Concept cars, while extremely popular, have their limitations when it comes to balancing design, safety and practicality. The big cabin and open sides have always been in vogue, but to get this feature means removing the B pillar. As well as dividing the front from the rear, this pillar serves as a stability and strength component, improving chassis performance and safety – especially during side-on collisions.
Not many manufacturers have been prepared to test this type of design in the market, with the Mazda RX8 being the clear exception. But design and safety clash with the RX8; for example the rear door can’t be opened until after the front door; that’s a safety feature which negates some of the more appealing design attributes of the RX8.
Ford has taken a new angle on the problem with its B-Max and seeks to combine safety and design without the limitations of concept cars like the RX8. Cheska Hull helped Ford preview the new design recently, which shows how serious Ford is at making an attraction of the B-Max. The Made in Chelsea star demonstrated the car’s accessibility as she glided in and out of the car with ease.
It’s expected most of the attention will be focused on the doors of the B-Max and the way in which the manufacturer has addressed the issues associated with removing the B pillar. Ford uses a unique system where all the doors can be opened independently, but the rear doors slide and protrude slightly past the bumper at the rear.
Engineering strength as well as design has been incorporated into the B-Max. This is one of the ways Ford has avoided some of the potential limitations in its design. Boron steel has been used in the outer regions of the door; the high-tensile strength doors effectively become part of the B pillar when closed and this is the key to this innovative feature.
Strengthening has been implemented elsewhere throughout the vehicle, with Boron steel having been used in the front of the car, giving added protection to passengers in the event of a front-on collision. With this type of engineering focused on strength and safety, Ford expects the B-Max to achieve a 5 star crash NCAP rating – the highest possible available.
Design-wise, the resulting spaciousness is sure to be the biggest talking point. Minus a B pillar, the room behind the front seats is impressive. For passengers and loading larger items in the back seats the extra room is a bonus and the seats fold down, giving even more room to an already large luggage compartment.
New technology is a feature with the B-Max, which is something Ford has focused on in the last few years and MyFord Touch technology is implemented in the car with some added extras. A LCD screen on the dash which plays videos, and is part of an integrated entertainment suite. Also included are safety components like a mobile phone, satellite navigation and internet facilities.
Fuel consumption gets a nod with the inclusion of the 1.0 litre EcoBoost turbocharged engine. This feature gives the B-Max the fuel efficiency of a smaller car but the acceleration normally associated with larger, more powerful vehicles.
Ford has designed the B-Max with a balance of safety, practicality and style in mind; from features like the proprietary door mechanism, through to safety items like the infusion of Boron steel and the high tech facilities. Due to be unveiled fully at the Mobile World Congress shortly, it’s bound to be one of the talking points.