The Ford C-MAX is a five-door hatchback originally built for the European market and new to the U.S. for the 2013 model year. The 2013 Ford C-MAX comes in hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, the latter dubbed Energi. (No non-hybrid version are available in the U.S. as there are in Europe.)
Built on the same platform as the Ford Focus, the Ford C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, are powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine paired with a 118-hp, 88kW electric motor. Here's the difference: Ford C-MAX Hybrid uses a 1.4-kWh Lithium-ion battery, while Ford C-MAX Energi packs a hefty 7.6-kWh Lithium-ion pack. Gears are selected by an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT).
Ford C-MAX Hybrid is EPA-rated at 45/40 mpg City/Highway, those figures lower than the initial numbers. In general, hybrids are most efficient in the city, since stop-and-go driving uses the regenerative braking system more frequently to help charge the battery.
Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid is rated at 44/42 mpg. The Energi Plug-in Hybrid is EPA-rated at 100 MPGe Combined miles per gallon equivalent. According to Ford, it has a top speed of 85 mph. It can drive up to 21 miles in electric-assisted mode, and can go up to 620 miles with a fully charged battery and a full tank of gas. This beats the Toyota Prius plug-in, which has a six-mile all-electric range and 540-mile total range.
Like something out of a sci-fi movie, the C-MAX can learn frequently driven routes and will automatically adjust its settings to maximize efficiency. Ford engineers developed this feature, called EV+, which uses the car's built-in GPS and proprietary software to adjust how battery power is used. For example, if the vehicle is nearing a frequent destination, it will remain in electric-only mode to save fuel.
Charging times for the C-MAX Energi are about seven hours with a traditional 120-volt household outlet, and about 4.5 hours with a 220-volt Leviton fast charger. The latter must be purchased separately and is available at Best Buy stores.
Its layout and design makes the C-MAX versatile enough for commuting or weekend road trips. There's a 60/40-split rear seat that folds completely flat, creating more room for cargo. However, because of its battery, the C-MAX lacks the trunk space of most gas-powered compact sedans. The hybrid offers a fair 24.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats, yet, the Energi offers a mere 19.2 cubes. Optional is a handsfree liftgate, first found on the Ford Escape, that allows anyone with the key fob to open the hatch by simply waving a foot underneath the back of the vehicle.
Versions of the C-MAX equipped with navigation use the latest version of MyFordTouch, which has improved since the last generation but can still be irksome to use. Still, there are some handy features, like charging station location information on the C-MAX Energi. But, unfortunately, it's not possible to tell in advance if those stations are already occupied. Once the C-MAX Energi is plugged in, however, Ford's software can alert drivers via text message if the charge is interrupted, foiling any potential plug stealers.
Competitors to Ford C-MAX are few and far between. Alternatives to the hybrid include Honda Insight, Toyota Prius and Prius v wagon. Plug-ins that rival the C-MAX Energi are currently limited to the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius plug-in. Because the federal tax credit for hybrid and electric vehicles is currently calculated according to battery size, the C-MAX Energi is awarded a higher federal tax credit than does the Prius plug-in.
The 2013 Ford C-MAX sedan is available with two powertrains: Hybrid and Energi plug-in. The hybrid is available in two trim levels, and the Energi is offered in a single trim.
The C-MAX Hybrid SE ($25,200) comes standard with cloth seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, manual adjustable driver and passenger seats, a leather-wrapped, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with menu and audio controls, leather shift knob, power windows, trip computer, cruise control, remote keyless entry, Ford Sync voice-activated system, 6-speaker audio system with CD player, auxiliary jack and USB port, a 60/40 split folding rear seat and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The C-MAX Hybrid SEL ($28,200) adds leather-trimmed and heated seats, a power adjustable driver seat, pushbutton start, universal garage door opener, satellite radio capability with a 6-month included subscription, the MyFord Touch interface with touchscreen, fog lamps, power heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, rain sensing wipers and a reverse sensing system. Most of these additional features can be added as options on the Hybrid SE. Options on the Hybrid SEL include a package that bundles an upgraded Sony audio system, navigation, HD radio ($1,195); another that adds a power liftgate, rearview camera and hands-free liftgate ($1,695), and a third that combines both at a slight discount ($2,495). Many of the features found in the packages can be added a la carte.
The C-MAX Energi SEL plug-in ($32,950) comes standard with everything found on the Hybrid SEL, and offers similar packages and options.
Safety features on all models include dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, ABS, emergency brake assist, traction control, stability control, an anti-theft system and a post-crash alert system. Rearview camera is optional.