Every year the auto show circuit is packed with concept cars (usually crossovers and minivans) that do away with the B-pillar to tease us with easy access and a wide aperture to the cabin. It's what Ford's European exterior design director Stefan Lamm calls "a designer's dream". But none of them ever make it into production. That is, until now.

Ford first showed off a compact MPV concept called the B-Max at the Geneva Motor Show last year that, like many others, did without a B-pillar altogether. Earlier this month, the Blue Oval automaker announced it was putting the Fiesta-based minivan into production – and that the pillar would stay out. But this is the first image we've received of the production B-Max with its wide-opening doors actually, you know...open.

The combined aperture of the conventional front-hinged doors and sliding rear doors, unencumbered by the pillar you'd usually expect to find there, comes in at a whopping 1.5 meters (nearly five feet) wide – nearly twice that of the Opel Meriva with its innovative rear "suicide" doors – and is made possible by strategic use of high-strength steel incorporated into the doors.

Follow the jump for the full press release and stay tuned for the vehicle's debut at the upcoming Geneva show. While we might hope for the Easy Door Access System to find its way into Ford's American offerings in the near future, we wouldn't expect to find the B-Max you see here in U.S. showrooms any time soon.
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NEW FORD B-MAX'S EASY ACCESS DOOR SYSTEM IS 'CAR DESIGNER'S DREAM' COME TO LIFE

- B-MAX's ingenious hinged front doors and sliding rear doors integrate the central body pillars, providing unrivalled access for passengers and luggage
- Game-changing solution is culmination of intensive collaboration between designers and engineers to transform a tentative first sketch into a fundamental feature of the production-ready B-MAX
- Easy Door Access System makes loading bulky items, or helping children in and out of the car in tight spaces, a breeze, as well as delivering excellent crash protection

BRENTWOOD, Essex, Feb. 10, 2012 – Ford has unveiled a unique door system that brings unrivalled ease-of-access to the all-new B-MAX.

Ford's Easy Access Door System integrates the central body pillars into the doors of its multi-activity vehicle to create 1.5-metre wide unobstructed openings on either side of the car and reduce everyday motoring stress.

Most rear door openings provide around half that space. The Opel Meriva's rear-hinged rear door offers maximum access less than 0.7 metres wide.

"Door systems like this have been a designer's dream for many years," said Stefan Lamm, exterior design director, Ford of Europe. "We have taken the concept from an idea on a designer's sketch pad, to a stylish and versatile product on the showroom floor."

"We set ourselves the challenge of re-imagining the small car," he added. "People are struggling with the spatial challenges of city driving and we wanted to find a new solution."

In developing the concept, a team spent several days observing drivers in their daily routine to understand exactly what customers really wanted in a compact car.

Engineers then took on the challenge of producing a safe and practical vehicle which would meet those needs. They moved the high-strength body-structure from the central body pillars and integrated it directly into the doors to ensure excellent crash protection, particularly in the event of a side impact.

Special ultra-high-strength steels, which provide up to five times the strength of conventional mild steel, were used in key parts of the body and doors to create an extremely strong and stiff structure without adding extra weight.

The process involved intense testing and analysis at every stage. More than 1,000 detailed computer simulations were conducted over three years to optimize side impact crash performance; each simulation taking 24 hours to complete and using the equivalent computer-power of eight high-end PCs. These simulations were then tested in the real world through a further 50 physical side impact crashes.

"We engineered the body to keep all the benefits of the new door concept, while making the structure strong, stiff and light," said Darren Palmer, Product Development Quality Director, Ford of Europe. "Creating a strong, stable body is great for handling. The B-MAX is just as stiff as the latest Fiesta, and will be just as fun to drive too."

The B-MAX interior is packed with features which take maximum advantage of the Easy Access Door System. The rear seats and the front passenger seat can be folded flat to create a large, convenient load platform, to accommodate everything from bicycles to flat-pack furniture.

"The door concept means you can load really large items, more than 2.3 meters long, through the side doors," said Ernst Reim, Chief Interior Designer, Ford of Europe. "This makes a trip to the furniture store, or even a day at the beach with your surfboard, more realistic."

