Taking On Prius
Ford is aiming directly at Toyota Prius buyers with its new C-Max Hybrid. More precisely, it is challenging the Prius v wagon. The C-Max is a compact minivan, with outstanding fuel economy, practical storage space and a fun to drive personality.
Like the Fiesta, the C-Max is a European model that Ford brought here to the States. In this case, the C-Max replaces the Escape Hybrid in the Ford lineup. It is built on the Focus platform, and shares many characteristics of the Focus and Escape.
Ford propels the C-Max with a hybrid power plant consisting of a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor to generate 188 horsepower. Torque is transferred to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This combo can rush the C-Max to 60 in about eight seconds, according to Ford. That’s two seconds faster than the Prius v. It also gets 47-mpg in both city and highway driving (also better than the Prius v) and it can reach 62-mph in electric mode only, thanks to a new lithium-ion battery, developed by Ford.
The C-Max comes in two trim levels, SE and SEL. My test car, an SE, came standard with amenities, like automatic air conditioning, a six-speaker sound system and the Sync voice activated connectivity. The tester also had an option package that added a power liftgate, rear bumper sensors, satellite radio and the MyTouch Ford interface. This last feature, which controls the infotainment system, takes a little time to master. A navigation system can be added as well.
The SEL model is better equipped with keyless ignition/entry, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a power driver’s seat. Options can be added, such as a rearview camera, automatic parallel parking and an enhanced power liftgate, which enables you to open the hatch by merely sweeping your foot beneath the bumper. I can see this bit of trickery becoming very popular.
The C-Max sports a feisty, yet functional look, with a sharply raked windshield and Ford’s new hexagon-shaped grille. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels add a touch of muscle to the side view. The interior reflects a lot of the Focus/Escape design. The dash is huge, and features a large eight-inch display screen in the center. A smallish speedometer, flanked by digital readouts, provides essential data for the driver. My test car was equipped with sturdy cloth-covered seats that looked like they would hold up well over time.
For a small car, five inches shorter than a Prius v, the C-Max has excellent head- and legroom, front and rear. Passengers have chair-like seating and tall side windows, which afford each a good view of the road. However the storage space at 24.5 cu.-ft. behind the back seat is 10 cubes smaller than that of the Prius v.
Some people resist hybrids because they think they are boring to drive. That is not the case with the C-Max. This car has plenty of pep, and accelerates well. It also surprises with its good handling. On a twisty road, you’ll forget that you’re driving a hybrid. The steering is quick, and the suspension fine-tuned so that the C-Max slips around curves with great agility. Furthermore, it’s quiet on the road, and delivers a compliant ride. What more could you ask for?
The C-Max Hybrid is at Ford Dealers now. The starting price is $25,995 for the SE and $28,995 for the SEL. A plug-in C-Max Hybrid, called the Energi, will be coming soon.
Very Good Fuel Economy
Practical and Functional
Fun To Drive