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Old 02-28-2011, 01:18 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Ford B-Max Concept















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Although boutique outfits and exotic cars tend to dominate the headlines at the annual Geneva auto show, there are always plenty of important debutants from mainstream manufacturers, too. Take this Ford B-Max concept. It is to Ford’s B-segment Fiesta what the C-Max is to the C-segment Focus and the S-Max is to the D-segment Mondeo: a tall, wagon/minivan blend based on a car platform that’s sure to be a huge hit with Europeans. (Go ahead and bet every last euro in your offshore bank account that this model will go into production.)
The new C-Max has been well-received, and Ford has decided to sell the seven-seat version in the United States; it will take on the Mazda 5 and effectively double the number of mini-minivans sold here. But Europe goes nuts for MPVs of all sizes—there are dozens of them on sale—and Ford needs to maintain an entry at this end of the market. Thus the company has scaled down the C-Max’s tall wagon formula to the B-Max’s 13-ish-foot length (it’s 12.6 inches shorter than the C-Max), thereby adding cargo and interior space without casting a significantly larger shadow than the Fiesta on which it’s based. The B-Max is just 4.3 inches longer—as well as 4.3 inches taller—than a Fiesta.
Perhaps the strongest evidence of Ford’s production intentions comes from the B-Max concept’s distinct paucity of show-car whiz-bang on the outside. With the exception of the B-pillarless aperture, the styling is utterly unsurprising—in a good way. Ford’s “Kinetic” styling works very well on small cars, and the B-Max is handsome. Its doors will make news: With the front doors swung open and the rears slid back, the B-Max presents a near five-foot-wide opening, a genuine boon to practicality and one that “has already been engineered for production.” Meeting side-impact safety standards is the greatest hurdle to putting pillarless designs in series models, but the B-Max features what Ford is calling the “integrated B-pillar” door concept. It includes structural reinforcements within each of the four doors, and they work with beefed-up door frames and other structural enhancements in the body to provide protection. Ford claims that the result is the same level of crashworthiness found in “other Ford products with a more conventional structure.”




While the B-Max concept’s exterior appears totally production-ready, the leather-lined black and bronze interior—complete with stitched-leather door and dash uppers and a floor of woven black leather with bronze highlights—is decidedly showy. The B-Max also features a panoramic glass roof, as well as Ford’s latest “HMI” (Human Machine Interface) that adds a six-inch touch-screen display above the mobile-phone-like bank of buttons as seen on the Fiesta.
Powering the B-Max concept is the tiniest of Ford’s new EcoBoost gasoline engines, a turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder with direct injection and auto start/stop. Ford did not disclose the little mill’s official output figures or any performance or fuel-economy estimates, claiming that the 1.0-liter is still being tweaked before it enters production.
Ford is calling the B-Max concept “an early preview of exciting innovations from Ford in the European small-car market.” In other words, this will be on the roads of Europe very soon. As for its American-market prospects, Ford says this vehicle was developed with only Europe in mind, so don’t expect to see it in showrooms here.
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