By on June 21, 2016

2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid SE

The overwhelming majority of mileage I accumulated in manufacturer-supplied test cars in May was spent in direct hybrid rivals from Ford and Toyota.

The 2016 Ford C-Max SE, Ford’s base model, visited for one week. Then following a stretch in the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R, a base version of Toyota’s new, fourth-generation Prius was dropped off for an extended stretch.

I’ll take the C-Max, thanks.

Scratch that. I’ll take the Golf R.

But if left to choose between the dedicated hybrids from Ford and Toyota, the C-Max is the one I’d have. So why do car buyers plug their ears when they hear such a recommendation?

Before we deal with the reasons why not a single one of the personal connections to whom I made the suggestion ever purchased or leased a C-Max, or the fact that the American car buyers are presently five times more likely to acquire a Prius than the C-Max, consider a handful of reasons why the C-Max is such a great pick.

2016 Toyota Prius

DRIVING
You can sense Ford’s interactive Global C platform beneath the C-Max right from the start. True, the C-Max’s limits aren’t high – Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires aren’t inherited from the Focus RS, it’s not that kind of car – the steering is lively and direct, ride quality is superb, and there’s plenty of torque to squirt you out of corners.

Nearly four years after its launch, the 2016 C-Max looks frumpier than ever. Besides which, it’s an economy-minded hybrid that loves to stay in EV mode. Yet the C-Max is a decidedly driver-friendly car, a car which may not beg to be thrown down a twisty road but nevertheless shines when you ask for swifter progress.

COMFORT
The C-Max also provides a comfortable setting for the driver – the same can’t be said of the base Prius, with its unsupportive seats and poor visibility out the back.

The latest Prius, admittedly with a roomier rear seat, has made great strides in refinement. But the C-Max was already there: quiet, vibration-free, and with a consistently smooth powertrain.

MONEY
Beyond its on-road appeal and superior driving environment, the Ford C-Max currently shines because of Ford’s aggressive U.S. pricing model. $4,500 worth of incentives drops the C-Max SE’s base price to $20,545, destination included. Dealer may sell for less.

The Prius’s base price is $25,095, and though there are low-interest finance rates available, the price gap is nothing to sneeze at.

Yet while the C-Max is an engaging on-road companion, is distinctly more comfortable than the Toyota, and is now spectacularly affordable, there are obvious issues with the Blue Oval Prius alternative.

TECH
Our basic Ford Canada-supplied C-Max tester doesn’t just lack keyless proximity access and pushbutton start, the key doesn’t even fold. “Here,” Ford says, “Go ahead and stick a knife down your pants.” That’s merely an example of the degree to which the Ford C-Max, introduced in 2012, feels behind the times in terms of tech. There’s no backup camera at this price point; no touchscreen to speak of.

The Prius interior is full of graphics and meters and minders and buzzers and beepers – many of which are admittedly beyond frustrating – that feel more 2020 than 2012.

SPACE
The C-Max’s cargo area, impinged upon by a battery pack, is awfully small for a vehicle that looks so much like a mini-MPV. Officially, Ford puts the C-Max’s cargo volume on par with the Prius’s.

In practice, the shape is not remotely as conducive to swallowing strollers, suitcases, and assorted detritus as our Prius tester did for a 500-mile round trip to Prince Edward Island and back. It would have been possible in the C-Max, but it would have been a pain.

FUEL
For green car consumers, of course, the Prius’s superior fuel efficiency will be a huge factor. It shouldn’t likely be – the dollar differences when the mpg figures rise this high aren’t all that significant unless you commute between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the Prius has a combined EPA mpg rating of 52 miles per gallon, a figure we easily beat over the course of more than 700 miles with a 57 mpg result.

The C-Max’s figures, originally maligned and changed, now rest at 40 mpg. We did 47 mpg in a C-Max in 2013; 47 mpg again last month. (We made no attempts to maximize fuel economy in either the C-Max or the Prius, but conditions which were neither hot nor cold and routes which clearly favored efficiency produced impressive results.)

Perhaps more importantly, the Prius is simply the obvious choice. It’s the Toyota Camry of dedicated hybrids; the Lexus RX of green family cars. It’s the obvious choice. The Prius was here first, it’s legendarily reliable, it was more efficient first, and it’s still more efficient in a game where fuel economy numbers are the game.

Meh, the $11 per 1,000 miles* Prius fuel savings aren’t enough to change my mind, not when the Toyota’s seats irritate my spine, not if the Prius continues to insist on detached and appliance-like transportation, not if the Prius costs substantially more money out the door.

So C-Max Hybrid it is. Or is the plug-in C-Max Energi, laden with nearly $10,000 in incentives, the proper choice?

* Based on our real-world week-long tests and $2.50/gallon for regular fuel.

[Image Source: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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118 Comments on “Ford C-Max vs. Toyota Prius: Ford Wins, But Nobody Heeds My C-Max Recommendation...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    the Prius wins among people who buy one to advertise that they’re “saving the planet.”

    Of course, if you tell them it would do more good to move closer to where they work instead of buying a Prius for their 2 hour commute, they look at you like you’re loony.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The difference in housing costs is probably a lot more than the cost of a Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      EMedPA

      That’s silly. A lot of people drive Priuses because they’re bulletproof reliable. My cousin (who is a Republican committeeman) drives one because it’s cheap to run and never breaks. He’s put well over 200,000 miles on it.

