Ford C-Max Energi Review

2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid SEL Wagon Exterior

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Tall-roofed wagons like the Ford C-Max Energi are big-selling family vehicles in Europe but are an emerging taste in the United States. Add the fact that the C-Max Energi is also a plug-in hybrid and it's obvious this Ford is far from a conventional choice.

Even so, the Ford C-Max Energi has a lot of appeal. It's exceptionally fuel efficient, drives smartly and has a stylish and well-made interior. Its plug-in hybrid design also provides the potential for much lower fuel consumption than other family vehicles you might buy. The main downside is that the Ford C-Max Energi is a lot more expensive than the typical hybrid car.

Current Ford C-Max Energi Specs
The new-for-2013 Ford C-Max Energi is a four-door wagon/hatchback with seating for five. It is sold in a single, high-content SEL trim level that includes everything from 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition and parking sensors on the outside to a lengthy list of interior features that includes leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, Ford's Sync voice-activated electronics interface and the MyFord Touch touchscreen user interface.

Major options include a navigation system (which uses the standard MyFord Touch screen) coupled with premium audio, and from there you can decide whether to add Ford's nifty hands-free power liftgate (which is bundled with a rearview camera) and an automatic parallel parking system. A panoramic sunroof is a stand-alone option.

Of course, the big story on the Ford C-Max Energi is its plug-in hybrid powertrain. Under the hood there's a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine coupled with an electric motor to provide an estimated 188 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) blends the power sources and drives the wagon's front wheels. The Ford C-Max Energi also has plug-in charging capability for its 7.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which enables it to run for longer periods, and at higher speeds, on electric power than conventional hybrid vehicles. Fully charging the battery with a 240-volt power source (such as a home charger) should take about 3 hours.

Ford claims the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid can travel up to 21 miles and at speeds approaching 80 mph in all-electric mode. Once the wagon's electric driving range is depleted, the vehicle operates as a standard hybrid, using the electric motor only to assist the gasoline engine under certain conditions and to recover electricity generated during braking.

Electric-only driving range of that magnitude allows the Ford C-Max Energi to deliver one of the market's best overall fuel-efficiency ratings, making this family wagon a magnificent and appealing achievement, not to mention a technical tour de force. But there's a price to be paid, literally and figuratively. First, the C-Max Energi is not inexpensive, as it costs more than similarly sized conventional hybrids as well as traditional wagons, crossovers and minivans that offer more space. In addition, the jumbo-size battery pack eats up a large portion of the wagon's cargo room. It's too bad, because it diminishes the plug-in C-Max's appeal as a utility vehicle.

Packaging considerations aside, once the Ford C-Max Energi is underway, it's a marvel of engineering. On a fully charged battery, the C-Max Energi typically is propelled only by the electric motor for several miles. The wagon remains blissfully quiet and performance is energetic. You'll have no problem merging into fast-moving traffic or pulling away from a standstill. Only if your right foot asks for more thrust (or outright cruising speed) than the electric motor can provide is the gasoline engine awakened to provide support. The C-Max Energi also handles pretty well as hybrids go, though it's not overtly sporty and its regenerative brakes also require some acclimatization.

Once the hybrid battery pack is drained, the C-Max Energi's driving appeal fades slightly. The CVT and four-cylinder engine have to do the work of moving the car's bulk (those batteries add quite a few pounds), and if you try to accelerate hard, the engine gets loud and the transmission erupts with lengthy and unseemly groans. This kind of behavior is not uncommon in hybrids, but it definitely makes you yearn for the next recharge. As consolation, the C-Max Energi is still capable of great fuel economy in these situations (it's rated 43 mpg combined by the EPA), but it's nothing like the 100 miles per gallon "equivalent" (MPGe) EPA rating it earns in electric-only driving.

Inside, the Ford C-Max Energi feels like a typical small crossover SUV. There's good legroom and shoulder room up front, and the seats are large and accommodating. Ford's plug-in hybrid wagon also provides an expansive view of the road through its large windshield and side windows. The dash layout can look a bit overdesigned and confusing, though time and familiarity with the intricacies of the MyFord Touch interface clear up some of the initial bewilderment. Those in the backseat have adequate legroom and an abundance of headroom thanks to the tall wagon profile. Folding the rear seats increases the Ford C-Max Energi's ability to swallow cargo, as long as you don't mind working around the intrusion of the battery pack.

Read the most recent 2014 Ford C-Max Energi review.

If you are looking for older years, visit our used Ford C-Max Energi page.

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