Auto Review: A hybrid called C-Max

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Sep. 5, 2013
- Contributed Photo

It was on these pages not so long ago that I introduced you to Ford’s new family of dedicated gas/electric hybrid vehicles that go by the name of C-Max. The model we reviewed was the C-Max Energi, which is Ford’s first soiree into the world of production plug-in hybrid vehicles. As is hybrid practice, this vehicle uses a conventional gasoline engine in concert with an electric motor, and the car is motivated by the engine, engine and electric motor, or electric motor alone for maximum efficiency. The Energi has a large battery pack that can be recharged by plugging it in (110 or 220V) to increase electric-only range and to cut down on gasoline usage.

This week we look at the C-Max “conventional” hybrid, in that it has no plug-in capability but is still an environmentally-friendly and highly-efficient wagon. More importantly, it drives just like a regular car, in that you never need to plug it in, and yet compared to conventional cars it requires far fewer trips to the gas station. The lithium-ion battery pack is also much smaller, which frees up more room for cargo, too. When you also consider it costs less than the Energi, you can see why it’s likely this will be by far the more popular of the C-Max line.

The C-Max hybrid is powered by a 2-Liter Inline Four engine with 141 horsepower, and this is supplemented with a 88kW motor powered by a 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. As mentioned before, the front-drive car is propelled by the engine, motor or both, depending on conditions, and not only are the transitions very smooth and typically not noticeable, the C-Max is respectably quick, with 60 mph arriving in under nine seconds. The battery pack is charged either by the engine’s alternator or regenerative braking. The latter essentially means the electric motor turns into a generator when the car coasts or the brakes are applied, and the momentum of the car turns the generator that in turn recharges the batteries. Braking feel is more abrupt at times compared to conventional cars, but stopping distances are fine and you soon get used to the pedal’s response. Both ride and handling are laudable for the compact class, making the C-Max fun to drive as well as frugal.

Inside, the tall design architecture of the car means headroom is plentiful, and the driver’s instrument pod is attractive and uses Ford’s latest display technology. Our SEL model has equipment Group 302A, which means it had the latest tech goodies including hands-free voice activation and navigation, plus a back-up camera and power rear liftgate. The rear seats are quite comfortable for two, although a bit narrow for three, and a flat floor means plenty of foot room. Cargo capacity is 24.5 cubic feet, which expands to 52.6 with the rear seatbacks folded.

The 2013 C-Max Hybrid SEL is EPA rated 45 MPG city/43 highway and we observed a fine 45 MPG in a week of mixed driving. With options, our sticker came to $31,085.

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