      • 0 avatar
        Bunter1

        +1 Most Prius drivers I have known are just looking for a reliable car with great mileage. They don’t give a crap if it isn’t competitive with a 3 series in an autocross.
        This looks pretty simple to me.
        1. The Prius beats the Cmax by about 10 mpg. That matters.
        2. Very proven reliability.
        3. No non-car geek that doesn’t work at a Ford dealership even knows the Cmax exists.

        Enjoy.

      • 0 avatar
        RELove

        There you go, that’s exactly the reason.

        I bought a Ford a few years back and the reliability can’t come close to rivaling the Toyota – or I must ad, the service, (at least at my dealership).

        Never drove a C-Max, but the Prius I drove convinced me that I would never own one – a really awful ride. CT200H would be my choice, but a hybrid isn’t suited for my commute.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you really want to see me living among the plebeians, impoverished, criminals and other dregs of society?

      The plan was:

      #1 Drive into the city
      #2 load up on as much social welfare as possible
      #3 Drive out of the city
      #4 return to my comfy, secluded, segregated home in the suburbs.

      Just ask ANY Long Islander…

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        But all the liberal tree huggers keep telling us that living in the city is the place to be, walking, riding the bus. You mean they don’t actually live there themselves?!

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        In places like Toronto, Montreal, London (UK), etc those with the most disposable income now live in the city and the working poor are forced out into the ex-burbs.

        • 0 avatar
          Jacob

          Good observations. And that’s true because those cities have something to offer if you live in the city. A similar picture exists in a few American cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. But in the USA, it’s far too common for the more affluent people to just move into suburbs, because a typical big city downtown area in the USA is not the place you want to walk around in when it gets dark, and it is certainly not the place to raise a family.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      the Prius wins among people who buy one to advertise that they’re “saving the planet.”

      Like cab drivers?

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        A very large % of cabs in Chicago are Toyota’s—mostly Camry Hybrid, Prius and some Prius V’s. There are still Escape Hybrids running around, but they’re slowly fading away to a storage lot on the north side.

        I had a `13+ Escape yesterday coming back from the pub and the suspension clearly had some issues—sounded like strut bearings were shot already. The driver was friendly, and was clearly frustrated when I asked him about the car—not the first time it’s been back in the shop.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I am sorry, but your comment is outdated by about 10 years. It’s basically a useless meme now. People buy Prius these days because it’s an affordable, economical, and very utilitarian vehicle. I personally don’t think it gives the best bang for the money for my needs, but it apparently strikes the right chord with a lot of consumers even in the red states like Texas, where at a typical big city grocery store parking lot the Prius is becoming as common as Ford F-150.

  • avatar

    It’s like a contest to see which car can drive the best without actually driving.

    I’d take the Prius- fully loaded.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Do that, and drive the livin bejesus out of it, you might succeed in getting less than 45 mpg. If you ever need to use a tight urban parking garage you might (might) like parking it rather than a 20 foot long truck. :)

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    While the C-Max is homely, the new Prius is definitely ugly.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I heeded the call! But I bought (well, leased) my C-Max Energi loaded, with Sync3, nav, automatic parking, and sunroof. It comes with very nicely shaped proximity keys and enough tech to annoy my wife. The only feature I really want that the car doesn’t have is driver’s seat memory.

    If you can swallow the further reduction in cargo capacity, Uncle Sam’s tax incentive makes an Energi cheaper than a regular Hybrid at the moment.

    My wife was shocked on her first test drive (of a Hybrid, not an Energi) by how much she enjoyed the drive. She still comments after six weeks and 1200 miles about how she can’t believe a Ford feels so premium. It really is night and day from the Prius, which has mediocre ride and handling, and follows the recent Toyota trend of aggressively obvious interior cost-cutting.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The C-Max Energi lease is still awesome. Ford really wants to keep Wayne running (Focus lease is great too).

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Ford’s site quotes $200/month for a Focus Electric with cloth. Oddly the 48-month lease is the most attractive. I wonder if the dealers are as willing to deal as they are on the C-Max? That’s a heck of a deal, and even better if you could get it down to $190 or less.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The Focus Electric isn’t even available in the Midwest (at least 250 miles within me). You have to order one.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’ve been seeing them around a lot, but they must be supply-constrained. There’s only one in inventory in all of western Washington, at a dealer 90 minutes from Seattle, and it’s got leather and a bunch of useless accessories padding the price.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Pretty much all of them have leather. The Energis all have leather too. Right now, unless ordered Focus Electrics are going to states that require EV sales. Ford would rather subsidize a C-Max lease to everyone else. It actually has a Ford developed and assembled powertrain.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The C-Max Energi comes standard with leather. It’s a $995 option on the Focus Electric. I’d hope it’s not one of those “options” that’s on every single car.

            Too bad about the need to order. That eliminates any likelihood of getting a decent deal (which I’d define as a lease rate at or under the Ford-quoted rate after adding in our 9.8% sales tax).

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            For $995, it probably doesn’t effect the lease price. They are all being leased anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          tsoden

          Here in Canada, a Focus Electric 48 month lease with zero down, and 25000 KM a year is $596 a month. How is it the US can get a $200 a month lease???? A C-Max SE with the same configuration as the Focus electric is $445 a month…. There really is no cost savings here…. A lease on a 2016 Prius base model is $419.82 taxes in.

