Before stepping inside Ford’s new crossover for an 80-mile test-drive, I can’t help admiring the looks of this 2013 Ford C-MAX. This 5-seater rides tall like an SUV with a height of 63.8-inches. The aerodynamic swoop, LED running lights, and contoured doors give it a contemporary and impressive look.
I walk to the back and kick the air below the rear hatch, it opens hands-free. When one arm is holding grocery bags and the other your child, what could be more convenient? The 60/40-split back seat easily drops giving more cargo flexibility than a small SUV. I see why Ford calls this a multi activity vehicle (MAV).
Jim Prueter with AAA is driving the first 40 miles; I drive the second 40. At 6-foot, 6-inches, Jim fits comfortably behind the steering wheel, instead of feeling cramped in competitors to the C-MAX like the Prius v or Chevrolet Volt. The 6-way adjustable seat and the tilt/telescoping steering wheel allow any driver to get the right fit and take control.
One can USB connect an iPhone or Droid, then use Ford SYNC to voice control music and entertainment. Jim touches start and sees that we still have 620 miles of range before needing to find a gas station. 620 miles!
The C-MAX has been a big seller in mileage-conscious Europe. Now it’s selling in the U.S. looking even better and with better mileage. Here you can buy the C-MAX Hybrid starting at $25,200 and get 47-miles per gallon and 570-mile range, or you can buy the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid starting at $32,900 and get 100 mpg and 620 mile range. With the upgraded interior, the C-MAX Energi that we are test-driving costs $35,400 with a premium navigation system.
After 13 miles, the 2L gasoline engine quietly engages working with the electric motor. The C-MAX Energi is rated at 21 miles electric range. Even with 3 of us in the car and some uphill, I am surprised at quickly the 7.5 kWh lithium-battery reaches its discharge point and we automatically go into hybrid mode. Automotive journalists were driving a dozen of these new C-MAX Energi. Trading notes later, no one had reached 16 miles in EV mode.
After 45 minutes in Olema, it is time to return. The lithium battery is 40% recharged using a Level 2 charger at 3.3 kW/h, the same charge rate as plug-in hybrids like the Volt or Prius Plug-in. All electric cars like the 2013 Ford Focus Electric and 2013 Nissan LEAF charge at double that rate.
Now I enjoy being the driver. Taking advantage of downhill and not going over 45 mph, the C-MAX Energi stays in EV mode for 8 miles before the engine engages. The car handles well in the windy turns. The C-MAX breaks and accelerates smoothly. I like the higher command view in comparison to my test drives of the Chevrolet Volt, Prius Plug-in and larger Prius v. After a number of miles the vast Pacific Ocean stretches out before us on this classic fall day in California. On steep descents, I downshift to “L” and capture more regen. On the flat, the Energi briefly returns into EV mode.
We glide across the Golden Gate Bridge and return to our beginning. The C-MAX Energi delivered an impressive ride. We averaged 66-mpg in comparison to the EPA rating of 100-mpg. In hybrid mode, we achieved an impressive 43-mpg.
Forget range anxiety.
This vehicle has a 620-mile range. On one tank of gas drive from San Diego to San Francisco, Houston to Memphis, or New York to Detroit. You will not find a roomy crossover or SUV with better range and mileage.
Good looks, roomy if your 6-foot 6, better cargo flexibility than a small SUV, great mileage, what more could you want? A spare tire. Like many new hybrid and electric cars, this C-MAX only offers a repair kit, which proved worthless when my Nissan LEAF got a slash in the tire. As long as your flat is during business hours, your Ford or AAA plan will probably include a free tow to a dealer for a new tire purchase. Many auto makers have dropped the spare to make room for the advanced battery pack and to preserve trunk space.
Ford gives us two great choices. The C-MAX Hybrid starts at $25,200 ($25,995 with delivery) and the C-MAX Energi starts at $32,950 ($33,745 with delivery). The price difference narrows with a $3,750 federal tax deduction for the Energi, incentives in many states. If most of your drives between charges are less than 20 miles, you may save $1,000 in gasoline per year by getting the C-MAX Energi.
As an added encouragement, states like California make this C-MAX Energi available for the White Sticker which allows solo driving in HOV lanes – a huge for those stuck in commute hour gridlock.
Before someone buys a Chevrolet Volt or Prius Plug-in, the will want to drive the new C-MAX Energi. Before some buys any crossover, including previous fuel economy champion the Prius v, they will want to drive the C-MAX Hybrid.
Much as I enjoyed driving the Prius v and having great reliability as a 7-year Prius owner, I would consider the C-MAX Hybrid over the Prius v due to better mileage and SUV height. For similar reasons, I would consider the C-MAX Energi over the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
If you’re serious about getting a plug-in hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt is likely to deliver double the electric range of the C-MAX Energi. I like the sporty fell of the Volt, but I like the room of the C-MAX. Most Volt owners that I meet primarily fuel with electricity. With the C-MAX Energi, most of your fuel may be gasoline. As they say, “Your mileage may vary.”
Built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., the all-new C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid is now arriving at EV Certified Ford dealers in 19 markets, followed by nationwide rollout in all 50 states in early 2013.
Green Car of the Year
On November 29, Green Car Journal will announce the Green Car of the Year. The five candidates are the Ford C-MAX, Ford Fusion, Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV, Dodge Dart Aero, and Prius c. The Ford C-MAX deserves to win with the uncompromised height, cargo flexibility, best range, and among the 5 competitors fuel economy that can only be matched by the Ford Fusion Energi that shares the same drive system. Ford is going after the hybrid and plug-in hybrid markets while letting customers choose the type of vehicle and drive system. In 2013, thousands of Ford C-MAX crossovers will be driven from dealer lots and not refueled for 600 miles. Their owners will be too busy driving and smiling.