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Ford C-Max Hybrid Energi

This plug-in hybrid takes aim at the Toyota Prius

Published: August 2014

With the C-Max Hybrid, Ford is taking direct aim at the Toyota Prius and its extended family. At 37 mpg overall, the regular C-Max isn’t as fuel efficient as the Prius models, nor is it as roomy. But it’s much quieter and nicer to drive.

Similar to the Prius Plug-in model, the Energi is a plug-in hybrid that lets you spend more time driving on energy-saving, cost-cutting electricity than the regular C-Max. With its larger battery, the Energi lets you go about 18 miles on electric power before the conventional hybrid mode kicks in. That’s about twice the range of the Prius Plug-in but only about half that of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. However, the battery significantly cuts into the Energi’s cargo space.

Other than that, the Energi drives almost identically to the regular C-Max Hybrid we tested last year. It’s more than just efficient transportation; it’s also fun to drive, with precise steering, responsive handling, and a luxurious ride. The cabin is quiet inside, making the C-Max feel solid and substantial. And its tall stance and low entry height makes access very easy.

We got the equivalent of 94 mpg overall with the Energi running solely on electricity, which is much better than the Prius Plug-in’s 67. Once it reverts to normal hybrid mode, we measured the same 37 mpg as in the regular C-Max. Two handy buttons on the center console let you choose whether to run the car on electric power only or in the regular gas/electric hybrid mode. “EV Now” activates electric mode (as long as the battery is sufficiently charged); “EV Later” lets you save the electric-only miles for later use. That could be a big benefit if you expect to, say, drive in congested city or rush-hour traffic, when EV mode will be most efficient.

The Energi takes 6 hours to charge on a normal 120-volt household outlet, or 2¼ hours on a 240-volt electric-car charger, which is also a little more efficient. Either way, if your commute fits within the Energi’s 18-mile electric range, you can drive for about 70 cents per day (based on the 11-cents-per-kWh national average) and skip the gas pump altogether.

When in electric mode, the C-Max’s combined output from its engine and electric motor is 195 hp. Transitions from gas to electric power are smooth and nonintrusive, and the engine isn’t really loud unless you’re pushing it hard. Even then, active noise cancellation keeps it from being offensive. In hybrid mode, we found that the C-Max can drive up to about 35 mph before the gas engine starts. When you need full power, even in electric mode, the engine will come on at full throttle or highway speeds above about 70 mph.

Stopping distances were good. But we found that the regenerative braking, which helps recharge the battery, can make the brakes feel touchy.

Inside, the C-Max feels airy and spacious. Large windows give a great view of the road, though the driving position is a bit narrow. The rear seat is a bit flat and low but roomy enough. A downside in our C-Max is the MyFord Touch infotainment system, which is difficult to use while driving.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the October 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


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