It scores on the doors

The evolutionary design updates of many cars tend to gloss over the vast changes taking place.

But take a look at the new Ford B-MAX and the car it replaces, the Fusion, and you'll instantly recognise the difference a decade makes in car technology.

It's not just the clever electronic bits, either. The B-MAX, Ford's fifth current MPV model, is radical with its combination of hinged front and sliding rear doors that do away with the need for a central pillar altogether.

It gives an unobstructed opening of 1.5 metres for superb access if you have bulky items to load or children to strap in. It's a real bonus in crowded car parks, too, as your kids (and you) will no longer be banging rear doors against the car parked alongside.

Ford has put a lot of thought into the B-MAX. Its footprint is barely altered from that of the Fusion, although it is significantly taller. However, advances in car suspension, and the fact that Ford already makes the best riding and handling family cars, bar none, means the B-MAX copes with its taller superstructure in a very competent way.

There's no alarming leaning or swaying as you take corners - the straight road ride is also great for a small car, too. It irons out most bumps and the thin seats, which help maximise interior space, are equally adept at providing comfy perches.

The B-MAX is only now arriving in Ford showrooms as the delivery build-up begins but with a starting price of £12,995 it has real appeal. To be honest, most people will want to raise their game and for them a 1.4 petrol Zetec at £15,160 is fantastic value - there are already offers to be had as well via your nearest Foray Motor Group showroom. The engine is peppy enough for this car and gave 44 mpg with ease during the test.

But the real trick of this car is the door layout, which reveals an opening that's 1.5 metres wide. Access should no longer be an issue for anyone and this car will appeal to young and old, able and less able, and any possible permutation of these.

Older people are going to appreciate sliding into the seats at hip height without having to heave tired legs round restrictive door pillars while parents will think they have entered a different world as they strap their kids in. I reckon that disabled users will soon be taking advantage of specialist adaptations as I can't think of a car that gives better access for wheelchair users. Add a swivel front seat and a roofbox wheelchair hoist, possibly with powered rear doors, and this car is the answer they've been seeking.

There are stacks of clever features. The rear seats fold with the flick of one control, the front passenger seat folds flat to accommodate seemingly impossible long loads, and the load area grows to 1386 litres with the seats folded to make this an extremely practical yet compact car.

The grandstand view of the passing countryside will keep kids happy just like we used to be without the need for in-car video. We might even see the revival in popularity of I-Spy books

Car: Ford B-MAX 1.4 Zetec

Does it fit your ego...

0-62 mph: 13.2 secs

Top speed: 106 mph

Bhp: 89 Torque: 94 lb ft

 

...and your wallet...

Price: £15,160

Combined: 47.1 mpg

CO2 emissions:139 g/km

Insurance Group: 8

 Best bits: flexible; affordable; family-focused.