          Granted, all these prices are before cash is out on the hood. I am assuming the prices on the Fords could drop a fair bit if there are incentives. Toyota typically doesn’t do much for incentives on specialty vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            stodge

            I don’t think car manufacturers offer as many or as big rebates in Canada as in the US. I’ve seen the same situation for other cars; for example the current Maxima had thousands off south of the border, but up north? Nada.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Well done.

    • 0 avatar
      vtnoah

      I picked up my C-Max Energi back in September. People are blown away by the amount of car you get for such a stupid low lease rate when I take them for a spin. My Lease convinced two friends to pick up a C-Max and Fusion Energi of their own. It’s definitely not the most engaging car but for a quiet comfortable commuter that’s kinda fun to hustle down my backroads commute, it can’t be beat.

    • 0 avatar
      McKeith

      I bought a C-Max Energi for my wife as well – tho this wasn’t my intent at the beginning. We started at the Honda dealer – i thought she would go for a CRV or an HRV – her reaction was “meh” – nice but nothing special. The Ford dealer was next door so we tried the C-Max and wow she was impressed, good pick-up and handled well. Later she drove the Subaru CrossTek Hybrid – nice but dangerously slow and the Prius V – slow and expensive.
      When it came time to buy a C-Max the Energi was cheaper that the Hybrid. We did a lease/Buy deal that was cheaper than cash – the car stickered for a little less than $37k and we got it out the door for less than $27k. We’ve had it about 2 weeks and my wife is very happy.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d get a Fusion hybrid or Camry SE hybrid long before I go for one of the egg cars.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I looked at the Fusion Hybrid before buying my C-Max. The C-Max is more flexible, easier to park in urban areas, has more storage space, and the cabin is bright and airy by modern standards. It’s also easier to get a kid in and out of thanks to the tall doors. The Fusion is the better car if you have a longer freeway commute, but in town the C-Max is so much better.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Seconded bball’s comments. With a wife whose back has never quite been the same after spinal surgery, a two-year-old, and another kid on the way, the kid access factor makes an enormous difference. The rear seat is also more comfortable for adults.

      Yes, the egg is a bit dorky, but it’s so practical.

      • 0 avatar
        vtnoah

        I went into the dealership wanting a Fusion Energi but one look at the non-existent trunk space and I went for the C-Max. I call it my super spaceship dad wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Dal,

        Are the C-Max seats pretty supportive? I have a horrible back and what you mentioned about your wife’s issue made me think of it.

        The Taurus (1995) is better than most cars due to the inflatable lumbar support. I had an Aerostar previously and I specifically chose it because I thought a more upright seating position would help. It didn’t help as much as I hoped, although I did put about 10k miles on it one summer and it was not too bad. I was just over the driving experience, so when it started having issues as it got up there in miles (I want to say 230k?), I sold it and bought the Taurus.

        I’d be real interested in a C-Max Energi if its good for my back.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Same seats as the Escape. They are fine. Nothing special. My wife’s MkT has much better seats.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I think that’s such a personal issue that it’s hard for me to answer — go to your Ford store and get in a C-Max. My wife loves the seats. I find them a bit stiff for my preference, particularly under my rear end.

          The seating position is quite upright if you find that helpful (and I think it’s more upright than the Escape). It’s almost more like a minivan seating position than a normal car; the seats are at CUV height and the floor is at car height. We measured rear seat height because it has a profound effect on my wife’s ability to load the munchkin without pain, and found to our surprise that the C-Max rear seat is only half an inch lower than our previous Forester’s.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Awesome feedback, guys.

            I would check one out but the last few times I was at a Ford store, they had none.

            On the opposite end of the spectrum, I found a new CR-Z EX 6MT (leftover 2015) not far from me. I realize seat comfort wouldn’t compare,probably, but I think of the C-Max as more of a road trip car, whereas the CR-Z would be a fun commuter/grocery getter. Something to cruise locally mostly. Edit: linky https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/633491940/overview/

            Our first new car purchase is likely at least a year away, so plenty of time to figure it out.

            The “weird utilitarian car guy” in me still wants a Transit 250 I-5 PowerStroke chassis cab with an aluminum drop-side bed on it. Lol

  • avatar
    thornmark

    I would bet the CMAX is a better used car since its resale likely pales in comparison.

  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    I suppose First-To-Market has its advantage. Throw in i) continuous improvement in the core characteristic of this segment (fuel economy, uniqueness vs driving dynamic and “look like a normal car”) ii) perceived commitment to this technology for the long haul (vs satisfy gov’t regulation) and iii) steady PR and marketing effort, and you got the loyalty of the marketplace. I actually see Ford as the most long-term focused US car manufacturers but they just sort of ran into a buzzsaw in Toyota and its commitment (and resources) to hybrid.

    Lastly and this is probably the only auto website that I can safely ask the following question without fear of getting attacked with ridicule – do you think Ford would have better result if they had sent over the 3 row Grand C-Max instead of going with this 2 row seater? I was buying a car in 2012 – 2013 and had hoped for a small 3-row with sliding door, only to be disappointed when Ford changed their initial plan and went with the 2-row seater for the US market instead. Went with a Mazda5 instead.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I doubt it (although the question isn’t ridiculous at all). Small 3-row eggs have a history of selling very poorly here (Mazda5, Kia Rondo, even the short-wheelbase Caravans). The market has been more receptive to smaller 2-row egg cars.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        The exception would be the Avenger wagon, oops I mean Journey.

        “Its the cheapest 3 row!!”

        Forget that the third row is about as useful a third row in an Avenger sedan.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Both the Prius and C-Max are ugly.

