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.

Ford C-MAX EnergiNow 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.

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid

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.

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid

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.

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid

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.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid 12Bluetooth and iPod integration are standard.  In the deep center console there are two USB ports and an SD card slot for your tunes.

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.

Open Sesame

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.

2013 Ford C-Max HybridWhat’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.  

8 Comments

  1. Facepalm says:

    Good review, Tom!
    After hearing how Ford hasn’t been providing press vehicles such as the Escape and Fusion, it was a real pleasant surprise to see the C-Max as the latest review from you.

    Regarding the MPG subject, it seems like the “actual” number is closer to 40 than 47, but is that really a bad number? It’s off from the original number but it’s still pretty darn good considering things. I’m sure if the motor of the Prius V received a boost of over 50 HP it too would drop in efficiency. I’m not sure Ford’s hybrid system is any better than Toyota’s at this point; to me it sort of shows what happens when you give a hybrid powertrain enough HP to be fun, lol.

    Also, considering the versatility presented by the C-Max, it still offers superior fuel efficiency compared to its non-hybrid competitors. It might not return the MPG numbers as posted, but it’s still efficient nonetheless. I think some in the media (such as Consumer Reports) are being too critical of this issue.

    It’s unfortunate that this whole MPG controversy causes some people to believe that EVERY new Ford/Lincoln vehicle has “false MPG numbers,” when in reality it was only the hybrid powertrains in the C-Max, Fusion, and (presumably) Lincoln MKZ that had bloated numbers. But now haters think that the conventional powertrains are not as efficient as Ford says, even though tests have shown that they are…

  2. Jack in Jax says:

    Just one follow-up on the C-max fuel mileage…and for those of us looking at Hybrids, who isn’t interested in that. Tom experienced 38 ‘real world’ mpg around town and 42 on the highway. Those seem to be a bit lower than what others are seeing when doing their testing. One week-long tester ended up getting combined 41.5 mpg and his daily commutes include a 2,200′ mountain pass each way. (http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/) Another tester did much better, averaging 45 mpg combined and that was in/around hilly San Francisco. (http://reviews.cnet.com/coupe-hatchback/2013-ford-c-max/4505-10867_7-35426711.html)

    How much does this matter? In the wallet, not really very much. Perhaps it has more of a psychological impact when shoppers are struggling between the various Hybrid choices. The reality is that these varying mpg results probably reflect driver behavior differences more than anything else, which is something we probably all need to consider if we lust after a Hybrid because of its promised mileage.

    Jack

    • TV says:

      Thanks for the info and links Jack. FYI, I have talked with other writers who have wildly different experiences in C-Max. One writer who insists on driving it like a normal car says he’s getting in the low to mid 30s. Another says he’s averaging in the low 40s. An Autoblog editor I rode with at an event said theirs was getting in the high 30s, much like me. Like any review, I’m just putting my experience out there.

      As far as the CVT goes, I found it to be pretty good. If you hadn’t noticed, I like the driving dynamics of the Ford much better than Prius. Yes, it has some of the CVT characteristics when you really put your foot in it but that would be the case with almost all hybrids sold today. Hard to get past that unless you’re buying a Kia/Hyundai or the CR-Z manual box.

      And with that I have to say, if buyers are struggling about which hybrid to buy, I would suggest a little soul searching. Is a couple MPGs more really worth a lesser driving experience for years and years? Even if the Prius got a couple MPGs higher (which I’m not convinced it does), you have to figure in what a better looking interior and more composed performance is worth to you. Only the person writing the big check can make that call.

  3. Jack in Jax says:

    Tom, forgot to ask in the above post: How rubber-bandy did you find the CVT transmission in this car? When approaching a short hill or coming to an increased speed zone, is it responsive to normal driving inputs…or must one abuse that accelerator (kick it in the butt) to make it see the road it’s on? Thanks again.

    Jack

  4. Jack in Jax says:

    Very nice review, Tom…and it was great that Ford & your local contacts were able to produce a C-Max so soon after launch on your home turf. IMO it is quite a unique product, which makes a timely review especially appreciated. ‘Escape on a Focus platform, plus electrons’ is a good summation…but we found it’s one of those cars that you have to sit in to fully appreciate from an interior perspective. Fit, finish, ergonomics were all excellent. (This is as opposed to the Prius and V, where the longer we sat and explored outside, the less impressed we became. Or the Ford Escort, which is on our ‘final candidates’ list but feels more laterally cramped and vertically claustrophobic than our 2002 Civic EX).

    For mx5er, hopefully Tom won’t object that I suggest you view this video review of the Energi. That reviewer’s gig includes always climbing into the trunk and closing the lid, a very poor alternative to the TP test. You’ll get a good feel for that (smaller) trunk capacity.
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/

    Jack

    • TV says:

      Links are fine, I’m about information not walling off the site.

      I found the CVT to be very good (and really, you don’t have much of an option since only the less efficient Hyundai/Kia hybrids have traditional gearboxes if I remember correctly). I did occasionally notice a slight bit of high engine revs before it would settle down when the throttle gets applied at normal pressure. It’s in the background though and the overall dynamic of Ford’s hybrid system is very refined.

      I’m seeing a lot of these in Seattle (where we LOVE our hybrids). There are two in my neighborhood already. A Ford press release says that in its first full month of sales the C-Max Hybrid outsold Toyota Prius v, 3,182 units to 2,769. 70 percent of the buyers are new to Ford. It would seem they have a winner on their hands.

  5. jabv02 says:

    hi tom

    im about to change my car (2011 focus st) for an SUV, not because i wan to, but because i need to, im 23 years old and, i´ll start my own business, so… my question is, what SUV might fit my lifestyle.

    something practical but with a engine not so slow.

    i hope u understand my dilemma hahahaha

  6. mx5er says:

    How do you figure out your mpg figures? Just off the car’s trip computer or your own calculation? I calculate by first reset trip odometer, also reset trip computer, then fill tank (stop at first click). Then drive around as usual. Then the next time I fill up (stop at first click), note how many gallons purchased off the pump. Then divide by the miles from the trip odometer by the amount of gallons from the pump. Then compare to the car’s trip computer. In my case, I find that the car’s trip computer is optimistic by a couple of mpg’s compared to my own calculations.

    BTW, I’ve seen pictures of the cargo area of the Energi and wow. Have you seen it in person and if so is the Engeri’s cargo area considerably smaller than the Hybrid’s?