By on December 14, 2012

Up till now there hasn’t been a “real” Prius alternative on the market. Sure Honda has the Civic and Insight, but their real-world MPGs can’t hold a candle to the green-car poster child and Honda’s IMA hybrid system is far from smooth and refined. The Volt is more of a novelty with its lofty price tag and the last time we tested one we revealed a lowly 32MPG average when running gasoline only. This brings us to the blue oval. Despite Ford using essentially the same technology as Toyota for their hybrid systems, Ford resisted creating a dedicated hybrid model. Until now. Meet the 47MPG 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid. Of course we’ve all heard the news that the C-MAX doesn’t hit 47MPG, so click-through the jump to find out what we averaged and whether or not that should matter to you.

 YouTube Preview Image

Exterior

What Ford didn’t do was create a futuristic wedge-shaped car on a dedicated platform crafted from light-weight ultra-eco-friendly materials in an attempt to create the most efficient car in America. Disappointed? Don’t be, because the benefits may just outweigh the drawbacks. Instead Ford took the existing (since 2011) Focus-based C-Max from Europe, stuffed Ford’s most powerful hybrid drivetrain under the Euro sheetmetal and slapped some wide (for a hybrid) tires on what might just be the first hybrid hot hatch.

Speaking of that sheetmetal, the C-MAX strikes an interesting pose on American roads looking like the product of crossbreeding a Focus and a Windstar. The resulting hatchback has a tall greenhouse, tall roof-line and some crossover styling cues no doubt to confuse entice the suburban set. Measuring in at 173 inches long, the C-MAX is 2 inches longer than the Focus hatchback on which it is based, but 3 inches shorter than a Prius and 8 inches shorter than a Prius V.

Of course none of this really explains the strange “C-MAX” name. Yes, that’s what it’s called in Europe, but why? Still, it’s no stranger than “Prius” and whatever you think of its name, the C-MAX is considerably more attractive than Toyota’s bulbous hybrid wagon.

Interior

The C-MAX doesn’t just look like a wannabe crossover on the outside, it does on the inside as well. There’s a reason for this. Instead of sharing heavily with the Focus hatch as you might assume, the C-MAX shares parts and interior styling with the 2013 Escape. The only major style change to the dash is a unique instrument cluster similar with twin 4.2-inch LCDs like the Fusion hybrid. Unlike the Prius, you won’t find any thin, hard, weight saving plastics in the cabin. There are no blue-tinted transparent button arrays, no shifter joystick and no center-mounted disco dash either. Instead you will find a premium cabin that would pass muster in any $30,000 vehicle and looks notably more premium than the Lexus CT 200h. The Prius on the other hand is full of plastics and fabrics more at home in a $16,000 econo-box.

The C-MAX seats can be had in your choice of charcoal or a “greyish” tan fabric or leather but regardless of your choice, the majority of the interior is black-on-black. The overly black theme is both very European (in a good way) and a bit cold (in a bad way) for my tastes. Front seat comfort is good thanks to a relatively upright seating position, wide seat cushions and a good range of motion when you get the power driver’s seat. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel made finding a comfortable driving position quick and easy. The upright seating is what allows the C-MAX to have Prius matching rear leg room, an improvement of three inches over the Focus hatchback’s more reclined thrones.

The rear seats are a bit close to the floor for adult passengers but are the right height for most children and young teens. Despite looking tall and narrow, the C-MAX is more than three inches wider than the Prius and this allows three to sit abreast in the rear in greater comfort. The rear seat backs fold completely flat with the 24.5 cubic foot cargo area. Because the C-MAX wasn’t designed as a hybrid from the start, the battery pack occupies all the spare tire space in the C-MAX as well as a few inches on the cargo area floor. The reduced cargo space is a few cubes larger than the Prius liftback but smaller than the Prius V. Despite the cargo hauling reduction vs the European gasoline-only model, the C-MAX easily swallowed four roller bags with room to spare.

Infotainment

Like the Android vs iPhone debate, “infotainment systems” spark fierce debate. No system other than iDrive has received as much bad press, fan-boy rave reviews and healthy imitation as the strangely named “MyFord Touch.” (Really, what was wrong with SYNC?) The system (optional on SE, standard on SEL trim) combines your climate, entertainment, telephone and navigation chores into one integrated system that looks snazzy and responds via voice commands to your every whim. When it landed in 2010 it became obvious the software was rushed to market complete with more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Still, the system is still unique in the market for allowing you to voice command just about everything from your destination to your temperature and what Madonna track you want to listen to from your iPod.

The C-MAX benefits from a major software update released in March of 2012 (for all Ford products) to make the system more responsive. While the system never had a melt-down during my testing (a first for MFT), the slowness the system is known for persists. Like most MFT equipped vehicles, the C-MAX teams a snazzy in-dash touchscreen with twin 4.2-inch LCDs on either side of the speedometer. Perhaps a first for a hybrid vehicle, you won’t find a single screen on the main MFT screen that displays hybrid system information. No animated screen with a battery/motor/engine scree, no wacky driving hints, no fuel economy charts. Aside from the efficiency leaves that replace the climate option on the right-side 4.2-inch LCD and the intuitive kW gauge on the left LCD, there is nothing to identify the C-MAX as a trendy gasoline/electric people mover, and I think I like the move. Despite the system’s obviously flaws, MFT is far slicker and user-friendly than the Prius or Volt’s infotainment options.

