This week we got to drive a vehicle that I’ve been looking forward to Ford bringing to the U.S. market for awhile now. If you’re familiar at all with the European market of cars, you might be familiar with what they call “people-carriers” or compact MPVs. This is the segment where the C-Max comes from. In the U.S., this car is positioned between the Focus and the Escape and is actually categorized as a car. It’s larger than a Focus with more headroom and overall interior capacity, but smaller and lower down than the Escape. The only thing that really relates to this segment that’s being sold in the US is the Mazda-5, which is actually based off the same platform as the C-Max. In Europe, this is offered as the 5-passenger car we see here and also as a 7-passenger vehicle called the Grand C-Max. As for now, we won’t be seeing a 7-passenger version of this ride as the US market isn’t craving that kind of compact utility.
For the North American market, the C-Max Hybrid is assembled alongside the Focus and Ford Focus Electric at Ford’s Wayne plant in Michigan.
Inside this car you’ll notice a lot of similarities to the Focus. It’s so closely associated with that car that it’s often referred to in Europe as the Focus C-Max. Being related to the Focus is quite a good thing though, especially when it comes to interior quality. Our tester is the top of the line Energi, we’ll get more into that later, and is equipped with leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Ford’s next-gen SmartGuage, a 9-speaker Sony sound system, and of course MyFord Touch with an 8-inch touch screen for controlling everything throughout the car.
Like the entire Ford line-up, the interiors are infused with soft-touch materials and technology. It’s as nice a place to be as with the rest of the lineup. Unlike other companies that skimp on interior quality to cheapen their hybrid offerings, Ford has kept this as something you’ll enjoy being in.
Another thing that this car shares with the Focus and helps with enjoyment is its driving characteristic. The Focus has been known in Europe as a great handling car for a front-wheel-drive option. With its front and rear stabilizer bars, independent rear suspension and great feeling electric power-assisted steering, the enthusiast community in the US has clambered for the European Focus. All these things carry over to the C-Max. Although this is a hybrid vehicle, it still handles well and entices you to drive it enthusiastically down windy country roads. It also helps it to be a solid drive as you navigate the high speed highways of Texas.
So you might be wondering what powers this seemingly fun to drive, hybrid, and family wagon. All options equip you with a 2.0-liter engine matched up with an electric motor generating 188-horsepower and spinning the wheels with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The car features an advanced lithium-ion battery that is 25-30-percent smaller and 50-percent lighter than nickel-metal-hydride batteries used in Ford’s first-gen hybrids. The Energi, like our test car, is the plug-in hybrid version that utilizes the same engine setup but also has a larger battery at 7.6 kWh allowing you to travel in EV only mode for up to 21-miles and recharge the batteries by plugging into the wall. Recharging using a 240 takes about 2.5 hours and with a 120 will take 7 hours. The Energi with a full tank of fuel and a full charge on the battery should give you a total range of 620 miles. The EPA rated Energi combined fuel economy in all-electric mode at 100-MPG-e, 108-MPG-e for city driving, and 92-MPG-e on the highway. In the real world, we were averaging 43.2-MPG during our week of testing.
We’ve tested a bunch of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric vehicles here on txGarage, and they mostly all seem to have the same flaw. You must sacrifice fun, quality, and looks in order to achieve greater fuel economy. The C-Max sacrifices nothing in this regard. It’s a great looking design for a family wagon. It drives like a Focus with great handling, and still has the power to propel you away from or toward a destination. The interior is comfortable for all passengers and offers luxury appointments and a ton of technology. The only hybrid we’ve tested that comes close to meeting all these variables is the Lexus CT-200h which is more expensive and doesn’t get as good fuel economy.
Overall, I was impressed with the new C-Max Energi, although it didn’t bring exactly what I was looking for. You have 3-flavors when going to purchase a C-Max from your local dealer. You can have the base car that is a hybrid SE that will start at $25,200. The next level is a hybrid SEL that starts at $28,365. And then the top of the line is the Energi which is the plug-in hybrid starting at $32,950. All of these offerings are 5-passenger vehicles and all are hybrid. I would have liked to see the 7-passenger come over as I like the styling better than that of the Mazda-5 and really think it’s a great and inexpensive way to move a larger family like mine. Also, it would have been nice to see a C-Max in the US with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine without the weight of a hybrid system to go along with it. I know these were business decisions and those wouldn’t be as popular as what Ford is currently offering, and after seeing the decisions coming out of Ford as of late, I won’t be the one to question them.