2013 Ford C-Max Energi Review

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2017
The Car Connection
2017
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor

The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is the first head-to-head challenger for the Toyota Prius since that car grabbed the green mantle a decade ago--and in many ways, the Ford's a better daily driver.

The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid represents the first straight-up competitor to the legendary Toyota Prius hybrid, and it's home-grown and assembled in Michigan. This is Ford's first dedicated hybrid, meaning there's no gasoline-only version of the C-Max sold in the U.S. In exterior size and internal capacity, the tall, compact five-door hatchback neatly splits the difference between the standard Prius Liftback and the new-for-2012 Prius V wagon.

The C-Max Hybrid model will be followed in a few months by the C-Max Energi, the first-ever plug-in hybrid Ford has offered. It will face off against the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, though it promises a longer all-electric range. But we haven't yet driven that car, and this review deals solely with the hybrid model--which will be the volume seller in the C-Max range.

The exterior styling of the C-Max starts with the large trapezoidal grille of the Ford Focus Electric, and then adds the accent lines and window angles of Ford's "kinetic design" to what is really a small minivan, or perhaps a tall and upright five-door hatchback. Inside, however, the C-Max has a rich and stylish dashboard and a number of high-end options that make the comfortable interior a luxurious place to spend time.

When it went on sale in the fall of 2012, Ford's hybrid C-Max was rated at 47 mpg on the EPA combined test cycle, just marginally worse than the 50-mpg Prius Liftback but better than the Prius V's 42 mpg combined. In June 2013, the company cut that to 43 mpg after an EPA investigation sparked by owner complaints that real-world fuel efficiency wasn't even close to that number. And then in April 2014, the company cut the combined fuel-economy ratings again, to 40 mpg, after it found errors in lab-test measurements and calculations for aerodynamic drag. The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is currently rated at 40 mpg combined (42 mpg city, 37 mpg highway)--a far more realistic estimate of what drivers will likely achieve in mixed usage.

On the road, its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor deliver 54 hp more than the Toyota Prius powertrain. In practice, that means that the C-Max is far less stressed and desperate-sounding under hard acceleration; its engine is more turbine-like than the desperate howl of the Prius. Its handling, regretably, is far from the agile and lithe feel of the Focus compact it's based on--the heavy C-Max tends toward the ponderous on the road.

Our test C-Max was well built and offered more interior space than the Prius Liftback, plus a bevy of practical features that will make it a useful vehicle for carrying around families of four of five and their gear. Ford expects the hybrid C-Max to achieve top safety ratings, though it has not yet been crash-tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.

At $25,995 including delivery, Ford has kept the base price of the C-Max Hybrid below that of the Prius V wagon (starting at $27,345 with delivery), though the hybrid C-Max costs about $1,200 more than the base Prius Liftback model. While the standard Prius will continue to reign as the most fuel-efficient (non-plug-in) car sold in the U.S., the added cargo capacity, people space, and fuel economy of the C-Max--and its more relaxed operation under heavy loads--may prove formidable competition for the Prius V wagon.

One drawback to the C-Max is the lack of all-wheel drive. The C-Max Hybrid effectively replaces the discontinued Ford Escape Hybrid crossover utility vehicle, but fully half of all Escape Hybrids were sold with a mechanical all-wheel drive system--pretty much mandatory in the Northeast and snowy or mountainous states. The C-Max is front-wheel-drive only, and Ford has no plans to offer an all-wheel-drive model. That's a major missing item, in our view.

While the Prius pioneered the high-efficiency segment Toyota has dominated for 12 years, at last there's a credible competitor that in some ways is a better car than the fabled Prius. The biggest challenge Ford faces, in fact, may be simply convincing those crucial California Prius buyers to consider the C-Max in the first place.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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September 22, 2015
2013 Ford C-Max Energi 5-Door HB SEL

A truly fantastic vehicle!

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After driving this, I would never go back to gas only vehicle again. I can go months without using gas if I'm sticking around the city but the gas engine is there for the longer road trips. I love the smooth... + More »
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June 17, 2015
2013 Ford C-Max Energi 5-Door HB SEL

Perfect commuter care with extended range option.

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Plug in efficiency, silent yet sporty acceleration, comfortable and thoughtful interior for two. Right-sized for city travel yet zippy and efficient on the highway. State of the art design anticipates a future... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

More Fun to Drive than a Prius but has it's quirks.

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After over 200,000 miles in two Prius (Priui), the switch to the C-Max Energi has been awesome. So much better handling and fun to drive (although Power Mode in teh Prius is fun too). I get about 25 miles in... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

The C-max Energi is like two cars in one -- an EV for around town and a conventional car for long distance.

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We have now owned this car for almost two years, and are completely satisfied with it in every respect. The "Energi" model is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with an electric-only range of about 22 miles. For our... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

Perhaps the best plug-in hybrid available!

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Since our Ford C-Max Energi left the factory, its overall fuel mileage is 48.3 MPG, and that is after road trips and two cold Wisconsin winters. During the Summer months, the average overall MPG will climb to... + More »
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February 12, 2017
2016 Ford C-Max Energi 5-Door HB SEL

C-Max-better than I ever thought

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I moved up from a C-Max hybrid to an Energi plug-in hybrid when I realized that this was a great city car and I could also get 24-25 miles on electric. the more I drive the car, the more I appreciate it. I... + More »
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September 14, 2015
2016 Ford C-Max Energi 5-Door HB SEL

Good family transportation

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I got this car to commute to work on electric drive, and to haul my family around on long trips and still get great gas mileage. It does those things great! It is a very quiet car, requires little maintenance... + More »
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January 1, 2016
2015 Ford C-Max Energi 5-Door HB SEL

3000miles 92M.P.G. so far

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Great driving car, has made 29miles on batt power only no gas at all, and then charged it up to go home all on batt. Ford says it can go 20000miles on oil or 2 year's, that will be no problem my engine at 2... + More »
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April 23, 2015
2015 Ford C-Max Energi 5-Door HB SEL

Heavy on Tech but lack on range

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2014 C-max Energi is a great all around hybrid plug in vehicle. It offers up to 20 miles on electric only power, however decreases significantly if driving on freeway where wind drag plays a big role. Also... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2015 Ford C-Max Energi

Switched from a 8 year old prius and there's no comparison in the quiet ride in the ford.

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Great car! We love it in town and especially on long highway trips.
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