The All-New Ford B-MAX will debut at Geneva next month and go on sale in Europe later in the year.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 33 Comments
      Pedro Soto
      • 3 Years Ago
      That's basically the car that I want. Something larger than a Honda Fit, but not an ugly-ass minivan, and with a manual transmission! Seriously ford, there totally is a market for the B-Max here in the states.
        Rotation
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Pedro Soto
        Mazda has been selling the 5 here for years. You can even get it with a stick.
          rolle
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Except is has 3 rows of seat (huh? it's on a subcompact FCOL, not a bus!) - That's just DUMB. The seats take all the room. It doesn't have the cool doors like the Ford, and it's got a low power engine, so no fun there at all. Meh.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      홍경석
      • 3 Years Ago
      어랏?! 레이 출동!!!!
        dukeisduke
        • 3 Years Ago
        @홍경석
        Whatever you said there in Korean, you made your point.
      snap_understeer_ftw
      • 3 Years Ago
      AHEM....Honda Element, Mazda RX8............ yup, cars like that never make it to production.....I admit the RX8 is not a crossover et al. but the Element should be close to that mark
      Dwight Bynum Jr.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wait a second. Isn't this the exact same kind of door opening (the actually opening in the vehicle's structure, not the door opening function) that General Motors said they were having a hard time implementing safely while keeping it cost effective with the GMC Granite concept?!
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dwight Bynum Jr.
        [blocked]
          Dwight Bynum Jr.
          • 3 Years Ago
          No ****, Sherlock. My point was that it obviously wasn't THAT difficult, and shouldn't have been for ANY of the Big 3.
      Timothy Tibbetts
      • 3 Years Ago
      Cars are getting smaller and people are getting larger. I am curious to see what happens at a 30 MPH in reality, not simulation. If it works, I expect to see many more of these but I cant see how removing that pillar retains its safety but I am no engineer.
        rjstanford
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Timothy Tibbetts
        The strong roof support pillar is still there; its just built into the door rather than anchored. I wouldn't recommend that you try rolling your minivan with the doors wide open with this design... otherwise, though, you're fine.
      throwback
      • 3 Years Ago
      This type of rear door makes sense on a small mpv. Citroen has a small car that has one slider only on each side, the 107 I think it is. very clever. I would buy this in a heartbeat especially if I could get it with a 1.6 turbo.
        Leather Bear
        • 3 Years Ago
        @throwback
        Peugeot 107 / Citroen C1 / Toyota Aygo are city car clones that have conventional doors. You're thinking of the Peugeot 1007 city car (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peugeot_1007) that was sold in Europe from 2004-2009. The 1007 had a single slider on each side, but it never caught on because it was heavy for it's size and looked a bit odd (even for the French!).
      Maxximtl
      • 3 Years Ago
      This makes so much more sense than the ridiculous gullwing doors on the Tesla X.
      Dan-O
      • 3 Years Ago
      As stated earlier in the thread, Nissan did this nearly 30 years ago (albeit on a slightly larger scale...) with the Nissan Prairie:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Prairie#First_generation_.28series_M10_1982.E2.80.931988.29 That car was sold here as the Stanza wagon, and the second generation was known in the US marked at the Nissan Axxess.
        Dan-O
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan-O
        oops... typo: make that 'as the Nissan Axxess."
      BipDBo
      • 3 Years Ago
      All the nifty styling of a minivan, but without that bothersome third row
      finbred
      • 3 Years Ago
      Nifty. But look at that little gap between the front seat and back door. The rear passengers can't just turn to the side and get out, they have to lean forward and probably use their hands. In that respect the Meriva is better. And I believe we humans – most of us, anyway - have the intelligence to manage to get out of one in an orderly fashion, even when in a cramped parking space...
      Audidodee
      • 3 Years Ago
      Big deal. The Nissan Stanza wagon had the same doors in the mid '80s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXpWhu2CQxI
        Pedro Soto
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Audidodee
        I think that the big deal is that this is done while maintaining modern side impact protection. Man, that Stanza Wagon is a blast from the past. Definitely one of the odder looking vehicles ever made.
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