First Look: Ford B-Max

Showing that a minivan can never be too small, Ford has unveiled it's Fiesta-based B-Max people mover in Geneva just ahead of the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

The B-Max's pillarless construction, combined with the twin sliding doors a la the Mazda5, offers an opening that's nearly 5-feet wide when the traditional front doors are open and the rear doors are slid fully back. That's around twice the size offered by the competition according to Ford, making it easier to strap-in child seats and load full-size adults to get to the back row without convoluted gymnastics. And the best part is, the pillarless design is production ready -- it's clear Ford intends to use it.

The B-Max is built off the same chassis as the Fiesta. It's about 4-inches longer than the Fiesta hatchback and a foot shorter than its C-Max crossover, which is on its way to the U.S. For is aiming the B-Max at the urban dweller who finds the S-Max too large but who still wants similar interior space and packaging.

"With the B-Max we set out to create a vehicle that captures the spirit of a smaller S-Max," Martin Smith, Ford of Europe's Executive Design Director, said in a statement. "We wanted to show that a small car could be very spacious and practical inside, while still having the sleek, dynamic appearance that has made the S-Max so popular." Ford states that the B-Max can swallow objects nearly 8-feet long when the front passenger seat and the 60/40 split rear row seats are folded down. Finally, with over four inches of headroom compared to the Fiesta, drivers get a more commanding view of the road.

Exterior-wise, the B-Max more than apes its larger sibling, especially with the doors closed. Check out the wraparound tailgate glass, tail lamps, and 18-inch wheels. Ford also brightened up the front fascia and its five bright horizontal bars (ala the "Gillette" grille). Inside, the B-Max closely resembles its siblings with the curvaceous instrument panel and cluster, six-inch touch screen, and cellphone-inspired steering wheel controls. The panoramic glass roof adds to the already spacious feel of the interior.

The B-Max shown at Geneva is powered by a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. Introduced last year at the Beijing Auto Show, Ford says the new engine may eventually replace its inline-four offerings. The automaker provided no performance numbers for the engine, which apparently is still undergoing testing. The three-banger EcoBoost is coupled with a six-speed automatic in the B-Max.

With the C-Max already on the way to the U.S. and Ford indicating that the B-Max is a European model, we doubt we'll see B-Max anytime soon, if at all. But it's remotely possible, especially given the Fiesta's strong start in America.

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