A very few years ago, the possibility of a high-volume, five-seat, compact MPV powered by a 1.0-L three-cylinder gasoline engine cruising a public road at indicated speeds between 160 and 200 km/h (99 and 124 mph) would have been risible.
But that is precisely what Ford’s new Fiesta-based B-Max demonstrated (legally) to this AEI editor on an autobahn near Munich. And it did so with a degree of chassis control (ride, handling, steering, braking) that comfortably matched its velocity potential. A torque-vectoring control system is standard.
Acceleration times with this little turbocharged, direct-injection EcoBoost engine in 88-kW (118-hp) form include 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 11.2 s and 50-100 km/h (31-62 mph) in 9.7 s. The engine responds strongly throughout the rev range when cruising quickly. Curb mass is 1279 kg (2820 lb).
Although its performance in 1.0-L form (with Bosch turbocharger) is remarkable, the more overt distinguishing features of the B-Max’s technology center on its novel lack of fixed B-pillars and its sliding rear doors, which provide “mobile” pillars when latched and abutting the front doors to complete the system. It has been previously fully described by AEI together with side impact capability (see http://www.sae.org/mags/aei/10996). Ford is expecting to achieve a EuroNCAP five-star rating for the B-Max by the end of this year.
Packaging and occupant accessibility are plainly central to the car’s design, which has taken four years to develop, but it is the many other facets of technology that combine with those two aspects that make the B-Max an unusually convincing solution. The model is also the first European Ford to offer the company’s Sync voice-control system.
Nick Collins, Ford’s Germany-based Global Vehicle Line Director for Small Cars, believes the B-Max to have achieved the highest overall quality of any small Ford to date. “It sets a benchmark for us as we move forward. It is a very contemporary design with exceptional packing—and use of that packaging. The interior offers great configuration flexibility, yet the B-Max, based on the Fiesta B-car platform, sits within a small shadow area, with a length of 4077 mm and width of 2067 mm with mirrors.” Height is 1604 mm (63.1 in).
Fully opened, each side door provides a 1.5-m (4.9-ft) aperture. The front passenger seat folds flat to complement the one-step folding operation of the 40/60 split rears to give a 2.34-m (7.68-ft) load length.
The front seats, with their integrated belts, are unique to the B-Max. The dashboard design is also different to that of the Fiesta. It uses a new upgraded Visteon air-conditioning system.
Suspension includes MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. Electric power assisted steering is used, tuned for lighter input at low speeds.
The bodyshell uses 58% high- and ultrahigh-strength steels.
Built in Germany and Romania, the B-Max is—initially at least—to be sold only in Europe alongside its larger C-Max and S-Max siblings.
Collins explained that the B-Max will be available with both four-cylinder gasoline and four-cylinder diesel engines of 1.4 to 1.6 L . He revealed that a new 1.5-L diesel would eventually replace the established 1.4-L and 1.6-L diesels. Precise capacity is 1498 cm³, giving it a tax advantage in some countries that have a 1.5-L break point. The engine is available for the B-Max producing 55 kW (74 hp) to give a combined fuel consumption of 4.1 L/100 km. The car’s curb mass is 1307 kg (2881 lb).
Unlike the Focus, available with a six-speed manual gearbox, the B-Max only gets a five-speed (Durashift iB5) manual, although a six-speed PowerShift dry-twin-clutch unit is available on the 1.6-L gasoline Duratec version). Collins says the five-speed is sufficient, though at 188-km/h (117-mph) Vmax, the 1.0-L 88-kW engine is revving at 5133 rpm—a little high for the extra km/h achieved by this AEI editor.
“All of our technologies have to be balanced to what the customer wants.” That includes the right price, he said. “We can’t just throw technology at it if the price then becomes too high. So it has a five-speed gearbox, which meets customer needs for this type of car.”
Also available in 74-kW (99-hp) form, maximum power is achieved at 6000 rpm. Both achieve maximum torque of 170 N·m (125 lb·ft), but the more powerful unit reaches 200 N·m (148 lb·ft) with transient overboost.
At 587 kN·m/rad (433,000 lb·ft/rad), torsional rigidity slightly exceeds the Fiesta's 580 (428,000).
Depending on the version, the B-Max has a mass up to 234 kg (516 lb) more than a Fiesta.
Cd is an unexceptional 0.324. The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class, also a compact MPV but lower than the previous model, typically achieves a 0.26 Cd with a best of 0.24 for the Eco version.
The B-Max has benefited from some aspects of Ford’s developing project to achieve a complete virtual factory to simulate full assembly line production process, although Collins did not detail these.
“We have started work on our virtual factory project so that we will not have to go to the real assembly line to conduct tests or research possible plant upgrades,” said Jose Terrades, Simulations Engineer, Ford of Spain. The company’s Valencia plant is taking the lead in developing virtual factory environments, which could enable remote evaluations to be conducted from around the globe, according to Ford, with special projectors and polarizing motion-sensing glasses used to create 3D virtual manufacturing scenarios.
Ford is also increasing its use of augmented reality vehicles—again, 3D simulations to combine engineering data and scanned imagery of physical prototypes for efficient evaluation.