Is Ford’s transmission a Toyota transmission?

The short answer is no. Long before Ford produced a hybrid vehicle, Ford and Toyota put out plenty of prototypes and concept cars. Both companies recognized the similarities of their competing hybrid designs and geared up for lawsuits. (Both designed shared plenty of cues from a TRW system from the 1960s.) Ford and Toyota did something rare in our litigious society, they settled and cross-licensed each-others technologies but (and most importantly) NOT their specific designs. Ford continued developing the Escape Hybrid solo and Toyota went on their way with Hybrid Synergy Drive. Some confusion was caused by Ford choosing Aisin build their hybrid transaxle for the Escape and Fusion hybrids because they didn’t have the capacity or expertise internally. Fast forward to 2012. Ford decided that in order to reduce costs and drive hybrid sales (for some CAFE credits of course) they had to take the design and manufacturing of hybrid systems in-house.  This means that Ford’s hybrid system’s level of vertical integration is vastly similar to Toyota.

Drivetrain

Under the stubby hood of the C-MAX you’ll find Ford’s completely redesigned hybrid system with a downsized 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine good for 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist. This is down slightly from the old 155HP 2.5L engine in the old Fusion and Escape hybrids, but considerably higher than the Prius’s 98HP mill. In order to achieve the 188 system horsepower (11 more than the old Ford system and 54 more than the Prius) and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb-ft of twist, Ford put a hefty 118HP motor/generator into their in-house designed HF35 hybrid transaxle. If you want to know more about how the Ford and Toyota Hybrid systems work, click here.

Beneath the cargo area in the C-MAX sits a 1.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The lithium battery chemistry allows the hybrid system to charge and discharge the pack at rates higher than the old nickle based battery pack (used in the Escape and the Prius). This new battery allows the C-MAX to drive electric only up to 62MPH vs the 34MPH of the Prius. In addition, the C-MAX doesn’t need you to be as gentle on the throttle as the Prius or the older Ford hybrids.

Oh that fuel economy

Fuel economy is a tricky business because your driving style and topography are the biggest factors involved. I would caution readers to never compare my numbers with other publications because the driving conditions and styles are different. The 2012 Prius, when driven gently on my commute, (120 miles round trip with a 2,200ft mountain pass) averaged 46-47MPG which is fairly close to its 51/48/50 EPA rating (City/Highway/Combined). The C-MAX on the other hand averaged 41.5 during our 568 miles of testing and the lowest one-way figure on my daily commute was 39MPG. Sound good so far? There’s a problem, even on a level freeway at 65MPH the C-MAX struggled to get better than 45MPG in 60 degree weather. The Prius in the same situation averaged 50MPG. The Prius V suffered a similar shortfall in my week of testing coming in four MPG below its EPA combined 42MPG rating. We need to put these numbers in perspective. Driving 15,0000 miles a year with gas at $4 a gallon the C-MAX would cost $144 a year more to operate than a Prius and $148 less than a Prius V.

On the road

There are a few reasons the C-MAX fails to meet Ford’s fuel economy claims. The first is the portly 3,600lb curb weight, the second is the wide 225/50R17 tires which have a 23% larger contact patch than the Prius’ 195/65R15 rubber. On the flip side, the wide low-profile rubber pays real dividends when the road bends and the heavy curb weight helps the C-MAX to feel lass “crashy” than a Prius over broken pavement. Coupled with a Focus derived suspension, the tires help the C-MAX set a new benchmark for hybrid handling easily besting the CT 200h. While the electric power steering robs the hybrid hatch of 99% of its road feel, it still manages to be more engaging than a Prius. Admittedly not a hard thing to do.

Stomp on the C-MAX’s accelerator pedal and something surprising (for a hybrid) happens: acceleration. If the road surface is right you’ll even get some one-wheel-peel. Despite weighing a whopping 600lbs more than a Prius, the C-MAX sprints to 60MPH 2 seconds faster posting a solid 7 second run to highway speeds. I’d like to compare it to the Prius V and  Lexus CT 200h, but I gave up after 9.5 seconds. This makes the C-MAX as fast as the Focus ST and faster than a Volkswagen GTI.

In addition to being more powerful, the C-MAX’s hybrid system is capable of operating in EV mode at higher speeds and in a broader range of conditions than the Prius. While it doesn’t seem to help the C-MAX hit its advertised 47/47/47 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) it is a novelty that entertained drivers and passengers alike. Thanks to a more powerful motor, faster discharging battery, and aggressive software, it’s possible to accelerate up to40 MPH in EV mode without pissing off the cars behind you. Doing so brings the C-MAX’s other selling point to light: Ford’s sound deadening measures are extensive and make the C-MAX the quietest hybrid this side of the insane LS 600hL.

Ford has wisely priced the C-MAX aggressively starting at $25,200 and there’s already a Ford $1,000 cash back offer dropping the price to the same as the 2013 Prius’ MSRP and $2,450 cheaper than a Prius V. The up-level SEL model which comes standard with leather, heated seats, rain sensing wipers, backup sensors, ambient lighting, keyless entry/go for $28,200. Should you desire some plug-in love, the Energi model will set you back $32,950. The deal gets even better when you consider the C-MAX has more standard equipment and features and options unavailable in the Prius at any price.

