Ford is developing its B-Max mini-MPV for production in 2012, and we suspect this strange cut-n-shut Fiesta mule caught in America is part of the Blue Oval's new small car project.
Our spy shots captured this Fiesta test hack in Michigan. Its dimensions and track have clearly been played with, suggesting the engineers are honing Ford's B-platform architecture for use in a taller model such as the B-Max.
The first, computer-enhanced image in our scoop gallery shows the prototype alongside a Fiesta supermini for comparison purposes. The other images are undoctored.
Ford B-Max: the lowdown
The Blue Oval showed the B-Max concept car at the 2011 Geneva motor show last week, but it is in near-production trim. CAR understands the finished B-Max will be shown in early 2012 with UK sales beginning in summer 2012.
The most noteworthy features of the five-seater Ford B-Max are the lack of B -pillar and a pair of sliding doors - making for the largest door opening (1500mm) in the B-sector. The rear seats and front passenger pew fold flat, turning the B-Max into a minivan for manoeuvring family furniture.
Sure it's not a baby SUV?
That is possible, judging by the raised ride height of this test mule. And, yes, to more nit-picking readers - we know the finished car won't look anything like this cut-up Fiesta mule. This is a test car used by Ford engineers to monitor hardware, not design features.
We know the B-Max will be around 110mm longer than a five-door Fiesta supermini, but it will be taller too.
The B-Max business plan
The B-Max is a global car, as part of the One Ford plan, but will not be sold in the US as the States will major on the bigger C-Max and Grand C-Max. It's expected to be a major seller in Europe and Russia and will feature powertrains including Ford's new 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
The Ford Fusion continues on sale in the UK until the end of 2011, but will essentially be replaced by the B-Max. The Fusion isn't the white elephant you may expect; it has a small but consistent fanbase, with around 7000 sales every year - largely to the grey pound, we suspect.
Rival GM is tipped to be planning a rival B-MPV for sale in the US. It may feature the Meriva's suicide doors, and is likely to be badged GMC.