Yes, the fact that the Ford B-MAX has no B-pillar at the side and a huge door aperture may have grabbed the headlines, but there's so much more to this car than the cleverness of the way you get into it. Sidestep that distraction and there's a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo engine and some very interesting cabin features to take in as well.
With regard to practicality, the solution Ford's designers have up with combines conventional, hinged front doors and rear sliding doors. This approach integrates the traditional central pillar structure into the front and rear doors, rather than forming part of the bodyshell itself, and creates a huge, clear opening – more than 1.5 metres wide. This is around twice the width offered by competitors with alternative door concepts and makes it significantly easier to enter or exit the rear seats, attend to children in child seats, or load and unload shopping. B-MAX's twin sliding rear doors also make access easier in crowded streets or narrow parking bays. The front and rear doors can be opened completely independently, so the front or rear cabin can be accessed as required. A flexible and easy-to-use seating system features 60/40 split rear seats which can be folded flat with a simple 'one-hand, one-motion' mechanism. The front passenger seat can also be folded, creating an extensive flat load floor capable of swallowing loads up to 2.34 metres long. The generous access makes it particularly convenient to load bulky items such as flat-pack furniture or even a bicycle through the side doors. An adjustable load floor in the boot creates a flat load space when the rear seats are lowered, with extra room underneath for valuable items.
With an overall vehicle height which is 12cm higher than the Fiesta, B-MAX offers drivers the benefits of a higher 'command' seating position, and provides significantly improved rear seat legroom and headroom.The big talking point might well be the doors but under the bonnet, the key story really concerns a very intriguing petrol engine. Displacing just 1.0 litre and with three tiny pistons tasked with moving you and yours down the road at a respectable clip, the turbocharged Ecoboost engine punches above its weight, managing a respectable 100 or 120PS, depending on the variant you choose. The 120PS variant manages rest to sixty in 11.2s on the way to 117mph. Some of the other engine choices are more familiar Ford units: petrol-wise, a 90PS 1.4 and an auto-only 105PS 1.6. Or, for diesel buyers, a 75PS 1.5 TDCi unit or a 95PS 1.6 TDCi unit.
This B-MAX is impressively frugal if you opt for it with one of Ford's newer engines. Equipped with the 120PS version of the three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, it can return diesel frugality, managing 57.7mpg on the combined cycle and 114g/km of CO2. The 1.5-litre diesel meanwhile, manages 68.9mpg on the combined cycle and 109g/km of CO2. The older entry-level petrol engine isn't quite as impressive, returning 47.1mpg and 139g/km.
Despite a sales record that's second to none, building innovation and desirability into small cars hasn't always been a Ford forte. The Blue Oval has always got the pounds and pence side of the equation squared away and that has driven fleet sales quite agreeably but family buyers looking for something distinctive have often found pickings a bit slim. The B-MAX could well change all of that.