Opel Corsa 1,4T Sport

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Ian Mclaren Ian­m_­car­mag

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.

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