2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid HD Video Review
Five years ago, Americans who knew what Ford sold in Europe were an envious bunch. Fortunately for us, Allan Mulally left Boeing and set Ford straight by putting the kibosh on creating separate vehicles for the two markets. Come on, the 747 was good enough to sell worldwide, why not a Focus? And while our Fusion gets the Mondeo name across the Atlantic, and Escape goes by Kuga, the vehicles are now much the same. We will pine away no more.
Now Ford’s offering a bonus vehicle to us yanks, the C-Max. It’s a popular multi-purpose vehicle available with gas and diesel engines. Looking like the offspring of a Focus and Escape (if cars could do that kind of thing), it’s basically a chubby hatchback. If it means something to you, it’s screwed together in Michigan.
In the US though, C-Max is strictly sold with hybrid powertrains. Yes, two of them. There’s the plug-in model called Energi, and the model that I’m driving, cleverly named C-Max hybrid. This gives Ford a dedicated hybrid model to market. That’s important because of one particular car in their crosshairs- the Toyota Prius v (the big one if you’re not up on that kind of thing).
C-Max is eight inches shorter, but two inches wider and higher. Both seat five, we are denied the seven passenger version of both. The passenger space of the Ford is about the same size as the Toyota, C-Max comes up short when it comes to cargo space, though eight bundles of Kirkland Signature bath tissue is a decent score in the TP Trunk Test.
Racing for Green Slips
Even though it’s 260 pounds heavier, C-Max wins the drag race handily. 0-60 spools up in 8.5 seconds, almost two seconds faster than the Toyota but don’t get cocky and race a CTS-V for pinks. This power advantage is courtesy of a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 118- horse electric motor buried deep down in the engine bay. Total horsepower is 188 (no I haven’t done my math wrong). That’s over 50 more ponies than Prius. The lithium-ion battery mounted in the cargo area is some 25 percent smaller than a nickel-metal-hydride pack. Much lighter too.
C-Max Hybrid acts like most hybrids. The battery is charged when coasting and breaking. While stopped the engine usually shuts down. Normally it scoots off on electric power alone and the gas engine kicks in when more power is needed. Ford says C-Max can cruise for short distances solely on electric power at up to 62 miles an hour when the battery is well charged.
What Everyone Wants to Know
C-Max hybrid is EPA rated at 47 mpg for both city and highway. Real world fuel economy? I specially ran a number of driving routes to test it. In city driving the trip computer says 38 miles per gallon using a pretty light throttle foot. If I really feather the gas and brake pedals I can manage 43 along with annoying just about everyone on the road. At a steady 60-65 MPH on the highway I get 42. Overall I estimate a 40-mpg average. That’s about the same or a little better than Prius v, but not 47.
Ford’s better power-to-weight ratio eliminates engine strain during acceleration and on steep hills making C-Max more composed. The higher ride height and lots of glass offer good visibility. Up against the Prius v, I highly prefer the driving dynamics of C-Max. It’s European roots shine with cornering that’s more buttoned down and a more substantial feeling chassis structure. The brake pedal feels good, steering is nicely weighted, but road feel is minimal. The suspension is dialed in toward comfort, right where it should be. C-Max is on the quiet side when it comes to wind and road noise, so you can hear the kids arguing more clearly. Oh joy.
The Inside Story
Inside you’ll find great looking plastics that feel good too. The space is a class higher than Prius, maybe two. Doors close with a solid ”thunk”, switch gear is smooth, and seven airbags protect. A cluster of seams on top of the instrument looks busy and the roof liner is a little flimsy near the console, but Ford has installed a high quality cabin. There are lots of places to stash things right down to a nook between the driver’s seat and door panel. The firm seat cushions are on the short side, the bun warmers can be set to roast.
The gauge cluster is configurable on both sides of the speedometer. A coach provides graphics to critique your driving efficiency. Drive economically and you’ll get more leaves on the LCD screen. Voice commands are handled by Ford’s Sync system though it’s no Siri. It’s improved over the years but there seem to be too many specfic commands to learn to make it effortless. There has been grumbling about the MyFordTouch interface. Personally, I find the color-coded system pretty easy to use and many of the controls such as the dual-zone climate control are redundant. Get lost in the system and just hit the home button.
C-Max is going to see a lot of family duty, as long as you’re not the parents of Kevin Durrant you won’t hear much complaining from back seat passengers. Headroom is generous with a good amount of knee, leg, and foot room for an average adult. Again, the cushion is a little short but everything else is great with adjustable air vents and door pockets. There’s even a couple small compartments in the floor (which is nice and flat BTW). A household 110v outlet is handy for charging electronics.
Chances are you’ve seen the ad for the trick tailgate. With the keyless ignition fob in pocket or purse, wave your foot under the bumper and the hatch opens. Great for times when your hands are full of groceries or children. The battery takes up a little space (the floor seems raised a couple inches) and there’s no spare tire. Folding the split back seat is easy using the levers on the side, but can’t be done from the back.
What’s all this going to cost a family? The base C-Max stickers for 26 grand with destination and has everything you need. The well-equipped SEL model in the video goes for $30,690. Know that the price can rise with a self-parking feature and panoramic glass roof.
It’s easy to see why C-Max is so popular in Europe. Certainly, Toyota has the advantage when it comes to marketing the hybrid lifestyle. But shoppers that can get past that will find C-Max offers an upgraded experience nearly across the board. If you’re looking for family friendly fuel efficiency, put C-Max on the test drive list.
ALL STILL IMAGES PROVIDED BY FORD. TOM SHOOTS THE MOVING ONES.