Priced at $33,745, the new Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid promises to be a significant domestic-branded challenger to the Toyota Prius, particularly the V and Plug-In versions. Ford's plug-in hybrid boasts a 550-mile total range and 95 MPGe—miles per gallon equivalent when driven on electric. The green-car competition is about to become more interesting.
Ford is throwing the gauntlet down, challenging the Prius V with a greater electric-only range of 20 miles, plus 60 more horsepower. Ford claims this electric-only range is enough to cover the average American commute without using gasoline. (The average American commute, according to both federal statistics and the Consumer Reports National Research Center, is about 22 miles.) We've been getting between 12 and 16 electric-only miles out of our Prius Plug-In before it reverts to regular gas/electric operation.
The 20-mile range still falls short of the Chevrolet Volt, which could go 35 miles in our tests before needing a recharge. But the Ford is a parallel hybrid, meaning the internal combustion engine will kick in if conditions are demanding enough. Unlike the Prius Plug-In, there is a gauge in the instrument cluster that indicates where that threshold is, allowing drivers to avoid it.
Designed by Ford of Europe, the Focus-based C-Max is a tall hatchback about the size of a Mazda5 or a Toyota Prius V. The base C-Max will be a conventional hybrid priced at $25,995 with an estimated EPA rating of 47 mpg city. The Energi is the plug-in version. After a federal tax credit, the C-Max Energi will cost $29,995.
The price is on par with the Prius V wagon ($26,500) and the Prius Plug-In ($32,000). The claimed 95 MPGe is an exact match for the smaller Prius Plug-In.
A key differentiator is that the C-Max Energi will pack 188 total horsepower, or a little more than a Subaru Outback or Mazda5. Ford says the peak output spikes at 195 hp with a fully charged battery pack. How that power advantage translates in the real world remains to be seen.
Ford has also announced that hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its redesigned Fusion, due out at the end of the year, will be rated at 47 mpg highway and over 100 MPGe, respectively.
We welcome more choices of versatile vehicles that are also fuel-efficient and look forward to testing these claims in the fall when they go on sale.