    Ford loses because the C-Max design looks cribbed from a 1st gen Focus. Fords are generally ugly anyway, except for the Fusion.

    Prius wins because it’s a Toyota. The Prius gets away with being ugly because its looks started out that way with no prior model to compare it with!

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      So, the Prius gets a pass because Toyota.

      “It started out ugly. So, win!”

      Nahh, that’s a fail. Your logic, the Prius styling, all fail.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    The C-Max has two grilles because no one could decide if it going to have the Kinetic styling or the Aston styling. It half looks like the previous generation C-Max that had Focus styling.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Apart from the inevitable standing start wheelspin associated with electric motors in low traction situations, the C-Max in our household becomes a minor terror during winter months when the LRR tires are swapped out for full snows all around. One of the biggest differences I came across between my test drives in the Prius V vs the C-Max was the chassis: on decent tires Ford’s hybrid is tossable, a word which has never been used to describe any Prius. The Prius also goes out of its way to remind you of all the mode switching going on, while if you aren’t actively anticipating it the C-Max exhibits typical “right pedal goes; left pedal stops” behavior.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Based on the Toyota’s stellar reliability vs the Ford’s poor one, for me it’s a no-brainer.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The powertrain the C-Max should be extremely reliable. Port fuel injected 2.0L with the eCVT and battery system is rock solid. There are plenty of Escape Hybrids, with a similar system, that have 300K+ miles.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        As the owner of an ’09 Escape Hybrid, I have to say it has turned out to be the least reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned. Things are always having to be fixed on it. It’s managed to be even less reliable than a Crysler product I had. No problems with the hybrid system,it’s a pleasant and versatile vehicle and I love the mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          My C-Max has been the most reliable car I’ve owned, but I am only four years and 55K miles in. I’ve had exactly zero issues to report and it was a Job 1 car.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        There are parts on the cars beyond the powertrain – Fuel pumps, electric windows and door locks, tie rods, ball joints, ect.

        Past 100k miles, there’s nothing that I’d trust over a Japanese made Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Don’t feed the troll.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Our 2010 Fusion Hybrid performed flawlessly for ~140k miles with only oil changes, tires and 2 light bulbs as the only expenses outside of fuel and insurance.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        I may have just had the poor luck to buy a bad Escape Hybrid. Average reliability for the same year is rated somewhat better than my experience. But since it is well looked after and the things that fail are a matter of part and assembly quality (tire, backup and temp sensors; hvac flap motors, steering issues, front suspension components, tailgate leaks, water pump and more)(in my 35k miles of its 100k miles), then I have grounds for dissing its reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Second that….

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I feel this way too; I wouldn’t expect any problems with the hybrid system, but I don’t trust the rest of the vehicle. There are two strikes. First, modern Fords don’t have a great reliability record in general. Second, my previous Ford ownership experiences have ranged from bad to beyond awful. I was happy to lease my C-Max for three years and 31500 miles, but if I were keeping it over the long term I’d look harder at that boring Prius.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Toyota has done a great job of branding the Prius. Ford, not so much. Even the name is lame, did they even focus-group test it? It’s a great deal at 20 grand, if I end up with a long commute I may buy one.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    “So C-Max Hybrid it is. Or is the plug-in C-Max Energi, laden with nearly $10,000 in incentives, the proper choice?”

    See: Learned my Ford C-Max has a horrible resell value, should I take what I owe and add it on top of a new car at a lower rate? (self.personalfinance)

    “I’ll try to keep this brief: in 2013 bought a Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid for ~$35,000. We were suppose to get about $4,000 in tax rebates but got about half because my wife and I maxed out our tax credits through student loans, mortgage, etc. We put $5,000 down and got a 3.9 percent interest rate for 84 months.
    Cut to two years later, we find out the resell value is $13,000! We were understandably pissed. Ford basically dumped this car on the market, didn’t promote it and thus there’s no demand for it. We do save on gas (48 mpg) but if you throw in the increase on our electric bill (about $20), the savings are negligible.”
    https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/comments/3fsaeu/learned_my_ford_cmax_has_a_horrible_resell_value/

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No you learned that when gas prices are low plug in and hybrid vehicles loose resale value while vehicles that get low mpg have higher resale value than they do when gas prices are high. Prius sales and resale value have taken a dive just like the Cmax.

      Another lesson you hopefully learned that if you drive a lot of miles the resale value will tank no matter what you drive.

      Finally the last lesson is pay attention to the fine print in those special offers whether they be from the mfg or gov’t to ensure you qualify for them before you make the decision based on them. Note you should be able to carry forward that unused portion of the credit for the next tax year.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I bet you don’t really care much about at least the “reputation of reliability” when you consider the Golf-R vs Prius vs CMax. While it is true that they should be “relatively” reliable “enough” in 2016, most people who buy one brand over the other have their reason. Prius’ reputation of reliability is earned over 10+ years (maybe 15 now?), so CMax and especially Golf-R will have to do a lot for the consumers to overcome that.