The week after Ford lent me the C-MAX hybrid Consumer Reports’ “bombshell” about the C-MAX’s fuel economy numbers dropped. But does it matter? Is a 41MPG C-MAX a failure? No, and here’s why. The only measurable way the Prius is better than the C-MAX is real world fuel economy where the Prius will save you a few Grants a year. In every other way the C-MAX is superior to the Prius and even the Lexus CT 200h. Does this compensate for the “lackluster” fuel economy? It does in my book. If you’re willing to spend $144 a year in higher fuel costs for a more entertaining ride, this Ford’s for you. The C-Max isn’t just a shot across Toyota’s bow, it’s the first honest-to-goodness competitor on the market. Better yet, it’s not a me-too Prius, it’s a unique and compelling alternative.

Ford provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.9 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.55 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 41.5MPG over 625 Miles

 

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82 Comments on “Review: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid (Video)...”


  • avatar
    Robstar

    Wasn’t this originally rumored to seat 6 or 7 and then came with 5 seats?

    This REALLY could have been a unique vehicle — almost 40mpg mixed with 6-7 passengers.

    I was excited about it until I heard it was only coming to the US with 5 seats.

    So close Ford, so close!

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Ford was going to bring the Grand C-Max as a 6/7 passenger, but not as a hybrid

    • 0 avatar
      Augie the Argie

      It was such a let down from Ford not to have offered the gas 7 seater version and instead will offer us a disguised commercial vehicle where the 3rd row looks very unsafe, whereby the seat almost hit the back doors. I know I will be keeping my Mazda 5 until the Kodo derived iteration comes out. Ciao Ford……

      • 0 avatar

        I sat in a Transit Connect today. The third row is only close to the rear door if you slide it all the way back AND recline it. When the seat was all the way back I had a few inches between my knees and the second-row seat back, so it’s not necessary to slide it all the way back unless you have a very tall person back there.

        The third-row seat’s still not very comfortable, but this is because it’s very low, to enable a totally flat floor when all the seats are folded. If not for this goal it could be a few inches higher, as I had about half a foot of air over my head. Tons of headroom in all rows, and far more total interior space than in the Mazda5, much less the 7-pass C-Max (which Ford did decide was too tight inside for American tastes).

        I think many people will be surprised by the amount of space inside the Transit Connect. The big question will be whether they’re willing to consider a van at all.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I just bought a Sienna to replace my Escape. The Escape was cheap and practical and solved a kid-hauling need I had much better than my Ranger, and I can recommend the Escape on that basis. But the thing wasn’t really competitive woth our Prius for our purposes – it had roughly the same amount of room as our Prius (we’re short and limber), the Escape’s driving is unrefined (compared to the Prius), and gets half of the MPGs. Plus i got tired of explaining that I’m not “SUV People”, and that I only drove the Escape because I’m a cheap bastard who found a deal.

        The Sienna solves all of these problems except for the MPG (which is almost exactly the same as the Escape). And, in Eschange for the non-Prius-like MPGs, we get comfort and family-friendly practicality that matter in our situation.

        The Escape will go to my mother to replace the F150 that has served it’s purpose. She’s done with the part of her retirement project that required a truck, and now a more compact AWD vehicle with Subaru-class offroad capabilities that she can use for camping, colorado winters, and visiting the grandkids would be ideal. She’s worried about cost and MPG, but you can buy a lot of gas at 24MPG when you get a nearly free car from a family member who takes pride in maintenence.

        Anyone want an F-150.that was literally owned by a little old grandmother?

    • 0 avatar
      Augie the Argie

      Thanks Mike for always sharing your valuable insight. What I do like about a car dedicated to moving people is that the 3rd row stands elevated compared to the middle row. Also I wonder whether the TC suspension would be tuned to the requirements of carrying people. IMHO Ford need not to gamble so much with the TC passenger version and bring the slightly larger Galaxy or S-Max to these shores.

  • avatar
    WRohrl

    Sounds great. I’ll bet we will start seeing a lot of these in Taxi fleets as well.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Wow Ford actually did OK. The lie was goofy, they botched the marketing. You compare this to a CR-V or Mazda5, 40MPG all around begins to look really appealing, ESPECIALLY with the performance it delivers.

    They need to downsize this powertrain and throw it in a Fiesta. A 2800lb Fiesta would be a ~20% weight reduction… a similar horsepower reduction and more careful aerodynamics could easily yield good power and the mid 40s MPGs that make for such good ad copy. They might have undermined their credibility though.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I’m obsessed with 50 mpg highway on my next vehicle. The advertised 47 mpg of the C Max could have been close enough. However, 40-41 mpg is too low considering a four banger with manual will get that. Hell, my 04 Saturn Ion 5 speed manual does 36-37 on the highway, and it is way lower tech.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      50 mpg on the highway will take serious reengineering. Sophisticated aerodynamics and a very small frontal area.

      Then again, there’s always motorcycles… I get 40 MPG on mine, pretty much all city riding.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Felix – you shouldn’t be fixated on MPGs much above 40. The MPG scale is not linear and the gains you get from moving from 20 to 30 MPG are much greater than moving from 40 to 50 MPG. As Alex mentions in his video review, the incremental gains from 40 MPG upward don’t really add to much in the way of savings. How much the vehicle will cost to service and maintain is probably way more financially relevant questions once you have hit 40 MPGs.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        He does have a point. Free tip: divide 235.264 by the US mpg to get the Euro liters per 100 km.

