Ford gave us a sneak peak of the B-Max at its second annual Go Further Africa event on Tuesday, ahead of the official launch, which took place at the Melrose Arch yesterday. I attended the launch and got to drive the car in Johannesburg’s lunch time traffic.
There’s been a lot of interest around this car already, and one being the unique sliding door design of the vehicle, but more about that later.
Ford says the B-Max has a “unique role” in its portfolio. The car enters a new segment, B-MAV (multi-activity vehicle), which they also say is 1% of the industry in South Africa. The car has been built from two existing models, the Fiesta (style and tech), and the EcoSport (true B-SUV capability).
So who is the car aimed at? Ford is targeting folks who want to downsize their vehicles (the empty nest 60 y/o), and those who’ve had a smaller car and want to upsize, so young families (with 1-2 kids). While I do not fit into these two categories, I was pleasantly surprised by the car itself; the drive, the interiors, the sliding doors and SYNC being standard. [Side note: SYNC is now in over 10 million vehicles].
I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about engines, but what you need to know is that it features Ford’s award-winning 1.0L EcoBoost engine (International engine of the year 2013 + 2014; best new engine; best fuel economy, etc; you can look here). All models – Ambiente, Trend, and Titanium come with SYNC as standard, which I’ve written about many times. (If there is any advice I can give someone purchasing a car in 2015 from a technology point of view, get a car that syncs to your smartphone!).
So yesterday’s lunch time drive route left Melrose Arch, along the M1 north, a loop around just after Midrand and back. As we were getting into the cars, a lot of people within the vicinity came to take a look and some showed interest (a guy mentioned to my driving partner Grant that he wants one for his wife!). I’m quite familiar with the Ford range of vehicles, having driven the Fusion, Fiesta, Fiesta ST, Focus, Focus ST, Ranger, EcoSport, Kuga, and of course, the Mustang (coming soon to South Africa – order books opened this week!), so getting into the B-Max had the same sense of familiarity.
The first thing you notice when driving the B-Max is how silent it is, and the drive was smooth. It has a nice leather steering wheel, which is comfortable. The seat belts are attached to the actual seats, which feels a bit unusual, due to the sliding door mechanism. Inside you will find a Sony audio system; a lot of buttons on the dashboard (but it shouldn’t be confusing as it has labels, ha); voice-activated SYNC system; keyless entry and drive; a rear view camera (this is nifty); a ‘child observation mirror’ where you would normally find a sunglasses holder; leather finishes on the inside (Titanium); an an arm rest for the driver. It also has a panoramic sunroof.
So the pillar-less door system is quite nifty, and a bit unusual. It takes a while to get used to. The doors slide open easily, and naturally, it has a child-lock function. When the doors are open, you have 1.5m of room to get in, load the car, etc. The seats can be folded in different ways (7 combinations), as well as fold flat, which gives it a 2.3m load length. Another pro would be kids getting out of narrow parking spaces without knocking the door into anything.
The B-Max is packed with smart technology (synonymous with Ford) like: 8-speaker Sony audio system; Ford MyKey function (lets parents set speed limits for kids + other safety features); keyless entry and power start button; rear view camera (parking sensors for the front and back – see pic above); and auto stop start, cruise control & electronic temperature control. Goes without saying that SYNC uses Bluetooth and is voice activated; inputs include aux and USB and what I love is that there are *two* cigarette lighters, meaning more options for USB adaptors (charge all the devices!).
After driving the B-Max, and taking into consideration who the target market is, my advice is that if you’re a family with 1-2 kids, you should test drive the B-Max first before deciding what car you actually want. It may change your mind!
1.0L EcoBoost Ambiente (74kW) – R221 900
1.0L EcoBoost Trend (92kW) – R246 900
1.0L EcoBoost Titanium (92kW) – R271 900
If you any more technical info, visit a Ford dealership.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com