2013 Ford C-Max: Blue Oval Serves Up Detroit's First Direct Challenge To The Supremacy Of Prius
2013 Ford C-Max Review:
In a first for a hybrid, the Ford C-Max gets an EPA highway rating as good as its city rating. C-Max is rated 47 mpg in all cycles — city, highway and combined.
Gas/electric hybrids come in two varieties: hybrid versions of traditional gasoline-engine vehicles or born-to-the-breed hybrid-only models.
The upcoming 2013 Ford C-Max is, in reality, the former, but to U.S. car buyers it’s likely to seem like the latter.Although C-Max is a spin-off of a compact European wagon of the same name, available across the pond in gasoline and diesel versions since 2003, the Wayne, Mich.-built U.S. edition of the 2013 C-Max, based on the second generation of its European counterpart, will be offered stateside only in hybrid trim.
Since no non-hybrid C-Max has ever graced U.S. roads, most American consumers are likely to think of it as a born-to-the-breed model.
In any event, one thing is certain: the C-Max hybrid is designed to battle the premier born-to-the-breed model, the Toyota Prius — specifically, the Prius V wagon.
Comparisons to Prius V are inevitable, so let’s make some.
C-Max, like V, is a wagon designed to blend lofty fuel economy with cargo- and people-toting flexibility. It is, however, 8 inches shorter than V while riding a wheelbase that’s 5.1 inches more compact. The result is roughly 15 fewer cubic feet of available seats-folded cargo space — 67.3 in Prius V compared to 52.6 in C-Max.
On the other hand, C-Max promises a sportier driving experience, despite a curb weight roughly 330 pounds heftier than V’s. Give credit to C’s tidier exterior dimensions and notably more powerful drivetrain.
The Prius V claims 134 total system horsepower courtesy of a 1.8-liter I-4 gasoline engine assisted by a 60 kW electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, all managed by a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission.
C-Max, riding a basic platform shared with the new Ford Focus and Escape, uses a 2.0-liter I-4 that benefits from the assistance of a 35-kw electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack to generate 188 total-system horsepower. As in Prius, the transmission is a CVT. Zero-to-60 mph sprints are said to be around 9 seconds, or about a second quicker to 60 than the Prius V.Even with that power advantage, C-Max is EPA-rated higher than Prius V. The official number for C-Max is 47, no matter how you slice it: 47 city/47 hwy/47 combined. That compares to a rating of 44 city/40 hwy/42 combined for Prius V.
Ford says C-Max has a driving range of 570 miles — 120 miles farther than Prius V.
(For the record, the standard Prius hatchback and its compact brother, the Prius C runabout, remain the mileage champs among cars you don’t have to plug in, each with a combined city/hwy rating of 50 mpg.)
Finally, Ford has aggressively priced C-Max, undercutting Prius V by more than $1,300. Including destination charge, C-Max starts at $25,995. V starts at $27,310.
The C-Max hybrid will be available in SE and SEL trim levels. Among its nifty standard or optional features will be:
• “SmartGauge with EcoGuide,” which is designed to provide drivers real-time information to help aid in achieving maximum fuel economy
• Active Park Assist, a self-parking feature that requires the driver only to operate the pedals to slip C-Max into a parallel parking space
• A hands-free power liftgate that opens with the wave of a foot under the rear bumper — a feature likely to be appreciated by anyone with an armful of groceries or kid
C-Max, like Prius, also will be available in a plug-in version, which Ford calls C-Max Energi. It sacrifices about 10 cubes of cargo room compared to the standard C-Max, but promises even more miserly consumption of fuel.
This is going to be an interesting battle to watch. The new Ford C-Max hybrid can claim a host of virtues, but Toyota’s Prius is entrenched as the world’s most popular hybrid — by far. It also boasts a reputation for quality, reliability, innovation and variety (there are four Prius models to choose from, including the hatchback, the plug-in hatchback, the V wagon and the C urban runabout).
C-Max — Detroit’s first direct challenge to Prius supremacy — is David taking on Goliath. Let the games begin.
Look for C-Max this fall, with the C-Max Energi plug-in arriving soon after.
2013 Ford C-Max
TYPE: Five-passenger hybrid wagon
DRIVE FORMAT: Front-wheel drive
BASE PRICE: SE Hybrid: $25,995; SEL Hybrid: $28,995; Energi: $33,745
ENGINE: Hybrid: 2.0L I-4 with electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack; Energi: same
HORSEPOWER: 188 total system hp; gasoline engine is estimated at 141
TORQUE: 129 lb.-ft. (estimated)
RECOMMENDED FUEL: Regular
TRANSMISSIONS: Continuously variable (CVT) automatic
AIR BAGS: Front, front side, driver knee, front/rear side curtain
SUSPENSION: Fully independent
BRAKES: Four-wheel disc with ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, regenerative braking system
EPA MPG: Hybrid: 47 city/47 hwy47 combined; Energi: same when functioning as hybrid, but plug-in feature extends range via electric mode
WHEELBASE: 104.3 inches
LENGTH: 173.7 inches
CURB WEIGHT: Hybrid: 3,607 lbs.; Energi: 3,859 lbs.
FUEL TANK: Hybrid: 13.5 gallons; Energi: 14 gallons
CARGO (cu. ft., rear seat up/down): Hybrid: 24.5/52.6; Energi: 19.2/42.8
WHERE BUILT: Wayne, Michigan
Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer living in St. Louis. He also is a regular automotive contributor to Fox 2 KTVI-TV St. Louis. You can e-mail him at: email@example.com