The Ford B-Max, like the S-Max before it, enters our MPV rankings right at the top.

Those innovative doors and missing pillars may look like gimmicks, but they really do improve access to the car in many everyday circumstances – not just when you’re in a tight parking space.

The B-Max is a cut above the class for driver engagement

Fitting a child seat into the nearside back seat and driving with the front passenger seatback folded would be a particularly convenient way to transport young children, for example. The body structure also gives you options for loading and unloading bulky items that you don't get even in big estate cars.

The innovative packaging on show here proves that making the biggest car in the class isn’t the only route to making the most practical, and because they’ve been delivered on a car that is no heavier than the class average, they represent the kind of innovative thinking the car industry needs in the 21st century.

We have one or two problems in the detail of the way in which Ford has executed its 'pillarless sliding doors' concept, but they could easily be addressed as part of a mid-cycle refresh on the car - and we hope they are.

Ford has also proven, again, that it can do ‘MPV’ without compromising on its unique selling point: a distinguishing sporting drive. Aided by an engine that lands a telling blow for petrol in a battle dominated by diesels over the past two decades, the B-Max brings dynamic spice to a class where space has been the be-all and end-all.

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At the same time, the B-Max's headline diesel engine is also strong and economical - and in that respect, Ford must be congratulated for doing a thorough, belt-and-braces job.

Even without the innovative body design, the B-Max's driving experience might have been enough to make it our mini-MPV class champ; as it is, the credit to Ford should be all the greater.