        20 mpg = 11.76 L/100km
        30 mpg = 7.842 L/100km
        40 mpg = 5.882 L/100km
        50 mpg = 4.706 L/100km

        Having said that, there is nothing wrong with wanting to minimize fuel usage for its own sake.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Agree with carguy, and what’s more useful in the US is gallons per 100 miles. People think of MPG as linear when it’s not:

        truck getting 16 mpg = about 6 gallons/100 miles
        mid-size getting 25 mpg = 4 gallons/100 miles
        Corolla at 40 mpg = 2.5 gallons/100 miles
        Prius at 50 mpg = 2 gallons/100 miles
        VW Lupo 3L at 78 mpg = 1.28 gallons/100 miles

        You save a ton more gas replacing your truck with a mid-size (even though it’s only 9 mpg) than you would by exchanging your Corolla for a Prius (even though that’s 10 mpg) — 2 gallons/100 miles saved vs. 0.5 gallons/100 miles saved.

        That’s why the hybrid systems on trucks actually made sense — going from 16 to 20 is a whole gallon saved per 100 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        corntrolio MPG is linear when you don’t cherry pick as noted in your listing the “mid-size” getting 25MPG uses twice as much fuel as the Prius that gets twice the MPG at 50 MPG. It’s all about doing the math properly, IE the percentage difference in MPG will tell you the percentage change in fuel use.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      My cost per mile for the last ~16k has been about US$0.03 or thereabouts.. at $3.50/gal for premium, that would average out to about 113mpg. But my use case fits the Volt’s battery pretty well.

  • avatar
    nguyenhm16

    My sister has a Prius, and I rented a C-Max two weekends ago when I flew out to visit her. The car was loaded (Budget had removed the map SD card though). It’s definitely a much nicer drive than the Prius, not quite as entertaining as my GTI but I never felt like I was being punished for driving a hybrid. Like Alex mentioned, I got a surprising chirp from the front wheels leaving a tollbooth.

    It had good handling and was very composed at high speed (sometimes I caught myself driving 90 without realizing it). I got around 37mpg of mostly highway driving, having only to buy around 12 gallons of gas for 420 miles of driving.

    Interior room and packaging were also excellent. Some of the materials, especially the shiny metallic plastics around the shifter/center console, were not that great though. Certainly not as nice as my GTI.

    Once I got used to it, I really liked the My Ford Touch, and loved the complete iPhone integration.

    Compared to the Prius, which I consider the automotive equivalent of wearing a hair shirt in the pursuit of fuel economy, the C-Max was a really good car that got (for me ) really good fuel economy at a fair price. Overall, I was impressed enough to contemplate buying one and even checked out Ford’s configurator on their website; that said I will probably replace the GTI with a Focus ST.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Looks nicer than Prius on paper.

    If it doesn’t have any quality nightmares like every new Ford product launch, it will do well.

  • avatar
    mjz

    The C-Max seems like more of a spiritual successor to the original Chrysler minivans, than another crossover like the Escape. They should have also brought the Grand C-Max. And non-hybrid versions to.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    Why all the comparisons to the Prius? Isn’t this supposed to be a direct competitor to the Prius V?

    • 0 avatar
      Wraith

      I think a lot of people will cross shop the C-MAX vs. the Prius, even if it’s sized & priced to line up more closely with the V. Especially people looking for a little more pep and somewhat more normal styling (less “hybrid stigma”). And, at least with the EPA figures, it isn’t far off from the Prius’ fuel economy.

  • avatar
    kenzter

    I may have seen the exact same presser in Long Beach this morning. Same color, manufacturer plate. It was the first C-Max I’ve seen in the wild.
    I’m very impressed with it. Good job Ford!

  • avatar
    Lynchenstein

    I think it’s pretty clear why they named it C-MAX.

    Add in the lithium-ion (li) batteries, and you have “CliMAX”

    “What are you driving today?”

    “I came in my CliMAX”

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Alex’s impressions of the C-MAX are almost identical to mine. This car is on my short list. I want to try out the new Fusion Hybrid, and I’m cross shopping the Focus as well because, with a $2,000 rebate on the Focus, it is doubtful that the C-MAX would make up the price differential on gas cost alone. Regarding the 7 second 0-60, that’s a good second plus faster than most of the other sources are reporting. Could Ford have slipped you a ringer?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      We own a 2012 Focus and 2013 C-Max. The Focus averages 32.5 MPG. The C-Max has averaged 41.1. I should be able to up the C-Max’s MPG number by going through summer. The cold mornings starts hurt its fuel economy. Our two cars have a MSRP difference of about $50. The Focus may be better equipped on paper, but the C-Max does have nice touches, like the hybrid driving screens or power liftgate, that the Focus does not.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I’m generally a fan of Ford’s new Astonesque design language, and while thanks to A-pillar windowlets the C-Max avoids the DLO FAIL of the new Focus, Fusion, Escape, Taurus and Transit Connect, the C-Max’s most glaring styling flaw is its lower grille. When seen in direct sunlight (as the still on the video window), you can see how little of the grille is actually an opening that feeds air to the engine, and you wonder why they bothered making the grille look so much bigger than it needed to be.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Oh Alex, concerning the names “SYNC” and “MyFordTouch”, here’s what Byron Hurd said last May here on TTAC:

    “MyFord Touch is not SYNC. It’s just a pretty interface that adds another layer of visual panache and techno-gee-whizardry to an already robust infotainment package. You don’t need MyFord Touch if you don’t want MyFord Touch.”

