The 2012 Ford C-Max doesn't show up in Ford dealers until late next year, but this week High Gear Media is going for a test drive in the new seven-passenger MPV in France, as a family-friendly follow-up to the 2010 Paris Auto Show.
Ford actually builds two vehicles dubbed C-Max in Europe, but only the larger version is coming to the U.S. in late 2011. The seven-seater is known as the Grand C-Max on the Continent, with the smaller five-seat taking the shorter C-Max name (see final photo in the gallery above).
Borne from the family of Ford "C" cars ("C" meaning compact), the C-Max share some powertrain pieces and other mechanicals with cars like the upcoming 2012 Ford Focus and the Euro Ford Kuga crossover. Size-wise, the cars it will compete against in the U.S. include the Dodge Journey, the Mazda5 (which is one of its "C" distant cousins) and the Mitsubishi Outlander.
The C-Max will be Ford's only minivan offering, and though it's distinctly smaller than the likes of the Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford thinks younger buyers starting new families will like the C-Max's size, its passenger flexibility and its frugal powertrains. For flexibility, the C-Max's rear two rows of seats can fold and flip to increase passenger room or cargo space; there's even a middle second-row seat that folds into the housing of the right-side second-row seat, allowing walk-through to the kid-sized third-row seat. The rear side doors slide--a classic minivan trait--making them easy to open in tight parking spaces. And the second and third-row seats fold flat for maximum hauling capacity.
The C-Max will be offered with a pair of engines, either a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with more than 240 horsepower, or a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with about 170 horsepower. A sophisticated dual-clutch transmission will be the only gearbox on the front-driver, but to most families, it simply looks and shifts like an automatic transmission--while helping deliver highway fuel economy that's expected to pass 30 mpg.
Safety features like blind-spot warnings and parking assist--which steers the C-Max into a tight spot for you--will be available as options, along with rear-seat entertainment systems and the MyFord Touch system and SYNC, which integrate Bluetooth voice controls into the audio system.
Ford expects the C-Max to carry a base price of about $20,000, with a "nicely equipped" version selling for under $25,000.
High Gear Media will be driving the new C-Max tomorrow for the first time. Stay tuned to FamilyCarGuide and TheCarConnection for more details and first driving impressions.
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