Is there any point in a people carrier if it’s a really small one?
It’s a fair question that supermini-MPV models in the Nissan Note, Citroen C3 Picasso and Vauxhall Meriva segment have often struggled to answer.
With Ford’s B-MAX, we have at last a credible response to that query, its unique design and unrivalled versatility offering more ways to use a car of just 4m in length than you might ever have thought possible.
Most important here of course is the issue that dominates discussion every time talk turns to this car: the doors. The front ones open normally but the back ones slide aside on cleverly concealed runners, so parents need have no more worries about their offspring re-sculpting the side of adjacent parked cars in tight supermarket spaces.
And with the side doors open, you’re ready to admire this car’s party piece: the absence of the kind of centre B-pillar that almost every other car in the world has to have for structural rigidity. Here, that same stiffness is provided by the edges of the doors themselves when they shut tightly together, clamping themselves against the body. With both side doors open, there’s a 1.5m-wide aperture, into which you can slide items of up to 2.34m in length if you’ve taken up the option of folding flat the front passenger seat. Of course, most of the time, you’ll still be loading stuff like that in through the 318-litre boot, extendable to 1386-litres if you flatten the rear bench.
This car though, has primarily been packaged for people - and the lives they lead. Thanks to the pillar-less Easy Access system, it’s simplicity itself to lean in and install a child seat or to help in an aging relative. And up front? Well, with an overall vehicle height that’s 12cm higher than a Fiesta, you get all the benefits of what Ford calls a higher ‘command’ seating position.
And under the bonnet? Well, if you can get beyond the 90PS 1.4 and auto-only 105PS 1.6-litre petrol units at the foot of the range, there’s plenty to admire, most notably with the innovative three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol powerplants, offered in either 100 or 120PS guises. If you want a diesel, there’s a choice of a rather slow 75PS 1.5 TDCi or a 95PS 1.6-litre TDCi engine.