  • avatar
    Wraith

    I test drove the C-MAX Hybrid a few months back, I believe it was the first one to show up at any dealer in the area. (Have not read the above review just yet.)

    The thing that kind of kills it for me is no spare tire. While yes, you could buy a spare wheel, tire, and mini jack elsewhere, it’s not going to fit well anywhere in the car. It will just be in the way for either cargo or passengers, since there’s no dedicated space for it like in most non-hybrids (and even a few hybrids figure out how to fit a spare).

    I’ve used the compact spare on my current and previous vehicles. I’d rather trust a compact spare than a cheap sealant kit to get me home and/or to a shop to get a tire fixed/replaced.

    Also, a minor gripe, those rear footwell cargo compartments… I couldn’t figure out how to easily secure them. Maybe there’s a trick to it, but it wasn’t apparent with a minute or two of messing with it. And when I thought I had one closed, it shifted as I stepped on it to exit the rear seat. (Maybe a rear floor mat would help there.) Little things like this shouldn’t be that hard or expensive to get right.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Roadside assistance FTW, I have to say that’s one thing OnStar’s pretty good at, not sure what Ford calls its equivalent.

      Though I hate the Goodyears on my Volt, and I’m strongly considering picking up some Michelins when they go back on sale at Costco. Rear drivers-side wheel’s on its 3rd tire (a chunk of steel and a nail in the sidewall took out the first 2) and the front passenger wheel has a 2lb/day slow leak.

      (ps: review of the C-MAX Energi? My folks would probably be interested in that one, as they do just enough local driving to make extended battery range helpful, and just enough highway to not work well with the Volt’s crappy genset)

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Stay tuned for the C-MAX Energi review in early 2013, it will be in our hot hands in just 2 weeks.

      • 0 avatar
        Wraith

        “Roadside assistance FTW, I have to say that’s one thing OnStar’s pretty good at, not sure what Ford calls its equivalent.”

        How useful are these services out in the sticks? (I have no experience with them. Do they work with a certain network of shops plus dealerships, or do they just connect you to the nearest shop when the need arises?)

    • 0 avatar

      Porsche hasn’t had a spare tire in years and after a while you get used to not having a spare I guess. My C-Max, like my 911 turbo S, came with Michelin tires so that’s a big plus. Roadside assistance works just fine IF you are in an area with cell Phone coverage!

  • avatar
    phreshone

    It will be interesting to see how both the C-Max and the Fusion hybrids do in real world driving… I’m guessing that the Fusion will get closer to its highway number because the aerodynamics of a 3 box car really start to matter at higher speeds

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Sounds like a great car, especially compared to the others mentioned.

  • avatar
    howismydriving

    I was looking to lease a C-Max for my next car, but sadly, at the last minute, they removed their Blind Spot Monitoring system and Active Cruise Control. Being that I commute from 40-120 miles a day, I would really have appreciated that.
    I really don’t like the look of the Prius, but it does have those features which I would find handy.

  • avatar
    hf_auto

    I’m wondering how the C-Max drives compared to a normal ICE car like the Focus, Cruze, Fiesta? The comparison to other hybrids makes sense, but every time I’ve looked at a hybrid I keep thinking I’d rather spend a few extra gas dollars each month for a normal car- especially now that they’re seeing 40 mpg-ish freeway numbers. When my commute suddenly jumped from 4mi/day to 120mi/day, I was considering replacing my E90 328i and I was never convinced that saving $15-30/mo in gas was worth the awful driving dynamics and interiors of Prius or Insight. I found that the plug-ins were the only cars that made any financial sense since they save me ~$180/mo in fuel- enough to buy a project miata and still come out ahead within 18 months.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It drives like a tall, heavy Focus. You won’t feel like you are driving a hybrid. The switch from electric to gas and back is seamless and its an extremely quiet car. While it doesn’t have the driveability of the GTI I just sold, its certainly on par with a Golf TDI.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    The C-MAX drives very much like a slightly taller, quieter, slightly heavier Focus hatchback with a CVT. That’s really the best description I can give.

  • avatar
    redav

    Great review. Alex’s reviews are the best out there right now.

  • avatar
    probert

    A curious review – with logic based on curious omissions and cherry picking.

    The volt may not get the best highway mileage when just using the ICE but – you forget to mention that if your between charge journey is less than 40 miles you use no gas at all – nada zip . In fact it has a cycle that burns a little gas just to keep the filters from gumming up.

    You criticize the materials, tires, and aerodynamic styling of the prius but the propose – with a hint of surprise – that the reason for middling numbers on the c-max may be because they don’t use the materials, tires and aerodynamics of the Prius. Strikes me as the long way around.

    Then you mention hybrid handling and sportiness without mentioning the Honda CR-Z.

    So in the end you have a small cuv with pretty good fuel mileage. Far from a shot across anyones bow – it seems to be a shot that misses the point; I seriously doubt any prius/cmax cross shopping. Handsome for all that.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      It is a shot across the bow… It’s the first practical, competitive hybrid alternative to the a Prius. It’s right in there on price and, while the fuel mileage may not be as good as a Prius C or Classic, it’s still pretty good.