    And EPA 40 vs 57 is a huge difference, for people who buy hybrids for long commute or for hire. YMMV of course, but still.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Believe it or not but there are people who had terrible experiences with American cars, so they bought a reliable Toyota and have no problems since. There is no chance you are going to get those folks to change now.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      True that. When I was 4 or 5, my dad’s F150 started on fire while we were stopped at a red light. He managed to get me and my brother out the car but in the decades since, my family has had a string of Hondas and Toyotas that

      1) haven’t ever lit on fire when we were in them
      2) always got us where we wanted to go

      I see that Fords do well in consumer reports and people who own fords like them and used Ford hybrids are good deals compared to Toyota hybrids. But, it’s going to take a very compelling deal to pull me away from my string of Japanese built Toyotas and Hondas that have been incredibly reliable. In the last 75k miles I’ve had one power door lock motor fail ($12/part). I wish Ford would publish their engineering specifications and compare and contrast them with their observations of Toyota.

      Because if Fords respond as well to by the book maintaince and have at least 2/3rds of the MTBF on hard to replace parts (e.g locks, fuel pumps) then I’d be much more likely to buy the deal.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “But, it’s going to take a very compelling deal to pull me away from my string of Japanese built Toyotas and Hondas that have been incredibly reliable… ”

        Is that still true? Aren’t most Hondas & Toyotas made here? Or are they just assembled here? I’d like to know the truth about that.

        Wifey has a 2002 CR-V. We bought it fresh off the boat and had to wait a week for delivery. It was built in Japan. Now they build them here, I believe. It has been pretty reliable, I’ll admit that, but I don’t like it. She loves it and that’s what counts.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      @ Fred: Yup. That would be me. I tried the general and Ford and found them both to be repair bills waiting to happen. Have been driving Nissans and Toyotas since. Have two daughters on their second Prius. Think their dad will join them when it’s time to trade the cube although, the Rav4 Hybrid is appealing.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I see 2015’s on CARMAX all the time for 19k and only about 8k miles on them. I drove one about two years ago to SF for a week and remember getting about 41 mpg overall for the week and I drive pretty aggressive. I would take one of these as a 2nd car. Also would like a FLex with the hybrid system of the Lexus RX. THat would make me very happy.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The US’ decision to measure fuel economy by distance per unit of volume of fuel is pretty peculiar and I think is less intuitive than doing it the other way round. Combined gas mileage for the Prius/C-Max is 52/40 respectively. Wow! 12 MPGs??? That’s a lot! But when you flip it, we are talking 1.9 vs 2.5 gallons per 100 miles. A sizeable difference, but nothing crazy, and generally speaking pretty effing low.

    Take 1/2 that MPG difference but at a different point on the scale… Suburban does 18 combined, Aventador does 13. Only 6 MPG, what’s the big deal? That translates to 5.5 & 7.3 gallons per 100 miles, respectively. To me that’s a much clearer demonstration of consumption than MPG. But we are where we are I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No the US method is the one that makes sense, because you buy fuel by the volume, not by how much fuel is needed to cover a certain distance.

      Personally I usually fill the tanks on most of my vehicles, however there are cases where I just buy a little either because I’m running late or because the station or area I am at when I really need fuel is gouging on the price. So I’ll do a quick calc in my head. Hmm I need to go 40 mi to finish my trip or get to an area where fuel is less expensive. So if I’m in my vehicle that gets 15mpg I go 3gal should do it, 2 in my 20mpg vehicle and just one in my 40 mpg vehicle. Now if I thought of it in vol to cover a distance I’d have to figure out what 40% of that x.x gal/100mi is. So because people buy by volume and don’t travel in convenient 100 mi/km increments the distance per volume is more intuitive and useful.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        No Sportyaccord has got it right, at least from the perspective of easily comparing running costs between vehicles. We’re basically taking the inverse of MPG (distance/ set volume of fuel consumed) and instead doing (fuel consumed/set distance). It truly demonstrates and highlights proportions rather than emphasizing seemingly large gaps (40 vs 53 mpg) that end up saving little.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          How does volume per distance make it easier to calculate the running cost than distance per volume.

          Say you drive 15k miles per year and you have a car that gets 20 mpg.

          15,000/20 and boom you know that you’ll use 750 gallons in a year.

          Now if car gets 5ga/100mi your math is 15,000/100 = 150 useless units and you have to do the 150 x 5 to find out that you will use 750 gallons in a year.

          It only gets worse when your number is something like 3.7 gal/100 mi instead of 27 mpg.

        • 0 avatar
          Chocolatedeath

          The US normally only uses that for military applications such as the M1 Abrams :
          This is from a military site:
          A tank will need approximately 300 gallons every eight hours; this will vary depending on mission, terrain, and weather. A single tank takes 10 minutes to refuel. Refueling and rearming of a tank platoon–four tanks–is approximately 30 minutes under ideal conditions.
          0.6 miles per gallon.
          60 gallons per hour when traveling cross-country
          30+ gallons per hour while operating at a tactical ideal
          10 gallons basic idle

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Ah, the C-Max. Ample room, ample vroom, and from behind the wheel it looks and drives like a higher class of car. (From outside it looks like a Focus crashed through a gargantuan potato, but I rather like it.)

    If only it weren’t built and serviced by Ford. Buying an early-production car, from a dealer whose idea of service is saying “they all do that,” wasn’t my best move.

    I do love the time it spends in EV mode, which has got me thinking about trading it for a Gen 2 Chevy Volt. But I would lose a lot of things I like — quality interior, Germanic steering, the ability to see out of the car — and my state’s EV rebate money ran out so it can’t help cover the epic depreciation on the Max.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Timely post. I’m looking to get a C-Max, once VW tells me next week what my Sportwagen is worth to them.

