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STYLING | 8 out of 10
Ford [has] achieved a distinct body style—an important factor for hybrid buyers intent on making a statement—without engineering a unique platform.
As far as looks go, the C-Max Hybrid is a camisole top and pencil skirt compared to the chintz housedress of the Prius v.
The C-Max's stylish, European flair attracted loads of stares during my multi-day test. It's an extremely fresh form compared to most anything on today's U.S. roads.
Is the 2014 Ford C-Max a tall wagon, a hatchback, or a van? We'll leave that up to your own eyes (and prejudices), but the reality is that the C-Max pretty much splits the difference between the Prius Liftback and the more family-oriented Prius V wagon if you go by body shape and exterior dimensions.
The other fundamental truth is that it's built on Ford Focus underpinnings, so it's essentially a tall-wagon version of that Ford subcompact—and that's for better or worse, really. The exterior lines are nowhere near as racy as the Focus five-door hatchback, but this car serves a different audience: buyers who want the highest gas mileage and a car whose style says it's a hybrid.
The up side—other than the way it drives, of course—is that it manages to preserves some of the Focus hatchback's down-to-business front end and its pert tail. The down side is that what's in between—to our eyes, at least—can appear a bit bulbous from some angles.
In front, the C-Max gets a version of the large trapezoidal grille that's now used throughout much of the Ford lineup. Otherwise, the stylists have done their best to give it flowing lines, including highlighted wheel arches and a slight haunch over the rear wheel.
We're not sure how successful Ford is in conveying the hybrid part of the message in the design, since the C-Max shape isn't nearly as distinctive and iconic as the ultra-aerodynamic Prius profile. Perhaps in time, observers will link the C-Max shape to "hybrid"--but we're not betting the farm on it.
Inside, however, the C-Max builds on the interior of the Focus, with a rich and stylish dashboard (including colorful, configurable displays) and a number of high-end options; in all, it's a 'premium' look. With modern styling for the dash, soft-touch surfaces, and chrome accents it's undeniably more upscale than the hard-plastic 'flying buttress' interior of the Prius.
The 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid isn't quite as distinctive as the iconic Toyota Prius, but it is stylish--especially inside.