      Now, finally, there’s a choice in that sector.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        Yeah, the C-Max might have some flaws, but it’s the first real, direct competition the Prius has, and that’s not a bad thing. Toyota has done a superb job with the Prius, and are reaping the rewards, but no competition has pretty much meant Toyota can let any meaningful development of the Prius slide. That should change, starting with the C-Max and, hopefully, others to follow.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      The CR-Z isn’t even remotely comparable to the C-Max. It may be a hybrid but it only seats 2 people; the Prius, Prius V and (to a point) the Volt are all logical alternatives to the Ford.

      The Prius gets great gas mileage by sacrificing aesthetic appeal, materials quality, and handling. The C-Max is nearly as efficient without making those compromises. How is that “missing the point”? It’s not ALL about fuel economy.

      At any rate, the C-Max has already outsold the Prius V (its direct competitor) right out of the gate, so somebody likes them.

    • 0 avatar
      86SN2001

      probert, the Volt bashing is just the norm. Never mind that at last check, Jay Leno still has the original tank of gas in his Volt, with over 10K miles driven.

      Being a shill for Ford isn’t easy these days with all of the problems, so a severely one sided review of this C-Max (that’s European for little wedge shaped appliance that sucks) is what’s needed to make it look like anything other than what it is…a massive failure.

      • 0 avatar
        Hoser

        The only massive failure is Ford not being able to make enough of them. A search of the largest dealerships within 100 miles of me have come up with a total inventory of 2.

        I see one show up in my local dealer’s inventory and it is GONE by the time I get there to check it out.

    • 0 avatar
      JREwing

      There will be Prius V / C-Max cross-shopping. The Prius V is a lot closer to the C-Max in interior space and mission than the regular Prius.

      Then again, the news of the overly-optimistic fuel economy numbers may make the C-Max a non-starter for Prius-intenders. A shame, because it really is a solid vehicle.

  • avatar
    toomanycrayons

    Really impressive, especially on the highway.

    Two quibbles:

    1) Can’t see anything when backing up. I know, just park by sound like everyone else. Or, learn to look at the screen on the dash if you get that option. Don’t back up.

    2) “Front seat comfort is good thanks to a relatively upright seating position, wide seat cushions and a good range of motion when you get the power driver’s seat.”

    Did the author try the passenger seat? No power option, no lumbar, no vertical adjustment. How hard would it have been to offer that? Even at 6′ 1 1/2″ it felt like being down in a hole. Solution: Read a book, get used to looking at wife’s shoulder when she’s driving. Be sure to try the passenger seat. Deal killer for us.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Apparently adding a power passenger seat is more difficult that it would seem – from what I’ve been told the platform was just never designed for the wiring to be routed to allow for it.

      There is no way to get a power passenger seat on the Focus or Escape either.

      That being said, if it becomes a deal killer for enough people I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible to add a manual vertical adjustment lever o the passenger seat.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’m sorry but it isn’t hard to run a plastic conduit along the sill to carry the single wire needed for a power seat. To me or at least my wife not having a power and heated seat on the passenger side is a deal breaker.

        Plus doesn’t it have seat mounted airbags or at least a sensor to see if the seat is occupied or the seat belt is buckled. I know when my wife rented a Focus on a trip with her mother she complained that her mother kept undoing the seat belt which cut off the radio.

        Not having a spare is also a deal breaker for me.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    Great!!!

    More confirmation that Ford lied about the fuel mileage of this cheap tin can.

    Between deceiving customers, the 4 recalls Escape, the 2 recalls Fusion, the horrid My Ford Touchy, the lackluster Lincoln Fusion rebadge, etc, Ford is really missing it.

    Time for Big Al to go back playing with airplanes…and leave the car companies to people who have a clue as to what their doing.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “Time for Big Al to go back playing with airplanes…and leave the car companies to people who have a clue as to what their doing.”

      Ok, so Big Al came from Boeing, maker of some of the most advanced vehicles on the planet. Akerson comes from a bankrupt cell phone company, XO Communications – and Mulally is the one that should go away??

    • 0 avatar

      Man 86SN2001, I’m new here but PLEASE start taking your medications again! You should NOT have stopped taking them! You sound like a flaming lunatic here!! I recommend Thorazine, the horse tranquilizer!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Hoser

      “Great!!!

      More confirmation that Ford lied about the fuel mileage of this cheap tin can.”

      Ford released the fuel mileage they got from the EPA standard testing. They run the EPA tests and those are the only mileage figures they can advertise, BY LAW.

      CR or TTAC or anyone else can test and claim what they got for milage, but if it isn’t the STANDARD EPA TEST, Ford can’t advertise it. Just because somebody runs a different test and gets a different result doesn’t mean anyone is lying.

    • 0 avatar
      Hoser

      “Great!!!

      More confirmation that Ford lied about the fuel mileage of this cheap tin can.”

      Ford released the fuel mileage they got from the EPA standard testing. They run the EPA tests and those are the only mileage figures they can advertise, BY LAW.

