Ford B-MAX (2012-2017) Review
The Ford B-Max is a superb small family car with a unique and clever ‘pillarless’ door set-up
Strengths & weaknesses
- Unique pillarless door system
- Generally low running costs
- Small and easy to drive
- Boxy design
- Owners report poor reliability
- Limited automatic availability
With a design that's focused on families, Ford's B-Max is one of the cleverest cars you can buy. That's mainly down to its ingenious door arrangement, which removes the permanent pillars that normally sit between the front and rear seats.
The resulting large side opening makes it far simpler to strap in car seats, and handle unruly children. The fact that the rear doors slide open too, means that the car's easy to access even in tight parking bays.
The durable interior has been designed to withstand family life, with durable plastics and tough upholstery: during testing, Ford soaked seat fabrics in milk and fizzy drinks, then scrubbed them repeatedly with velcro to ensure that the B-Max could handle life with a toddler. it's excellent value too, with two-year-old cars starting at less than £9,000.
You might think that these features alone should make it top of the list for any family, but the B-Max wasn't as successful as many expected, and is no longer on sale - largely down to its unpopular shape. It's a small people carrier that looks like a little minibus, at a time when families are opting for crossovers, which combine the mechanical parts from conventional cars with the rugged design of an off-roader: cars like the Volkswagen T-Roc, Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Ford's own EcoSport, which don't cost a great deal more on the used market than a B-Max. The Ford Fiesta Active offers some of the extra height in a more car-like shape.
None of these come close to the practicality of the Ford, which shines (almost) throughout, with a reasonably-sized 318 litre boot that expands to a vast 1,386-litre space which almost matches the larger Nissan Qashqai. The huge side door opening makes it a breeze to get large and bulky items into the back.
The B-Max uses the same mechanical parts as the previous-generation Ford Fiesta, so it's short and easy to manoeuvre. However, the extra height makes it reasonably spacious and it will seat five occupants without cutting off their blood supply, even if three adults in the back is a squeeze.
On the road, the B-Max has inherited some of the Fiesta’s agility when changing direction, though the extra weight means it isn’t quite as sharp on a twisty road. It’s great around town, though, with well judged suspension to soak up bumps and those compact dimensions that open up small parking spaces. Efficient petrol and diesel engines help to cut running costs.
When crash tested in 2012, the Ford B-Max scored a maximum five-star rating from the independent Euro NCAP organisation, which is a significant endorsement of the car's strength. However, it has not been put through the tougher tests that more modern cars must take and it lacks some advanced technology, such as blind spot warning. Automatic emergency braking was only optional.
From the driver's seat, you can't help but notice that the dashboard is from another era; the button-strewn layout was clearly designed before touchscreens became commonplace, and the result is cluttered controls, which can be fiddly to use when on the move. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which make it easy to control your phone apps, are not available. Reliability is also worse than more modern Fords, with owners reporting minor electrical issues and rattling interior panels.
The car is still head and shoulders ahead of other small people carriers, such as the Kia Venga, Hyundai ix20, Honda Jazz, Vauxhall Meriva, Nissan Note and Citroen C3 Picasso. But the fact that the last three of those cars have been discontinued without a direct replacement - like the B-Max - is further evidence that buyers prefer more style than the B-Max and its rivals can offer.
|Warranty||3 years / 60,000 miles|
|Boot size||318 litres|
|Tax||Free to £155 per year|
Best Ford B-MAX for...
Best for Economy – Ford B-Max 1.5 TDCi 95 Zetec
The sole diesel B-Max is the one to go for if you want maximum fuel economy and lowest CO2 emissions. The latter are low enough to be exempt from road tax, while careful driving should see you hit the claimed 74mpg fuel-economy figure. The 74 and 94bhp versions have identical fuel economy, so you may as well get the more powerful one.
Best for Families – Ford B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Titanium
Titanium is generally the best version of any Ford to go for if you want a good compromise between price and standard kit. On the B-Max, that means useful kit such as automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, DAB digital radio and cruise control to take some of the stress out of family motoring. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is a decent performer, too.
Best for Performance – Ford B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost 140 Zetec Red/Silver/White edition
In late 2015, Ford added a more powerful 138bhp version of its 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine to the B-Max range, available only in the special Zetec Red Edition, Zetec Silver Edition and Zetec White Edition models. It gets the car from 0-62mph in a little over 10 seconds and ensures strong acceleration when overtaking or pulling away from lights.
One to Avoid – Ford B-Max 1.4 Studio
The price is temptingly low, but we wouldn’t recommend the entry-level Ford B-Max. Its 1.4-litre petrol engine is outdated and inefficient compared to the EcoBoosts and the Studio trim level lacks the alloy wheels, heated windscreen and air-conditioning of the Zetec.
- April 2012 Fiesta-based Ford B-Max supermini-MPV goes on sale in UK
- December 2015 Powerful 140hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine added to range.
- January 2016 B-Max Zetec Colour Editions with unique red, white, or silver paint, tinted rear windows and a black painted front grille, go on sale for a limited time.
- April 2017 Sat-nav made standard with new Zetec Navigator, Titanium Navigator and Titanium X trims. 140hp 1.0 EcoBoost engine dropped from range.
- September 2017 Ford B-Max discontinued and no longer available new.
Understanding Ford B-MAX names
The petrol line-up comprises 1.4 and 1.6-litre non-turbos (the latter available only with an automatic gearbox), plus the 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo in several different power outputs. There’s one diesel – a 1.5-litre TDCi with 74 or 94bhp.
Trim Titanium X
Studio, Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X are the core trim levels – or versions – of the B-Max. Zetec Red, Zetec White and Zetec Black models arrived in 2015.