    I’ve been looking at used and CPO 2014 and 2015 SEL models. The SE is very sparse for options, the SEL is much better equipped (no knife key!) and a low-mileage CPO goes for under $20000 while a new one is in the $32000 range with the 302A package I want. My local dealer has three SEs on the lot, seems like the SELs are harder to find.

    The weird thing is that Ford has really neglected the C-Max. Still has halogen headlights (No LED DRLs) and it’s just kind of out-dated compared to the Prius. However, the Prius is hideous and one of the slowest cars I’ve test driven, so C-Max it is.

    • 0 avatar
      Professional Lurker

      One good thing I can say about the headlights in the C-Max: they can be easily replaced. In fact, the manual even gives instructions for doing so. I heard from a few coworkers that doing the same in the Prius is an involved process in which it is easy to break things. (I’ve not verified if if that is actually true though–just hearsay.)

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Both the c-max and Prius are two of the most hideous vehicles on the road today.

    From an operating cost standpoint, the c-max can’t hold a ember (let alone candle) to the Prius.

    Also, good luck with Ford’s astonishingly poor quality, assembly and horrid dealership network.

    BUT TTAC WRITERS AND STAFF MEMBERS LOVE THEM ALL FORD VEHICLES…MMMM MMM GOOD.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I have come up with THAT’s new theme song –

      (Set to Campbell chicken noodle soup jingle)

      mmm mmm Good

      mmm mmm Good

      Ford cars & trucks are mmm mmm Good!

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    DW, sometimes the truth hurts. LOL

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I’d pick a C-Max over a Prius, but that’s like picking one’s poison.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      According to Consumer Reports:

      “Moving to the Ford C-Max Energi, it seems that if you so much as glance at it the wrong way, it then breaks down.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but Consumer Reports found the C-Max Energi to be the LEAST RELIABLE OF ALL VEHICLES INCLUDED in the ownership survey.  Mr. Fisher notes that the C-Max Energi received the “worst rating in the entire survey.”

      http://insideevs.com/consumer-reports-plug-hybrid-reliability-ford-c-max-energi-plagued-problems-chevy-volt-average/

      FORD: QUALITY IS JOB #339TH

      But Dal owns one now, as does bball, as does Jack’s new wide, and a bunch of others here, and TTAC’S LOVE OF ALL THINGS FORD KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES!

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      According to Consumer Reports:

      “Moving to the Ford C-Max Energi, it seems that if you so much as glance at it the wrong way, it then breaks down.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but Consumer Reports found the C-Max Energi to be the LEAST RELIABLE OF ALL VEHICLES INCLUDED in the ownership survey.  Mr. Fisher notes that the C-Max Energi received the “worst rating in the entire survey.”

      http://insideevs.com/consumer-reports-plug-hybrid-reliability-ford-c-max-energi-plagued-problems-chevy-volt-average/

      FORD: QUALITY IS JOB #339TH

      But Dal owns one now, as does bball, as does Jack’s new bride, and a bunch of others here, and TTAC’S LOVE OF ALL THINGS FORD KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES!

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        For context, the C-Max issues in CR’s survey stemmed *entirely* from a horrible score for the 12v electrical system and components. In every other category, including all the oily or high-voltage bits, the C-Max was above average (unlike its Global C platform-mates). What isn’t clear is how many of the issues reflected actual failures and how many reflected the brain-dead, Windows 3.1 nature of MyFordTouch/Sync 2. We’ll see once CR has sufficient data for Sync 3-equipped 2016 models.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Just objectively and honestly report problems you have with it and all is well AFAIAC.

          How much are you even driving it vs the big Lexus?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No problems yet at ~1200 miles (I’d hope not).

            In the time it’s taken to put 1200 miles on the C-Max, about half of which I drove and half of which the wife drove, I’ve put around 400 miles on the Lexus. Since I don’t use it to commute to work and the C-Max is the kid car, the Lexus accumulates miles slowly.

            The Lexus is going to take a 3,000 mile road trip in July, though. Just had new rear brakes and a coolant drain-and-fill done in preparation.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          the only “black dots” the C-Max gets in CR’s survey is for “Power Equipment” (which is basically electrical/electronic accessories) and “Audio System,” and those are only black for 2013 MY. I know there were a lot of TSBs for 2013 and part of 2014 to reflash different modules for various issues. past early 2014, things seem to have been sorted out.

  • avatar
    NutellaBC

    The comparison should be Prius V wagon vs C Max. The Prius V fuel economy is not much better than the Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      The Prius V has a lot more cargo room than the C-Max (which in turn has more than the Prius Liftback), and I think the V’s rear seats adjust to allow you to claim some of it as extra people room too.

      A better explanation for the MPG differential is that the Ford has way, way more power than the Prius. One reviewer measured a 7.1 second 0-60 in the C-Max as I recall (apparently they figured out how to turn the traction control off).

      The C-Max’s performance, refinement and MPG compare very favorably to other tall compact wagons: Kia Soul, Fiat 500L, the late Mazda5. In Europe, where the C-Max was originally designed and built, it is also up against the Golf Plus, half a dozen French microvans, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        NutellaBC

        Thanks. I didn’t realize that the Prius V was much bigger than the CMax. Good point about the power: the Prius is a dog for sure.

        • 0 avatar
          Jacob

          Prius has more than enough power to be a decent commute vehicle for just one driver and no passengers. 0-45mph acceleration is great and among the best in the price class. 0-60mph is acceptable, but not fast. Either way, I personally, had no issues with merging on the highway and such. The Prius does get to be a dog when you load it up with people. The equipment level is pretty poor in the base model, while the model offering you something basic like power seats is relatively expensive.