      CR or TTAC or anyone else can test and claim what they got for mileage, but if it isn’t the STANDARD EPA TEST, Ford can’t advertise it. Just because somebody runs a different test and gets a different result doesn’t mean anyone is lying.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Concerning the Volts MPG after exhausting the battery people are claiming low 40′s real world on the highway when they take their Volts on road trips. The Volt’s engine runs so rarely that often the poor MPG on gas is due mostly to the fact that the engine never runs long enough to warm up. So the fuel economy suffers. Check around and you’ll find that people who drive their Prius on short trips have the same problem and never see anywhere near 50 MPG. The short trips that so many of us make are where plug-ins like the Volt really smoke hybrids like the Prius or the C-Max in cost per mile to run.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Our tests with the Volt that resulted in 32-35MPG were done on a 120 mile highway journey on mostly flat highway at 65MPH. On the same journey the Prius achieved 51MPG, the Prius C 55 and the C-MAX 43.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        Maybe next time take the parking brake off!…..LOL Seriously though I really have to dismiss your number as everyone else has no problem meeting or beating the Volts EPA of 38 MPG on long trips driving 65-70 MPH. I’m getting my info off the GMVolt site. And as a potential Volt customer I pay attention to this stuff. I put 125 miles on a Volt over 3 days when I demo’d one last year but never burned a drop of a gas so I can’t comment from my own experience. Based on my electrical rates and what gas was at the time I do know that for me the Volt covered those 125 miles for about a 1/4 of the cost of any Prius or C-Max.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Carlson,

        As we have said before, you can’t compare one person’s MPG numbers to another since topography, driving style, weather, etc, they all have an impact on fuel economy. On my 120 mile round trip daily commute the Volt was consistently in the 32-35MPG range. When on gasoline only. I know of a few other publications that have seen similar numbers with the Volt. Of course if your commute is short and you are fully charged the effective MPG is much higher. This is why I would hesitate to make many direct C-MAX vs Volt comparisons. The C-MAX Energi and Prius Plugin are more appropriate comparisons. We’ll have more on that in January.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    What a thoughtful and interesting review. Thank you!

  • avatar
    Turkina

    Why why why did my mother not listen to my suggestions. Wait for the Escape, or the C-Max. Why not test drive the new Impreza?

    But no, she had the buy a gilded turd of a Prius. What a hateful, gutless car. I despise the thing. Thank you for confirming my expectations for the C-Max. Great review!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I had a C-Max as a rental from Hertz in Atlanta last weekend. I rather liked it, and the review is spot on. My Mom bought a Prius-V a few months back, and they are pretty comparable. The C-Max is noticeably smaller but much nicer inside, the Prius-V is bigger but not nearly as much fun to drive. Though I did not find it as fun to drive as Alex evidently did. Entirely adequate though, and I could see myself owning one if I commuted to work. I too would worry about Ford’s spotty new model record, though I fully understand these have been out in Europe for a while. I’m glad Mom bought the Toyota, I will never, ever have to turn a wrench on the thing!

    Really nice to see the chart explaining the non-linearity of mpg from bumpy ii up above. People totally don’t get that the difference between 38mpg and 42mpg is simply irrelevant, but 16mpg to 20 mpg is a big deal. If only those GM Hybrid pickups weren’t so stupid expensive…

    Finally – no mention of the goofy “brake energy recovery” meter? I never did quite figure out how that thing worked, but it only displays it when you come to a complete stop. I think.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The ‘Brake Coach’ screen appears after you’ve come to a complete stop. It can be turned off if you don’t like it, but it’s a nice gentle reminder for first-time hybrid drivers about how to best recoup the braking energy to get the best fuel economy.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I like the C-Max quite a bit. They’re selling well on my lot, especially the more well equipped SEL models.

    I’ve thought about one for myself. The seats are comfortable, the seating position is great, and there is plenty of cargo space. I’m torn at the moment between the ’13 MKZ, the C-Max, and a F-150 for my next vehicle (I know, a bit of an odd group, but all have things that I really like).

    The only negatives in my mind for the C-Max have more to do with my driving style and habits than the car itself. I just don’t have the patience to drive a hybrid the way that’s needed to get the best fuel economy. I accelerate too fast, jack rabbit start to get ahead of cars in neighboring lanes to get the the pole position at the next light, and do about 80 on the highway. I managed to average around 16mpg with my old Mazda Protege5.

    • 0 avatar
      JKC

      My biggest gripe is the lack of a spare tire. I know that seems trite, but sidewall tears and punctures still occur and a can of fix-a-flat won’t always work.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Yeah, I blew out a sidewall once in the middle of nowhere, and was really glad I had a spare. Not saying it would be a deal-breaker to go without, but I like knowing it’s there.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        This seems to be a trend, with BMW leading the way. I’m not too enamored with run-flat tires either, which don’t give nearly the range they claim when flat to get to a repair center. But I’m sure in this vehicle it’s about the space taken up by the battery and the trade off with taking even more space to fit a spare and a jack.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        They should offer a kit with a space-saver spare, jack and wrench in a durable plastic box with built-in grab handles (at a reasonable price) that you could load in when taking road trips across less-populated stretches.
        Yes, it would take up cargo space, but it would add a bit of peace-of-mind to those who occasionally take long-distance trips. The C-Max is really a ‘suburban cruiser’, at which it excels.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        As a BMW owner I am intimately familiar with the no spare issue. And no place to put one. And ultimately – I don’t care. The last time I had to put the spare tire on a car was in 1991, on an ’84 VW Jetta GLI after I ran over a 6″ shard of steel. For once every 21 years and counting, I’ll just call AAA. I don’t have runflat snow tires, and I won’t replace the runflat summer tires when they wear out either. I might feel differently if I lived out in the fly-over states where I could be 500 miles from civilization, but in the Northeast it is a non-issue.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The vehicle itself is very appealing, and even its “real-world” MPG is very good – despite being misrepresented – to which I have to give Ford a “wag of my finger” (with a shout-out to Colbert).
    This misrepresentation leads to Ford marketing the vehicle against the Prius, which is a shame, when they should be marketing it against 25MPG SUV’s, which would be much better for the country/planet/etc.

