IN SOME ways you could argue that it is a new variation on an old theme, but times and tastes change and it will be interesting to see how things play out.
What it is? It is the Easy Access Door System on the new Ford B-Max, which is a high riding hatchback. The car has hinged front doors and sliding rear doors which combine to give a yawning 1.5 metres entry and exit area on both sides of the vehicle when open.
You probably know the car from the TV advert in which a guy dives off the sky high diving board and passes through the open doors of the B-Max before hitting the water. All very imaginative and attention grabbing, and it gets you to take note of the name of the car.
A good starting point, even if some choose to remember it as the car with ‘those doors’.
Peugeot introduced a somewhat similar system on their 1007 years back, sliding side doors and so on. The idea didn’t score big in terms of sales on that car, but then the B-Max is a different proposition, with the idea more refined as you would expect with the passage of time.
The novel doors and the absence of a central B-pillar are, of course, important features of the B-Max. Ford also offer the company’s much lauded SYNC system on the B-Max.
SYNC is where things are at right now. It enables users to connect mobile phones and music players by Bluetooth or USB, make hands free telephone calls and control music and other functions by using voice commands.
Actually, it can automatically transfer contact information from a connected Bluetooth device to the vehicle and read text messages aloud from compatible phones connected using Bluetooth. And in the event of an accident the system will assist the occupants to call the local emergency services operator.
User friendly, in hi-tech and practical ways, that’s the B-Max.
You see, there is more to the B-Max story than the doors, but that issue will command most attention.
The clever design has integrated the central pillar into the leading edges of the front and rear doors where they come together. When they shut, they lock on to the body tightly and become part of the stiffness of the car. It must meet all demands, because the B-Max was awarded 5-stars for safety by Euro Ncap.
The front doors open normally. The rear ones slide back on concealed runners. The person who parks their car too close to yours no longer causes the annoyance they would were you in a normal four or five door vehicle.
It is a cinch to get into and out of the car, and likewise when affixing or removing a child seat in the cabin. Space. Space. Space. As a spacious 5-seater car the B-Max offers a 318 litres load area, but with the front passenger and rear seats folded down that swells to a gigantic 1,103 litres.
The seats are mounted high, and the seat belts are integrated into the seat backs in the absence of the B-pillar. One of my passengers didn’t know the story and reached back to grab the ’belt from the usual position just as the sliding door was closing.
It was an instinctive thing, and the person got a fright. Nothing happened. It was close, a timely warning shall we say.
My drive was in the easy breathing, strong pulling 1.5-litre Duratorq version. I couldn’t see your family driver in this sector requiring much more than this 75PS unit has to offer.
Just in case, there is a 1.6 Duratec (105PS). The 1.5 litre scores big on economy (in excess of 67mpg on the combined cycle) and with a 109g/km C02 figure it also helps the family buyer when it comes to road tax.
Prices begin at 21,600 Euro for the 1.0 litre Ecoboost petrol (100PS).
The B-Max is available in two versions, B-Max and B-Max Titanium. Features include air conditioning, ESP, central locking with two flip keys, intelligent protection system, 15” steel wheels, body coloured door mirrors and handles, leather trimmed steering wheel and one hand one motion fold flat rear seats.
The Titanium driven also offers 15” alloys, front fog lights, LED day time running lights, chrome window finisher, heated windscreen, child observation mirror and trip computer.
Ford B-Max Titanium 1.5 Duratorq TDCi 21,840 euro.
Engine: 75 PS, 190Nm torque.
Top speed: 157kph; 0 to 100kph in 16.5 seconds.
Consumption: 4.8l/100km (urban); 3.8 (extra urban); 4.1 (combined).
C02 emissions: 109g/km.
Annual road tax: 190 euro.