          • 0 avatar
            NutellaBC

            Agreed. It’s certainly ok for basic commuting and yes, fairly quick off the line (up to 30 mph) thanks to the torque of the electric engine. But IMO, it struggles when passing at higher speed, climbing typical West Coast Mountain ranges or as you said when loaded.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    It’s one of the least reliable cars in America per numerous consumer reporting agencies. Toyota Prius it is.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      it had issues with electrical/electronics accessories (most fixed via software updates) for 2013MY and part of 2014. Going by CR’s latest ratings, they seem to have been sorted out by then.

      It would be a lot more useful if the people who talk about CR’s ratings would actually read them first.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I drove both vehicles and the ford had a very uncomfortable seating position for me as I am a big guy. Liked driving the ford but the seat comfort plus the terrible reliability were deal breakers. Evidently most people felt that way too since the model is being closed out. Fiancee has a prius v which has been completely trouble free even with constant abuse by overloading the vehicle.
    The RAV4 hybrid is the way to go and I really like it. It is already hard to find on car lots. Toyota doesn’t make crap like Ford is known to.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Last time I checked Consumer Reports, the C-Max-s reliability has raised to average. Average is pretty good these days. Early problem areas were the low voltage battery and the MyFordTouch system. Both of those areas were addressed. MyFordTouch was reliable and functioned well after an update in mid2014. The only real difference between the 2016 and the 213-2015 cars is that the 2016 has Sync-3 rather than MyFordTouch. The biggest problem with the C-Max these days is that you can get a used one that looks and drives as good as new for less than half the cost of a new one. I replaced my wrecked C-Max with a used one. As was pointed out by earlier posters, all used economy cars have taken a price hit. (The only other car I considered was a 2014 Accord Hybrid which also went down in price, but was a little too big for me.) You can also get a used Chevrolet Volt for about the same price as a used C-Max as well if you want REALLY save gas. If you are looking for a good cheap, dependable, safe car for your young person, Gen 2 Priuses have finally come down in price to under $5k. The interior carpet and fabric of the Gen 2 Prius seems to be impervious to stains, and 10 year old cars can come out of the detail shop spotless.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      JohnTaurusVulcan3.0 has driven a Ford C-Max Energi for 780,000 miles only needing nee tires and brake pads.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Read the fine print about how to interpret CR’s reliability ratings. I did, before I bought my daughter a C-Max as her first car. (Make sure it’s the current 2017 Used Car issue, not some 2014 back issue.) Did you know that CR’s dreaded red (“worse than average”) score is given when reported problems rise to a whopping 2%. Their worst rating (“Much Worse”) seems to cover a range from 3% to infinity, so it doesn’t distinguish between moderate risk items and extremely common failures like Subaru head gaskets and VW TDI fuel pumps.

      Overall, CR’s rating standards indicate how generally reliable modern cars have become. A 3% failure rate isn’t a deal-killer for me, but I wish they would clearly name the 30% offenders.

  • avatar
    Professional Lurker

    I’m really enjoying my experiences so far with my 2014 C-Max SEL. One thing I can say is that the EPA ratings don’t tell the whole story on the fuel economy it can potentially achieve under the right circumstances. In my case it does my 20-mile commute at an average of 45-55 MPG. In about two weeks of driving the average works out to just under 50MPG. I can’t really complain about those numbers.

    I might achieve better fuel economy with the Prius, but I like that the C-Max has generous headroom, has an instrument cluster where one expects it, and is good about getting out of its own way when needed.

    The only things I don’t like is the relative lack of cargo space in the back and its wide turning radius. Also, when compared to a Fusion hybrid I test drove, the C-Max seemed somewhat noisier to me.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Glad you’re enjoying yours and thanks for the headlight info. If I do get one it’ll be slightly less space than my wagon, but not a huge deal. The seats down cargo capacity is roughly the same as a current generation Golf.

      I also found that in CARB states the C-Max’s Hybrid components (including the CVT) are warrantied for 10 years/150000 miles. My lifetime average economy over 50000 miles in my DSG Sportwagen is 34.3 US MPG. Hoping to bump that up with the C-Max once I’m able to dump my current car back to VW.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    For cars sold to cheapskates on low cost to own/operate, resale and longevity are big in the purchase decision. The c-max lease is a good deal, but keeping a prius for 200k is a better one. So the prius sells. Most people who would rather it be sportier than the prius don’t stop at c-max, they get something even sportier.

  • avatar

    Wait a moment… Tim had to admit that C-Max suffers a blow-out loss in practicality, is crushed in tech, has worse mileage. The only thing that goes for it is that it’s a Miata of wagons. And we know nobody cares about that, or else we’d see more CX-5 on the road than anything else. And how is it surprising that Prius wins, then?

