Whether you get the 2015 Ford C-Max with a charging plug (as the C-Max Energi) or opt for the Hybrid, what you get is a relatively responsive full hybrid that allows you to creep along at lower speeds in electric-only mode, or otherwise earn many more miles per gallon than most non-hybrid models its size.
The powertrain in the 2015 C-Max altogether delivers 195 horsepower -- which is a significant 54 hp more than that of the Toyota Prius. With its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor system, the C-Max feels noticeably perkier and less stressed than than that of the Prius, even though the C-Max is several hundred pounds heavier. The C-Max will quite easily move along gently at lower speeds in electric-only mode, then start the gasoline engine and blend it seamlessly as you gather speed or increase acceleration. The drivetrain uses a planetary-gear power distribution, like the Prius, and smartly recovers as much energy as it smoothly can when braking or coasting.
In standard C-Max versions, the electric motor can power the car alone, at speeds up to 62 mph (under certain light-load 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 positioned under the load floor just behind the rear seat.
Ford put a lot of effort into reducing engine noise and harshness, and the extra power here means that the C-Max doesn't struggle as much as a Prius under heavy loads. The engine note sounds less desperate and shrill under full acceleration, giving drivers more confidence in tight or steep situations. For more power, the driver can shift into "L" as well, and the C-Max also incorporates Hill Descent Control to help stay safe down slippery driveways.
Where the standard C-Max and the plug-in C-Max Energi differ is that the Energi (Ford's first-ever plug-in hybrid) offers an official driving range of 19 miles—nearly double the Prius Plug-In's official range of 11 miles, and far more useful for an electric commute, with the benefits of a gasoline vehicle for weekend trips. We've found the Energi to deliver remarkably close to this in real-world driving, so it's perfect for even medium-distance commuters to drive to work, charge there, and then drive back, all on electricity.
A much larger 7.6-kWh battery (versus 1.4-kWh in the standard C-Max hybrid) is the key to the Energi's plug-in performance; although you should note that you'll be sacrificing some cargo space for it.
Especially if you use the Toyota Prius as a benchmark, it's hard to find any significant fault with how the C-Max models drive. We've found steering to be precise and well-weighted; it's not quite good as what you'll find in the Ford Focus, but it's better than what you'll find in other small crossovers. The hefty curb weight of nearly 3,700 in base form and around 3,900 pounds in plug-in Energi form adds up to handling that isn't as light and lean as you might suspect -- although again it's more nimble next to nearly any other vehicle you'd consider a rival.