Hatchback, tall wagon, or minivan with hinged doors? No matter which way you first see the 2015 Ford C-Max, it's likely to live up to your expectations in functionality and design. As for styling, the C-Max is utilitarian, and it pretty much splits the difference between the Prius Liftback and the more family-oriented Prius V wagon by shape and size -- although it's arguably sportier than either of those models, going by styling cues and interior design.
The sportier look definitely holds up once you see the C-Max for what it is: a somewhat taller vehicle built on sporty Ford Focus underpinnings. Yes, it's nowhere near as racy on the outside as the Focus five-door, although it serves family needs in a different way -- with high mileage and a unique exterior that calls it out as a hybrid from a distance.
In the transformation to a more practical, spacious shape, some of the Focus' sporty details do emerge in the C-Max -- for instance, the serious-looking front end and the pert tail styling. In front, the C-Max gets a version of the large trapezoidal grille that's now used throughout much of the Ford lineup.
What we can't get nearly as enthused about is what's in between -- an arched roofline, a high beltline, and proportions that seem too bulbous from some angles. Admittedly, the stylists have done their best to give it flowing lines, including highlighted wheel arches and a slight haunch over the rear wheel.
With modern styling for the dash, soft-touch surfaces, and just modest touches of brightwork, the C-Max interior is arguably far more upscale in look and feel than the hard-plastic 'flying buttress' interior of the current Toyota Prius. With a rich and stylish dashboard that builds on the look of the Focus (and looks like it has some commonality with what's used in the Escape (including colorful, configurable displays), it's definitely more of a premium look.