Ford is keen to trumpet that its pair of C-Max hybrids easily trounce the segment-favorite Toyota Prius soundly… all that’s left is for the sales to match.
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder combines with an electric motor to produce 188 net horsepower through a continuously variable transmission; plug-in “Energi” model for extended electric-only range.
Ford isn’t shy at talking down the other half of its hybrid-technology partner — Toyota — at any opportunity. But that’s because Ford, like it or not, is playing catch-up in the hearts-and-minds of car-buyers everywhere. So the C-Max and its plug-in Energi counterpart — launched in 2013 and unchanged for 2014 — represent Ford’s first dedicated hybrid brand. They’re based on the compact Focus architecture and have the same distance between the front and rear wheels and overall length. However the C-Max is more than four-inches wider and half a foot taller, making it ideal for hauling people and their gear. Visually, the C-Max also shares a definite kinship with the Focus, notwithstanding the massive windshield that provides an unencumbered vista for all passengers. Cargo space is about equal to that of the Toyota Prius v wagon, but with the rear seat folded flat the C-Max has nearly one-third more space than its chief rival. Note, however that the C-Max Energi, with its more massive power system, reduces overall cargo volume by about 20 percent. The flight-deck-style dashboard and control panel on both would look at home in the Starship Enterprise. The center stack houses an eight-inch touch-screen for climate, audio, hands-free phone and navigation controls and doubles as a backup camera that’s also standard. Meanwhile the gauge pod provides real-time fuel-economy readouts and driving efficiency as indicated by the number of green leaves displayed on an adjacent screen. There’s also a “Brake Coach” to help drivers maximize the regenerative braking system, keep the lithium-ion batteries topped up and maximize driving range. The C-Max and C-Max Energi hybrid’s powertrains consist of a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that works in tandem with a 106-horsepower (estimated) electric motor. The net system output is rated at 188 horsepower, which is 54 more ponies than the competing Prius v. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) sends the torque to the front wheels. Ford claims the Energi can run up to 85 mph on battery power alone and has more than triple the Prius Plug-in’s maximum electric-only range (20 versus six miles). The Energi plug-in lists for about $30,000 (including a $7,700 federal tax credit).
Base price (incl. destination): $26,000 (hybrid)
Type: Four-door compact tall wagon
Engine (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4 with electric motor (188, net)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission: Continuously variable
Mileage (city/hwy): 47/47
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; front knee airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 3,610