Multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) are popular with families for a reason – they offer more space and practicality than the hatchbacks on which they’re based.
Among Ford’s MPV offerings are the B-Max and C-Max. The B-Max is based on the Fiesta platform, while the C-Max takes its underpinnings from the Focus. To the untrained eye, there might not be a lot of difference between the two (the B-Max is on the left in all our comparison images), so we’ve put them head-to-head to see which one would be the best choice for you.
Both cars look good, although a recent mid-life update has given the C-Max a more modern look than the B-Max. From a lot of angles they reflect the cars they’re based on – looking at the front it’s obvious the B-Max has taken its cues from the Fiesta. The headlights are more rounded than those on the C-Max and it has what you’d call a cheeky look.
The C-Max’s re-style though, has had the opposite effect – a smaller grille and more angular, jagged lights give it a more serious demeanour. There are more differences side-on, too. The B-Max gets sliding rear doors while the basic C-Max makes do with traditional ones – you’ll need a seven-seat Grand C-Max if you want them.
As to be expected, there are similarities inside too. Both provide five comfortable seats and come with a good standard specification. If it’s storage space you want though, the C-Max will come out on top – it has plenty of clever cubby holes and a cavernous glove-box for all your stuff.
The cars’ dashboard layouts are very similar. The C-Max will come with a few more toys though, such as a DAB digital radio with a touchscreen to control it. Ford’s build quality has improved greatly in recent years and the B-Max’s interior is no exception. On this front it’s way ahead of Citroen’s rival, the C3 Picasso.
Although quite run-of-the-mill, both interiors make up for it with the use of quality materials throughout combined with decent build quality. They feel like they’re built to last – something that’s important in a family car.
The B-Max and C-Max get a good range of petrol and diesel engines that are economical yet punchy enough to provide a bit of entertainment. For running around town, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine would be the choice for both cars. Despite being ‘just’ a 1.0-litre engine, this unit is more refined than the 1.4-litre petrol offered in the B-Max and achieves an admirable 57.7mpg.
For motorway miles though, the diesels available in the C-Max would be the best bet – the most power comes from the 1.5-litre engine that produces 148hp and gets to 62mph in under 10 seconds. It’ll still manage over 60mpg, although this is slightly less than some of its rivals like the Citroen C4 Picasso.
The B-Max’s handling is on par with the smaller Fiesta. This is a very good thing, because it means you get the practicality of an MPV while still having an engaging driving experience. It works well with the 1.0 Ecoboost engine – nippy enough for the school run, but happy on the open road too.
The C-Max uses the 1.0-litre engine just as well, with its 123hp making for a great drive. If anything the handling and agility of the C-Max is a step up from the B-Max, even if these aren’t qualities you’d normally associate with an MPV. The engines best suited to motorways though are the diesels. They all provide excellent overtaking power in the C-Max, while returning decent fuel economy too.
Both cars are more fun to drive than any other MPV, but the good thing is that they ride comfortably too – neither will jolt you out of your seat over bumps.
This is the biggest consideration when you’re deciding between these two cars. Unless you plump for the bigger seven-seater Grand C-Max, they both come with five seats and have similar interior dimensions. They aren’t without their own plus points though.
The B-Max’s rear sliding doors are more than a gimmick – it means there’s no central pillar between the front and rear doors. As a result, passenger access is fantastic. It’ll be particularly useful if you’re often lugging child seats in and out the car and means you can get into the tightest of parking spaces without worrying about scratching the paint. There’s also ample boot space of 318 litres that’ll be made bigger if you take out the false boot floor.
The five-seat C-Max doesn’t get the rear sliding doors, but there’s over 100 litres more boot space than in the B-Max. The back seats are also three-way adjustable or you can remove them completely if needed. There’s more rear passenger space than its smaller sibling too – three adults can comfortably get in the back, whereas it’d be more of a squeeze for the Fiesta-based B-Max.
Which one should I buy?
This isn’t an easy question. Both cars come with great engines, are good fun to drive, economical and both have their own practical plus-points. It is made even harder when you look at our calculated, aggregated review wowscores for them – both get an average score of 8.5 from the UK’s motoring critics. That’s very impressive, and means they’re among the best family cars you can buy.
However, if you don’t need the seven seats of the Grand C-Max, it’s hard to justify the price difference between the B-Max and five-door C-Max. Priced from £13,095, the B-max comes in £5,000 cheaper than the C-Max, and those sliding doors will make life easy. If you want the more contemporary looking car though, it’ll have to be the C-Max, but it’s up to you whether the looks warrant the extra price.
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