The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid uses the latest version of Ford's hybrid system, which incorporates a specially tuned gasoline engine and a pair of motor-generators. One electric motor can power the car alone, at speeds up to 62 mph (under certain circumstances), or add torque to the engine output, and the other recharges the battery through regenerative braking and on engine overrun.
The 1.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is mounted under the load floor just behind the rear seat, with a covered compartment behind it.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 141 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque, but the power output of the engine and drive motor together is 188 horsepower--or 54 hp more than the total output of the Toyota Prius powertrain. Ford notes that the engine is entirely free of accessory drive belts, with even the water pump being electrically powered, as well as the air-conditioning compressor and the power steering.
Along with a lot of development effort aimed at reducing engine noise and harshness, the extra power means that the C-Max doesn't feel like it's struggling as much as a Prius under heavy loads. The engine note sounds less desperate and shrill under full acceleration, giving drivers more confidence in situations like short uphill freeway on-ramps. For more power, the driver can shift into "L" as well, and the C-Max also incorporates Hill Descent Control that simulates increased engine braking.
On the road, the C-Max has a firm ride, and road surface imperfections sometimes come directly through to passengers, probably due to the low-rolling-resistance tires. The noise suppression is quite good, though, including Active Noise Cancellation that analyzes certain sounds inside the passenger compartment and transmits anti-noise through the door speakers in real time to cancel them out. That meant that passengers may feel the road surface, but they didn't necessarily hear the tires passing over it. We did occasionally hear a slight electric whine, but it's wasn't all that objectionable.
Our one disappointment with the C-Max on the road was that it simply didn't have the tight, lithe feel of the Focus hatchback we tested last year. Our test C-Max Hybrid held the road well enough, but it's a tall and heavy car--at a curb weight of 3,600 pounds, it's 650 pounds heavier than a Focus five-door--and you can feel it on the road.