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Head to Head - Ford B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost Zetec vs. Vauxhall Meriva 1.4 T S

Ford B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost Zetec

Ford B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost Zetec

Price: £15,395

The Ford B-Max is something of a revelation. It has the same eye catching design as the latest generation Ford Focus in a bigger package, all of the same engines, yet it starts from just £12,995. The perfect small-sized family MPV? It has the potential to be that's for sure.

The model we're concentrating on today is the Ford B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost Zetec which costs £15,395. You get a decent amount of equipment as standard, including air conditioning, DAB radio, alloy wheels, front fog lights, and side and passenger air bags, which is enough for most families.

Under the bonnet is a 99 bhp and 123 lb/ft 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. This is the very same engine that has won several engineering awards and in the large B-Max it pulls surprisingly well, with more than enough low-end grunt and mid-range pull. 0 - 62 mph happens in 13.2 seconds, but it feels better than that, such is the responsiveness of the throttle and the crisp gearing, that's perfectly spaced to ensure you're almost always on boost. The only drawback to the drive is the lack of a sixth gear, which makes this B-Max a little noisy on the motorway.

Around town it's fantastic though. The steering is sharp and the suspension works well to absorb all uneven road surfaces. Because the engine up front weight so little, the B-Max is also really good fun to drive with all of the charm its smaller sibling, the Fiesta, benefits from.

It's efficient too. Annual tax costs just £30 and you can easily achieve 50 miles per gallon on the motorway - Ford says you can get up to 55.4 miles per gallon, but you'd have to be really careful to achieve that in my opinion. I recently tested this car and on a 200-mile round trip and I managed to achieve 48.8 miles per gallon.

That makes this B-Max way more efficient than the Meriva it goes up against today. It's also better equipped and in my opinion it looks better. Incredibly, it even costs less. In fact, you can get a 1.0-litre 125 EcoBoost engine in Titanium S/S trim for just £35 more than the Meriva 1.4 T or a 1.5 TDCI for almost £1,000 less.

The B-Max really is excellent value for money.

So what about practicality? Well, the B-Max has quite a small boot at 318-litres and extended this only stretches to 1,386-litres. The upside of this is plenty of space in the rear for children and plenty of space up front. Speaking of up front space, the B-Max has a much nicer interior than the Vauxhall, although neither are particularly inspiring or of a high quality. It does have to be said that the Vauxhall is more spacious, though.

Vauxhall Meriva 1.4 T S

Vauxhall Meriva 1.4 T S

Price: £17,150

You cannot buy a turbocharged petrol Meriva for anywhere near the same price as the B-Max, but this is the closest with a £1,755 premium. The only other petrol engine available for the same price as the B-Max EcoBoost is the 1.4i VVT, which is underpowered, boring, and not very efficient in a car of this size.

So, what's the Meriva like to drive? Well, it's dull. The reason being the gearing which is not short enough in first, second, or third, and not long enough in fourth of fifth. It means you need to change up at just the right time or else you drop below 1,500 rpm which is when the turbo spools up. The result of this is a car that is not as relaxing as it should be. Having said that, the Meriva does offer good steering feedback and it does hold the road well, with a well judged chassis that absorbs potholes and rough surfaces.

To that end, the Vauxhall Meriva as good as the B-Max, and it also shares the same responsiveness around town so long as you're in the right gear.

Plus, who really cares if a family MPV is a bit dull to drive? The B-Max might be a lot more playful and spritely, but the Meriva fights back with a much larger 400-litre boot and a greater level of space on the rear seats, something which will undoubtedly please families with fussy children.

The Meriva also holds its own at the pumps, although that extra 0.3-litres of engine capacity means it isn't quite as efficient. This Meriva will return 47.9 miles per gallon versus the Ford's 55.4 miles per gallon and it also sits in a much higher tax band, costing £130 annually versus the Ford's £30. That is something likely to sway many families toward the Ford.

S trim is third from bottom in the range, above Expression and Tech Line. Sadly it lacks air-con or curtain air bags, and luxuries like DAB are absent. Not so in the Ford which has air-con and DAB (yet it costs less).

Overall

The Ford B-Max is a better car than the Meriva. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine is more efficient than the 1.4-litre turbo unit in the Vauxhall and it also feels punchier, despite being down on capacity - this is a result of the gearing, which is better spaced in the Ford. Also, the Ford comes better equipped, despite costing more than £1,500 less, and I wasn't at all impressed with the interior quality of the Vauxhall.

All in all, if you are looking for a practical family car without the need for diesel, the B-Max 1.0 EcoBoost is the way to go. It's a much better all rounder than the Meriva. 

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