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Geneva show: Ford B-Max MPV not for Oz

Innovative: The Ford B-Max MPV has clever sliding rear doors that leave no exposed B-pillar when opened.

Ford reveals production-ready B-Max mini-MPV, complete with radical door layout

Ford logo2 Feb 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

FORD has released first official images of its production-ready, Fiesta-based B-Max people-mover – but do not expect to see it in Australia any time soon.

Ford Australia brand communication manager Neil McDonald told GoAuto that historically poor sales of small MPVs in our market meant the car was not under consideration here.

Mr McDonald also said that the forthcoming, similarly-sized EcoSport sub-compact SUV – due here around the middle of 2013 – would occupy a similar segment to the B-Max, and would be more suited to the tastes of the car-buying public.

The production-ready car will be unveiled by Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally at the Geneva motor show in March, a year on from the debut of the concept version at the same show in 2011.

Designed as a direct rival for the Opel Meriva and Citroen C3 Picasso, the mini-MPV will slot underneath the Blue Oval’s larger Focus-based C-Max in European showrooms.

Ford has stuck with the headline-grabbing twin rear sliding door system from the concept version, doing away with traditional B-pillars to help entry and egress for rear passengers.

27 center imageLeft: B-Max concept from the 2011 Geneva show.

The brand claims that bringing this radical door layout to production demanded a new approach to door construction.

Concerns surrounding such a design – chiefly side impact protection and production complexity – have been alleviated by the integration of the centre pillars into the doors, rather than the bodyshell.

Ford promises class-leading load space and a flexible seating arrangement, while the production model’s interior (as yet unseen) is said to include high quality materials “rarely found on an affordable compact car”.

While Ford has not revealed dimensions for the production version, the B-Max concept was 110mm longer and taller than the Fiesta five-door and 320mm shorter than the C-Max at just over four metres in length.

The engine line-up will include several small Duratorq TDCi diesels, as well as the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder direct injection EcoBoost petrol engine that is set to debut in the Focus small car in Europe and also feature in the EcoSport.

The tiny turbocharged engine produces 92kW and 170Nm of torque while consuming 4.8-litres of petrol per 100km.

The entry-level Opel Meriva retails in the UK (where it is badged as a Vauxhall) for around 500 less than the Astra small hatch, so it is likely the B-Max will have a similar differential to the Blue Oval’s Focus.

Ford Europe chairman and CEO Stephen Odell said the design and specification of the B-Max would help the car punch above its weight in the burgeoning small people-mover segment.

“The B-MAX combines an exciting, innovative design with features that only previously have been found in bigger cars,” he said.

“It’s a brand new car that responds to the needs of an increasing number of customers who want much more from their small cars.”

Sales of the B-Max are likely to start in Europe from the third quarter of this year.

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