Opel Corsa 1,4T Sport
CONSIDERING the relative popularity enjoyed by the Fiestabased Ecosport SUV in our market, it’s easy to understand Ford Motor Company of South Africa’s enthusiasm in introducing another, arguably more practical, member of its Bsegment family to the local fold.
Based of the same platform as the Ecosport, the upright B-max provides both a raised driving position and improved versatility over its crossover sibling thanks to the inclusion of sliding rear-passenger doors and the somewhat surprising absence of B-pillars.
Opened independently, both the conventional front doors and rail-sliding passenger doors feature specific reinforcement, as well as an innovative latch system, to adequately compensate for the lack of traditional B-pillars. In their absence, and with both doors opened, users are afforded unrestricted access to the rear bench, which makes it easy to secure baby seats or buckle-up toddlers. An easyto-operate folding-seat system (including a 60:40-split rear backrest and flat-folding front passenger backrest) offers convenience should large parcels require transporting.
The B-max assumes its role as a member of the extended Fiesta family with welcome familiarity to the instrumentation and switchgear. That said, this vehicle has already been available in Europe for three years, which means a midlife facelift and the introduction of newer technologies, including a touchscreen infotainment system, can’t be that far away.
Sharing underpinnings with the Fiesta, the B-max boasts a similarly accomplished ride and despite its taller (by 109 mm) stance, remains impressively composed in corners. The steering, meanwhile, is pleasantly light, making the
Ford’s new light MPV has a unique way of showing-off both its Fiesta-based charm and versatility
B-max easy to manoeuvre in an urban environment.
At launch, the light MPV is offered exclusively with the manufacturer’s proven (and award-winning) 1,0 Ecoboost engine, mated with a five-speed manual transmission. Kept on the boil via a lightweight, easyto-modulate clutch, it’s a drivetrain combination that is more than capable of keeping up with traffic at highway speeds while delivering punchy performance around town. Despite a near 200 kg mass penalty over the Fiesta, Ford claims a 5,1-litre/ 100 km combined fuel consumption for the heftier B-max.
Available in entry-level Ambiente, mid-spec Trend and top-ofthe-range Titanium specification, all models are nevertheless fitted with ABS, ESP stability control, hill-hold assist, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and a total of seven airbags.
Titanium models feature keyless access, a multifunction steering wheel, climate control, full leather trim and heated front seats. These models are distinguished by the fitment of 15-inch alloy wheels (as on Trend spec), a panoramic sunroof, tinted rear windows and LED daytimerunning lights.
While the B-max’s unique door configuration (and absence of Bpillars) is likely to offer welcome convenience to long-suffering parents trying to gather the clan within the confines of modern shopping centre parking areas, there are potential downsides to this arrangement. For starters, with no way of locking the rear doors in their open position, care needs to be taken (particularly when the vehicle is parked on a slope) that they aren’t inadvertently drawn shut onto small fingers. Also, given the average age and attention span of the little ones most likely to access the B-max’s rear seats, instructions (via a small sticker on the lower slider mechanism) not to stand on the door hinge are as likely to fall on deaf ears as they are to shortening the optimal working lifespan of said door. But that’s a slight criticism.
Ultimately, based as it is on the highly accomplished Fiesta, the B-max offers a similarly feisty character and loads of charm, backed up with solid engineering and, of course, a drivetrain that continues to defy the odds in terms of performance (and relative efficiency).
While only the similarly quirky Opel Meriva offers the B-max like-for-like competition, based on the popularity of the most rugged member of Ford’s B-car family, the Ecosport, I wonder whether the sway of sliding doors and an invisible B-pillar is enough to tempt the majority of buyers away from the perceived pros of an SUV lifestyle.
THIS PAGE, FROM TOP: the absence of B-pillars allows for unhindered access to rear passengers; Fiesta-based facia due to be updated; the B-max is 109 mm taller than Fiesta; sharp handling characteristics mimic those of its hatch sibling. OPPOSITE: sliding rear doors are most convenient in tight parking spots.