This morning we strode through the door of Holborn Studios (in Angel – nowhere near Holborn) to see the new Ford B-Max, a car that has been designed to outdo and out-door the Vauxhall Meriva in every conceivable way.
The car was first seen raised on a plinth in the middle of the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. It looked good raised on high, thankfully it's rather fine on eye-level too.
After a quick opportunity to inspect the car we were grouped together to hear what the designers and the Director of Product Development Quality had to say about Ford's latest.
This is where, as is the way with these things, it's easy to get lost. Designers speak in rather different terms to types like you and me, but with some light translation it's clear that they think the car is akin to a work of art. A work of art that fits a small family and its stuff in it. Practical art, then.
David Woodhouse, designer and natty jacket wearer, created the exterior look. He explained that the windows are an engineered piece of sculpture and the car's lack of B-Pillar offers a welcoming entry to the Meriva's nemesis. He also told us that the lack of B-pillar meant you had to think about the design of bits that aren't usually seen.
He's also, rightfully, proud of the fact you can see all the way through the car with all the doors open. It's very impressive feat.
Erika Tsubaki talked us through the interior and all the inspirations that were used to create it. Essentially the team wanted to create a comfy, spacious environment that felt as fitted as a tailored suit. A bold statement, but after a quick sit in the back its plain to see that the team almost (it is a mass production car after all) nailed it.
One thing didn't ring true, though – she claimed the centre console was "not overloaded". It's
well designed but it's also coated in buttons; to the uninitiated it can be very confusing. If you don't believe me look at the Ford Fiesta, Focus and C-Max's consoles and see for yourself.
After the design team had explained their sides of the B-Max story it was Darren Palmer's go to tell us what Ford did to make the B-Max as good as possible for the customer.
Everything, he explained, is simple to use and easy to access. Folding the seats flat is easy as pie, the air con is smarter because more people will need to use it more of the time and the road noise levels are reduced by extra padding in its doors.
The best bit, though, was his explanation of how Ford got round the small 'no B-Pillar' issue. The company used Ultra High Strength Boron Steel in various weak spots around the car to stiffen it up. It's stiffer than a Fiesta now. Impressive stuff.
Talking over, it was time to have more of a prod and a poke. The doors are ideal if you're a town driver because you can slink out of the vehicle if you're in tight spaces or parked next to a wall. It'll also stop children from swinging their doors three inches into the car next door's offside passenger portal.
We weren't treated to a view of the production vehicle – we saw the concept. The real car has been seen in pictures and will be formally unveiled at the Geneva show next month.