FORD'S smart B-MAX MPV is based on its sibling Fiesta - the UK's most popular car.
The clever B-MAX is nearly as much fun to drive as its sister hatchback but it offers a whole lot more space and versatility.
The B-MAX replaced the unloved boxy Fusion and it has a distinctive design that does away with the traditional pillar between front and back doors. This allows wide open access from the front hinged doors to the rear sliders - making it a very practical car for young families or those with an active lifestyle.
The model range is available with a variety of trims and engines and I have just been driving the second top Titanium version in the Silver edition spec combined with Ford's award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine.
It may have only three-cylinders but the little engine is always willing and never struggles even in this small MPV. The 999cc power plant delivers its power smoothly and efficiently and never has any problem keeping up with traffic or cruising at motorway speeds. It is combined with a nice five-speed gearbox with well chosen ratios.
Capable of 122mph this model can reach 62mph in a respectable 10.3 seconds and delivers excellent fuel economy. The engine makes a nice sound and if you use the gears properly you can make good journey times in town or out on the open road.
The B-MAX is much more than just a fancy set of doors. It drives better than most of its rivals and the easy access is an additional bonus.
The car's raised height means it is not as attractive as a Fiesta but it still cuts a dash thanks to Ford's Kinetic Design and it makes others in the same class look a bit dull.
The cabin is pretty much all Fiesta but that is no bad thing and the dashboard and controls are stylish and easy to read and use if getting a bit dated. As there is no door pillar the front seatbelts have been cleverly built in to the front seats and the cabin offers bags of space.
With plenty grip on offer the B-MAX has good handling and refinement and the steering is sharp and responsive and much better than you would expect from a small MPV. The little engine gives out a nice happy note and as a result the car feels more fun than some of the opposition.
On the safety front the B-MAX again scores well with stability and traction control fitted as standard, plenty of airbags and strenghtening in the frame, floor and roof of the car to make up for the missing central pillars. Visibility is good and the higher driving position offers an excellent view from behind the wheel.
Despite its fairly compact dimensions the B-MAX is superbly practical thanks largely to the sliding doors which mean it is so much easier to get in and out of and to use the available space.
The boot offers over 300 litres of space and there is a false floor to hide valuables or it can be dropped to free more space. You can also increase luggage space by folding the rear seats to provide a long flat load area.
B-MAX prices start at just under £15,345 and can be had with a choice of diesel or petrol engines and in four trim levels.
The model I drove had a huge range of equipment and all the latest safety features.
In addition it came with the £450 convenience pack that added keyless entry and start, a navigation system with DAB and Ford Sync at £400, a city pack with parking sensors and electric heated and foldable door mirrors for £300 and active city stop at £200.
This took the final price of this £17,595 model to £18,954.