up the dogs or (cats in a carrier), or both, and of course the toddlers, in safety. Even a bag of golf clubs or two.
The front doors open in the usual way, but they are quite heavy, so it might be an idea to add spinach to your diet. That said the boot is not that big, but it is bigger than the Fiesta’s, and if you put the back seats down, which is easy to do with one hand using what Ford calls its “one-hand, one-motion” mechanism, you get 1 386 litres of cargo space. The luggage compartment has an adjustable floor panel which you can remove to store more items or hide the valuables from prying eyes. The front passenger seat can also be folded, creating an extensive flat load floor from front to rear.
There are seven different seat-folding combinations, and an adjustable luggage compartment floor. However, there is no room for a full size spare wheel so Ford uses a space-saver. Of course, there are the ubiquitous cup holders dotted about the cabin, with three for the back seat. Inside, it is all Fiesta-style with quality touches: easy-to-clean leather seats and soft plastics. The B-Max also uses Ford Sync, the in-car connectivity system, which is fairly easy to use. I think, though, a new version has been used in the Ford Fusion, which I reviewed earlier this year.
There is good all-round visibility from the driver’s seat and for rear-seat passengers there is plenty of leg and head room. The B-Max is great fun to drive and , thanks to the power steering, it’s easy to park in small spaces.
The ride is comfortable and bad roads are no problem. Handling is typical Ford, excellent, although because of its height there is some body roll, but nothing to get concerned about. It sailed up the hills and on the highway the B-Max easily kept up with the traffic, and there was still enough oomph left in the motor to overtake safely, when you needed to. It’s only of academic interest but top speed is about 190km/h and you can go from 0-100km in 11 seconds or so, according to Ford. CO2 emissions figure of 114 g/km for the Titanium, Ford said.
The five-speed manual gearbox made the drive even more enjoyable, even in the stop-start traffic I encountered more than once. There is no automatic option for the B-Max which is a pity. Build quality is good and the only rattle I heard was from my spectacles case and garage remote sliding in the console between the two front seats.
Fuel economy proved to be excellent and I recorded figures of nearly 6 litres/100km, and that was in a town and country cycle and with some tough hills, and not a few serpentines, near Franschhoek, always a pleasant drive if you want to escape the hustle and bustle, but not on a weekend when the town is jam-packed. However, I think the fuel consumption at the Reef will be a lot higher. Safety features include an anti-locking brake system (ABS) with emergency brake assist (EBA), hill launch assist and stop-start.
To sum up: The B-Max EcoBoost 1-litre, in Ford’s words “has opened the doors to new designs for compact cars”. It is a practical car which offers a high level of spec; it is comfortable to drive; economical and is an ideal family car. I can’t help wondering though, how effective those sliding doors will be after a year or two.
Nevertheless if you’re in the market for a new vehicle, this family car may be just what you need. The flagship Titanium has a price tag of R271 900 but check with your dealer. The B-MAX is sold with a 4-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, 4-year/60 000km service plan, 3-year/unlimited km roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. Service intervals are every 20 000km.