Geneva Motor Show 2012• Ford’s latest compact MPV unveiled
• Unique construction does without B-pillar
• Will be available with the all-new 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine

Ford is looking to re-invent the family car with it’s innovative new B-Max compact MPV.

What is it?

The B-Max is Ford’s latest B-segment (think Fiesta sized) MPV. Despite the diminutive dimensions, it has the space and practicality of a larger family hatchback, thanks to sliding doors, no central pillar between the front and rear doors and front and rear seats which both fold flat, creating a load space 2.3 metres long.

What’s it like?

Clever. Chopping out the central pillar leaves one giant door aperture, making it easy for even tall adults to jump in the back. To get around the structural problem this creates, Ford used ultra-high strength Boron steel rods in the doors and around the front bumper and rear hatch to re-enforce the body shell. Ford are confident of the B-Max’s crash safety and are expecting a full five stars come Euro NCAP test time.

Those rear sliding doors aren’t the frustratingly slow electric efforts as previously seen on the Peugeot 1007. Instead they are manually operated, but are light enough for a child to operate, which means it’s probably just as well they incorporate a special hinge, which stops the door opening if the fuel filler cap is open.

The interior has a more premium feel than any other small Ford before it, and uses the same dashboard design as the current Focus. Expect to be able to spec a similar array of toys and safety equipment as those available on the Focus, as well as Ford’s new 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine, which delivers high fuel economy without completely neutering performance.

What’s it up against?

The B-Max’s main rival is the Vauxhall Meriva, which has rear-hinged back doors to aid getting children in and out. It can’t quite match the cleverness of the Ford’s interior packaging, however, and parked side by side, the cutting edge, almost Aston Martin Cygnet-like front end of the B-Max makes the Meriva look dated, despite it only being launched in 2010.

Going up a size, you could consider the Volkswagen Golf Plus, which is essentially an enlarged version of the regular Golf. It’s classy and practical, but lacks the design flair and the ultimate practicality of the B-Max.

When can I buy it?

Full price and specification details are due to be announced before the car arrives in UK showrooms in September.

By Daljinder Nagra

The cars of Geneva 2012:

Audi A3
Audi RS4 Avant
Ferrari F12berlinetta
Ford B-Max
Ford Fiesta ST
Ford Kuga
Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Lamborghini Aventador J
Land Rover DC100
Lexus RX 450h
Mercedes A Class
Nissan Invitation
Porsche Boxster
Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet
Volkswagen Polo BlueGT