    TrueDelta.com reports 45 repair visits for 2013 C-MAX and 7 for 2013 Prius. SEVEN, Karl! Tim really needs to stop projecting his biases on the buying public. It clearly said what it wants and Ford failed to deliver. Note that the explanation has nothing to do with brand loyalty or saving the planet.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      That’s 45 repair visits out of how many cars? Most people would rather get car they want and take it in once or twice for repair rather than for settling for a car they don’t like as well. There’s no question that the Prius is exceptionally durable and reliable. I liked the Gen 2 Prius. I didn’t care for the Gen 3 Prius, and I’ve never trie the Gen 4 Prius. I much preferred the C-Max to the Gen 3 Prius alternative in terms of performance and ergonomics. I knew it was likely not to be as economical or durable and would have a lower resale value. It was also significant to me that the C-Max was assembled in the US by workers making a living wage and contributig to the strength of the local economy. The next generation C-Max is set to be built in Mexico, and it will probably not make my shortlist.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The Prius was not here first, the Honda Insight was.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    No touchscreen or pushbutton start? That’s an asset in my world.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Checking the prices here in Canada the SEL hybrid is within a few hundred $ of the Energi model and are similarly equipped. However, Ford dealers who are allow to sell the Energi treat the government rebate like something that comes off their bottom line.

    Worse yet the CPO pricing tends to forget that there ever was a rebate so often a used one is priced higher than a new one once rebates come into play.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    2014 C-Max SE owner here. But its my wife’s car. The C-Max came after 2 Pontiac Vibes that had been extremely reliable. We compared the C-Max to a Prius-V and a Mazda5. The C-Max was the nicest driving car of these three. Plus having the dealer let us take the C-Max home for an extended test didn’t hurt at all. 50,000 miles later and Maxy has had no problems. The 2nd Vibe has just left and was replaced by a FiST. So for the first time since 1981 there are no Toyota powered vehicles in our drive way. I will miss the reliability, but I just can’t get excited about any vehicles that Toyota makes ,other than the FR-S.

  • avatar
    ericb91

    As a salesman, I’ve sold Toyotas and now I’m at a Ford dealer. The Prius is a great car if you’re looking for basic, fuel-efficient transportation. The C-Max feels more solid going down the road and has a more comfortable interior.

    On top of that, the C-Max has a somewhat hefty depreciation curve, which makes it an EXCELLENT used car value. Right now my dealer has a 2013 C-Max SE with 66,400 miles. It’s got the 203A package (power liftgate, MyFord Touch, etc) and it’s a 1-owner (elderly couple, always dealer maintained, etc) priced at $12,430. As a father of two whose commute is 3 miles round trip (yes, 3 miles) this car would be perfect for me. If only my 2001 Camry would die… But it won’t.

    TL;DR the C-Max is a fantastic used car value.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “the C-Max is a fantastic used car value”

      Church followers were already aware.

      also

      “The Prius is a great car if you’re looking for basic, fuel-efficient transportation.”

      Yaris is more on the line of “basic, fuel-efficient transportation”, even the Prius C starts just under 20K. When Nissan is putting out Versas for 12,9 or thereabouts, 7K more doesn’t feel so “basic” to me.

  • avatar
    macc4644

    Eight days ago I purchased a C-Max SE.
    Like many here I have owned far too many new cars.
    I bailed on my 11th new Honda when I picked up my new 2013 Accord Sport.
    I had enough of the noise and QC issues.

    I read enough semi negative stuff on the C-max but the price was unreal with the rebates. I had a 2010 Honda Insight prior to the Accord.
    There is absolutely no advantage on the Insight- none.
    People must drive like maniacs because after just 200 miles of use I always arrive back home getting 48-50 mpg and that is solely rural driving. And I always drive from 5-7 mph over the posted speed. You really have to here with the long rolling hills. I never use the Eco button because I think it hurts your mpg like it did on the Insight because you need to get your foot in it more because it dogs the car out too much.

    I drive briskly off the line and get up to speed and I play no hyper miling or any of that nonsense and I use the AC like any other car.
    The car has plenty of zip and the 2L puts my Honda motors to shame. All of this on real 225/50/17 tires and rims.

    Why no back up camera? Too many buttons and I think all of the dash hybrid play screens distract driving and the car is super smooth but the interior noise level is nice but not Lexus-Buick nice. I’m actually thrilled with the car but I haven’t been without a tach since 1978- nuff said.

    The car drives a bit like a Golf- very nice and the out the door pricing is unreal. I no longer get thrilled too much as I buy cars like I buy burgers. I think this is going to stay. I did test drive the Prius and Prius V and a Jetta hybrid prior to buying.

    After my brief ownership with a car not broken in yet I can’t understand the old MPG issue. If you ever been near Fairhill-Elkton MD. near the Delaware line and see our wide open hilly roads you can tell this isn’t hybrid country and I go up those hills at 60-65 mph and I get bang near 50 mpg. crazy. BTW- That’s Route 273…

  • avatar
    Fred27

    I am a C-Max owner now shopping for a 2017 Prius as a replacement. Although I purchased the C-Max for its better acceleration and wanted to buy American (this is not my only Ford), I’ve never had a car with such profound problems with reliability. The C-Max is now in the shop for a transmission replacement which will take many weeks because the Ford dealer where the car sits has limited throughput on major drivetrain repairs. Since the car was delivered to the shop on a flatbed truck it isn’t moving elsewhere.

    I now see there have been a few TSBs issued by Ford regarding drivetrain failure, and a Google search of CVT/transmission/drivetrain failure shows a good representation of this problem. Due to unreliable engineering, this is an unfortunate misuse of tens of millions of dollars donated by the US Gov’t to develop the HF35 transmission under the Recovery Act. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/25/fact-sheet-recovery-act-made-largest-single-investment-clean-energy

    This was the first car I’ve had break down in traffic in 3 decades. I dutifully made my NHTSB report on this unsafe vehicle, because of this experience I will never buy another Ford for personal or business use – and I have (soon to be had) been a supportive Ford shareholder for 25 years.

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