MANY of us will do almost anything for an easy life and when it comes to the cut and thrust of modern motoring then the easier life is, the better it gets.
It helps if the car you drive is also interesting and there’s no doubting the Ford B-MAX is just that. It’s tall, not too wide, and handles and rides well thanks to Ford’s prowess in developing cars that owners want to enjoy.
But the beauty of the B-MAX is that it’s so accessible. Its trick is the door combination. The front doors are hinged, the rear doors slide backwards and when they are open at the same time the car reveals its secret – a total lack of pillars in the middle of each side.
It creates an opening that’s 1.5 metres wide, perfect if you want to load long items, especially as the front passenger seat folds flat to create a great platform once the rear seats are folded, too, in an operation that involves pulling a single handle for each seat.
But to make the most of this as an easy car to live with, adding Ford’s Powershift automated gearbox to the 105 PS 1.6 litre petrol engine creates the perfect combination.
It’s very difficult to make a small automatic with smooth gearshifts because the car’s low weight doesn’t overcome the jerkiness that can result when a torque converter is involved.
The clever thing about Powershift is that essentially it’s a manual gearbox where the labour-intensive bits of swapping ratios, dipping the clutch and moving the lever, are done by electronics.
The result is that ratios change imperceptibly because the system also employs two clutches, each working with a different gear set. When once change is made, the electronic brain anticipates what will happen next and prepares for it. When the change is needed it’s virtually undetectable most of the time. Powershift literally delivers power to your elbow, but your elbow doesn’t have to do a thing to exploit it!
Automatics were always seen as a disadvantage because their torque converters sapped energy, making the car noticeably slower and more thirsty.
Powershift also eliminates this twin problem. The 1.6 litre test car, in Zetec trim with just the spare wheel, city pack, and metallic paint options selected, was returning 41 mpg with ease, even though much of the mileage was urban. That’s a great result for a five seat car with a roomy body, but one that’s also cleverly designed to minimise the road space it occupies.
The seat height makes the car straightforward to get into for those who don’t want to bend to reach their seats. You can literally slide into any of the seats from a standing position and, of course, the huge door opening makes this even easier. Loading the shopping or children in a crowded car park is also easier because the sliding doors don’t bang against the car in the neighbouring space.
It’s difficult to think of a car that gives better access for wheelchair users. Add a swivel front seat and possibly a wheelchair hoist, and this car is the answer they’ve been seeking.
Everyone will find its current financial accessibility is good news, too. Edwards Ford in Salisbury, who loaned us the test car, have a good stock of B-MAX with Ford’s scrappage scheme incentive shaving up to £3,500 off list prices until the end of 2017. Ford is also renowned for its 0% interest rate finance deals to bring ongoing savings and help control motoring costs.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Ford B-MAX 1.6 Powershift
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 12.1 secs
Top speed: 112 mph
Bhp: 105 @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 110.7 lb ft @ 4200 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 44.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 149 g/km
Best bits: superbly accessible