2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid Review
By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
At its most basic, the new 2013 Ford C-Max is a tall-bodied version of the company's very popular Focus. That's not a bad start, if you ask us. And introducing it in the United States as a hybrid may just have been a stroke of genius.
Though well known in Europe, the C-Max recently made landfall here in North America. However, it didn't do so as the wagon it was in the old country. Instead, the C-Max is coming to the Americas in hybrid sedan form. It uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor for propulsion. The combination, in conjunction with a lithium-ion battery pack, generates a healthy 188 horsepower.
Rated at 47 mpg in both city and highway driving scenarios, the C-Max sets a new fuel economy standard in its category; i.e., it essentially bests its main competitor, the Prius V, by just a little bit.
It also sets a new feature-content standard as well, only in this regard the C-Max is way ahead of the V. That means its interior and features complement are far more contemporary and inviting.
Does this make the C-Max the gas-electric hybrid to beat on this side of the pond?
By nicely equipped we mean that the materials, design and features are at least mainstream. To pick a few examples, there are everyday aids such as grab handles above all but the driver's window, plus 12- and 110-volt outlets throughout the cabin and rear cargo area. To better characterize them, the SE uses a standard keyed ignition switch and manual seats, while the SEL employs push-button starting and power seats. Other SEL niceties are dual-zone climate control and heated seat cushions. For those wanting more, the option list allows almost any of Ford's extensive comforts, such as Ford Sync, navigation and so on.
All C-Max models roll on 17-inch wheels and 225/50R-17 low-rolling-resistance tires, and any model can be had with an oversized, nonopening panorama-roof glass panel.
Under the Hood
For economy, the gas engine uses the efficient Atkinson cycle and is paired with a continuously variable transmission. All told, the C-Max Hybrid's 47 mpg city and highway Environmental Protection Agency ratings are a first, as previous hybrids score better in city than highway mileage. With its 13.5-gallon gas tank, the C-Max Hybrid boasts a 570 mile range, too.
Other interior highlights are the dashboard and instrument cluster. The dash is straight out of the recently redesigned Ford Escape and has a somewhat busy but contemporary look, while the bright and engaging instrument cluster is from the equally modern Fusion Hybrid. It features the leaf-growing "Eco Guide" that rewards low-carbon driving by adding leaves on a vine display — we're not making this up — and also features a configurable screen with a generous volume of easily understood information aimed at educating the driver on the most efficient driving techniques. Interestingly, all this actually helps.
Thanks to its tall greenhouse, the C-Max is also an excellent choice for tall people or those with lots to carry, such as young families. The vertically endowed enjoy great headroom, and with a long telescoping range on the adjustable steering column (along with generous seat travel) folks up to at least the 6-foot 5-inch range will find true legroom.
Cargo room is also augmented by the taller cabin, even if some gear must be stacked to realize the volume. There's a good 24.5 cubic feet in the rear storage area and an impressive 52.6 cubic feet when the second seats are folded.
On the Road
Some hybrid characteristics come through, of course. Most noticeable of these is that the brake-pedal feel is sticky, because it's balancing the regular friction and regenerative brakes. Far less prominent because of both good insulation and the muscular electric motor is the CVT transmission, which lets the gas engine rev up and stay there when you boot the throttle. Also, sensitive types may detect an occasional distant whine from the electric machinery. There are upsides, too. For one, the C-Max Hybrid glides silently in parking lots and sits vibrationless at stoplights because the gas engine is not running.
All said, however, the C-Max is a reasonably quiet car and it's surprisingly difficult to tell if the gas engine is running or not while driving. Another help is standard active-noise cancelling, which is powered through two small speakers in the headliner.
Also worth mentioning is the good rear-quarter visibility, thanks to the numerous, somewhat tall windows.
Right for You?
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitatethis report.)
Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, threetechnicalengine books and hundreds of freelance articles.