    Perhaps this marketing focus ;-) will change if the EPA calls Ford out on this discrepancy.

    I actually have a friend who recently bought a new CRV; I asked him to consider the C-Max as an alternative. But, he had his mind made up, and he wanted AWD (as a safety feature) in what would be a “Family Truckster” for ski trips and the like.

    I asked him about mileage; 23MPG so far on a 10-mile, half highway commute, which (he had hoped for better), which is still a lot better than the 15MPG that the 2002 Blazer (that he had traded in) was getting.

    Personally, I like the vehicle, and would consider one if I were in the market right now.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The CR-V is FAR bigger than the Cmax (50% larger cargo volume with the seats up, 35% with the seats down). For family truckster purposes, especially if he has young kids, cargo space is super important. I only have 1 kid, but we fill our little station wagon to the brim all the time.

  • avatar

    Most in-depth and informative review yet of Ford’s C-Max Hybid. Thank you. I’ve owned mine for almost 4 weeks now (12/18/12 will be 4 weeks) and I LOVE it! If you drive one you may just buy one – it drives that nice. I traded in a 2009 Honda Fit Sport on my C-Max Hybrid SE and while I liked my Honda Fit very much and it never gave me a single problem, this C-Max is a much nicer vehicle. I also owned a Honda Insight and I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough! Difference between the Insight and the C-Max is really night & day. Oh, this is my first American vehicle in 40 or 50 years and I am loving it!!
    Don

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I’m not a hybrid guy — I went to the Ford dealer to drive a Focus ST. I’m still kind of shocked that I bought this instead. But as both a car nut and dog owner, I’m by necessity a hatch/wagon guy. My last two cars were a Mazda 3S 2.3 hatch and a VW Passat V6 wagon — both relatively quick, refined, and roomy — and after owning those, I didn’t care for the cramped interior of the Focus hatch or the rough ride of its ST version. But the C-Max impressed me: small outside and huge inside; precise steering and composed ride; cool infotainment and hybrid system; silent idle and satisfying grunt on demand.

    The C-Max drives like an entry-luxury car and swallows cargo like a small SUV. And it’s as heavy as either. Since physics hasn’t been repealed, that means fat chance you’ll ever see 47 MPG. That said, my Passat had similar characteristics and was lucky to break 20 MPG average; my Mazda did 27.5 mpg average. Over its first 1000 miles, the C-Max’s average is 35 and rising (I don’t know how typical this will be, but I just got 42 on a highway trip over mountains in cold weather). About the only thing I give up in exchange is handling at the limit, where I don’t go 99% of the time anyway. So far, I’m happy with the car.

  • avatar
    gultim

    Where do I join a class action lawsuit for being deceived on my C-Max with the claimed 47 MPGs? About 4,000 miles later, using the cruise for
    acceloration (as I’m sure the computer is programmed for best mpg accelorating), and averaging 37.8MPG while never going over the speed limit…I’m very dissapointed. And yes I do know how to squeeze MPG’s out of gallons as my 2003 Jetta Diesel is averaging 48.8mpg anually here in Minnesota. I would like to have a C-Max follow a Prius on a 500 mile minimum trip and have the two cars then compare their MPGs. This way you remove the human element and have the cars driven under identical conditions. My bet is that the Prius will be 22.6% better in MPGs. Anyone up for the test?

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Not sure how far a lawsuit based on EPA MPG estimates would get…as they always say, EPA estimates are for comparison purposes; they are not guaranteed predictions of real world performance.

      Your comparo idea is intriguing, and to put a finer point on it: The C-Max competes with the Prius V, not the Prius Liftback. It has more passenger space than either (though less cargo space than the V). So your comparo would be with the V.

      Luckily, tons of online user-submitted MPG data makes such a test redundant. On Fuelly: 40.8MPG real world average for the C-max, 42.4MPG real world average for the Prius V. User-submitted MPG on fueleconomy.gov: 39.1MPG for the C-Max vs. 43MPG for the Prius V. The Prius V gets better mileage, but by frankly a pretty trivial amount.

      There are a few things you can do, if you haven’t already: use the Empower display and the Brake Coach to hone your hybrid driving style (they help you keep the car in EV mode and recover maximum energy when braking); turn on EV+ mode (it trains your car to use EV mode more as you approach home); turn on EcoCruise (it accelerates more gently, at the expense of losing a bit of speed on hills).

      One note about diesel: obviously a comparison between your compact 110hp diesel car and your 188hp hybrid van is dubious to begin with, but diesel vs gas MPG comparos are themselves misleading. Today’s low-sulfur diesel fuel contains more energy per gallon than gasoline — and requires more petroleum input to make than does gasoline. The Union of Concerned Scientists indicates that to get an apples-to-apples comparison of how much petroleum you are actually consuming vs a gasoline-powered car, you need to adjust your diesel MPG figure down by 20%.

  • avatar

    I had a C-Max, i enjoyed my car very much with my friends and family. Last week i lost back right wheel in a accident, and i was suffering with money problem so i take finance from Audiocityusa And now car become as new.


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