Through a slid­ing door to safety

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - Fred­eric Manby

FORD’S B-MAX is a neat re­work of the Fi­esta hatch­back. Its unique of­fer­ing is the slid­ing rear door at ei­ther side, com­bined with a pil­lar-less side.

The con­ven­tional front doors and the slid­ing rear doors op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently, with struc­tural re­in­force­ment to sup­port the roof in lieu of the ab­sent mid­dle roof pil­lar.

Why the bother? Well, it gives much wider ac­cess to the rear seats, which makes it eas­ier to po­si­tion a tod­dler in a child seat, while adults with limited agility will also get into the rear more eas­ily.

Lots of ex­tra me­tal went into the cabin sides – pay­ing off with the max­i­mum 5 star crash safety rat­ing from EuroNCAP. The body is not only heav­ier but taller than a Fi­esta, which gives it a slightly el­e­vated ride. While my mother found the rear seat ac­cess fine, she did comment on the slight “step up” nec­es­sary. Swings and round­abouts, as they say, and once in the back there is plenty of room for tall adults.

In 2002, Ford did a variation of an ear­lier Fi­esta, called the Fu­sion, on a stretched chas­sis. Since then we have had more fo­cused deriva­tions of Ford chas­sis, notably the S-MAX and, with slid­ing rear doors, the mid-size C-MAX sev­enseater.

Slid­ing doors have an­other ad­van­tage – they can be opened in tight spa­ces. They al­low load­ing of bulky items through the side and in the B-MAX the front pas­sen­ger seat can be folded away.

When I first met the B-MAX I won­dered whether the me­chan­i­cal latches which pro­trude from the bot­tom of the rear doors would snag on clothes. Af­ter a week of trial this has not been a prob­lem. You do en­ter the rear seat at a dif­fer­ent an­gle of swivel be­cause the back­rest is par­tially blink­ered by the ver­ti­cal edge of the door. Also, it takes more mus­cle to open and close th­ese doors than needed for hinged doors. This is ex­ac­er­bated when fac­ing up­hill, but is grav­ity as­sisted when point­ing down­hill. Again – swings and round­abouts, a plus here, a mi­nus there. Un­less the child locks are “on” they can be opened from the in­side on the move. True, the same ap­plies to a con­ven­tional rear door.

The big­gest “mi­nus” is the price. The B-MAX costs £3,000 more than a Fi­esta, so you have to need that unique body con­fig­u­ra­tion quite a lot. Prices start at around £13,000 for the 1.4 Stu­dio model. It is well-equipped but if you want air conditioning that’s an­other

The body is taller, which gives an el­e­vated ride. In the back there is plenty of room.

£700. The han­dling on swerves and bends does not match the Fi­esta. How­ever, keener driv­ers can spec­ify Eibach springs which tune and lower the sus­pen­sion.

My test model had ar­guably the pick of the petrol and diesel en­gines, the 99bhp ver­sion of Ford’s lovely one-litre three-cylin­der petrol turbo with five man­ual gears which punches above its ca­pac­ity in power and econ­omy. The of­fi­cial fig­ures are 55.4mpg, 119g/km CO2 and 0-62mph in 13.2 sec­onds. I was not able to check the real-life fuel con­sump­tion. The per­for­mance was smooth and quick enough, with a re­laxed feel at mo­tor­way speeds.

The mid-range Zetec pack in­cluded 15 inch al­loys, am­bi­ent mood light­ing in the front of the cabin, a wide an­gle mir­ror for watch­ing chil­dren in the rear seat, DAB au­dio, pow­ered one-touch win­dows. Ex­tras were a rear park­ing sen­sor and graphic, power fold­ing mir­rors and pri­vacy glass (£400 in to­tal). If you want a body colour other than race red or blazer blue, you pay ex­tra.

Ver­dict: Use­ful fam­ily car with added load­ing flex­i­bil­ity through slid­ing side doors.

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