Ford’s Powershift automatic gearbox paired with a 1.6-litre petrol engine is offered on every trim level except Studio. All the other engines are manual-only.
Ford B-MAX Engines
Petrol: 1.4 90PS, 1.6 105PS, 1.0T EcoBoost 100PS, 1.0T EcoBoost 125PS Diesel: 1.5 TDCi 75PS, 1.5 TDCi 95PS
If you're looking to avoid diesel, then there are plenty of used petrol-powered B-Max models to choose from. These are also your best option.
More precisely, the petrol 1.0T EcoBoost engines are the pick of the range; their small size makes them fairly economical, while a turbocharger provides enough power to zip along, even when fully loaded. They are available with different levels of horsepower, which is written as PS.
You will need to rev the smallest 100hp (or 100PS) engine hard to keep up with traffic, which does affect your fuel economy, so the mid-range engine with 125hp is a better choice. It accelerates from 0-62mph two seconds faster, and also has stop-start technology, which switches the engine off when stopped in traffic and restarts it automatically when you set off again to save fuel. Pay little attention to the official 57.7mpg fuel economy figure; you should expect around 40mpg in real-world driving, according to the Equa Index of realistic fuel economy, which is based on public road testing.
The 140hp EcoBoost engine was available with the Colour special editions of the car. The combination makes for the fastest B-Max, but it's still not particularly quick, making the extra performance a bit unnecessary for most buyers.
The other petrols in the range are less efficient. The 1.4-litre was cheap but slow. The 1.6-litre engine had more merit because it was the only one available with an automatic gearbox.
Two diesels are available, both more suited to high-mileage motorway drivers than the petrols. Both have the same official 74.3mpg fuel economy figure and a real-world estimate of around 51mpg so there’s no need to put yourself through the misery of the 75hp version’s 15-second 0-62mph time – get the quicker 95hp one instead.
|Engine||Fuel||Official fuel economy||Power||Acceleration (0-62mph)||Top speed|
|1.0T EcoBoost 100PS||Petrol||55.4mpg||100hp||13.2sec||109mph|
|1.0T EcoBoost 125PS||Petrol||57.7mpg||125hp||10.9sec||117mph|
|1.0T EcoBoost 140PS||Petrol||56.5mpg||140hp||10.4sec||122mph|
|1.5 TDCi 75PS||Diesel||74.3mpg||75hp||15.1sec||98mph|
|1.5 TDCi 95PS||Diesel||74.3mpg||95hp||13sec||108mph|
Ford B-MAX Trims
Studio, Zetec Navigator, Zetec Red/White/Black, Titanium Navigator, Titanium X Navigator
Like other Fords, the B-Max has a rather basic Studio version to appeal to cash buyers and those on a tight budget. It’s not very appealing, though, with plastic wheel covers rather than alloy wheels, no air-conditioning and just a single lacklustre petrol engine on offer. They were so unpopular that they are extremely rare on the used market.
Zetec is a much better starting point, offering the full range of engines, 15in alloy wheels, a heated windscreen for fast demisting, power-operated door mirrors, air conditioning, Ford's temperamental SYNC voice-control system, Bluetooth for connecting your phone wirelessly and a USB port. It also added a second rear-view mirror that lets you keep an eye on children in the back.
The special Colour Edition versions of Zetec cars came with special red, white or silver paint, black 16in alloy wheels and a glossy black grille. In 2017, the trim was replaced with Zetec Navigator, which included sat-nav and a digital radio as standard.
Titanium cars have 16in alloy wheels and the glossy black grille, as well as automatic headlamps and wipers that switch on when required. A more sophisticated Sony stereo with digital radio, plus climate control, cruise control and a rear centre armrest are useful additions to the range. The 2017 Titanium Navigator trim added sat-nav to the list.
At the top of the B-Max range are Titanium X cars with part-leather seats that are heated in the front, keyless entry and start, as well as a panoramic sunroof. This was also replaced with a Titanium X Navigator trim in 2017 that included sat-nav. These cars were particularly expensive when new, so are rare on the used market.
Parking sensors, a reversing camera, automatic emergency braking and an alarm were all useful features that were only available as options, so won't be fitted to all (or many) cars.
Ford B-MAX Reliability and warranty
Modern Fords are average for reliability: the brand was ranked 13 out of 26 in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
However, buyers indicate that the B-Max itself doesn't quite reach that level, with rattles and minor electrical faults (such as faulty interior lights) reducing owner satisfaction.
Although the majority of complaints were minor, they were enough to push it to the lower part of the 2016 Driver Power survey where the B-Max was 130 out of 150 cars for reliability. Slow sales mean that it hasn't featured in subsequent polls.
Buy a nearly new car and you'll still be covered by the remainder of the 3 year new car warranty, which is limited to the first 60,000 miles. The large number of Ford dealerships should also mean that it's easy to get any problems fixed.
Used Ford B-MAX
Buyers of new Ford B-Max models saw the car lose a large chunk of value as soon as they drove it away - particularly higher-specification Titanium and Titanium X cars
This makes the more luxurious versions of the B-Max an excellent second-hand purchase: a 2015 petrol Titanium model is only around £500 more than an equivalent Zetec car, or around £5 extra per month on a representative finance agreement; the addition of cruise control and centre rear armrest could be worth the additional amount alone.
It's unlikely you'll want to pay extra for a Colour Edition car, which really only included cosmetic extras, such as unique paint and black alloy wheels. Far more desirable are the Navigation trim levels, added to Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X models in 2017. these have sat-nav as standard, which is useful considering the B-Max doesn't support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, so your phone's mapping app can't display directions on the in-car screen.