What's New for 2013
The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is an all-new model.
Ford launched an ad campaign a few years ago hinged on a theme of "bold moves." Meant to project the automaker's new tolerance for risk and daring, the campaign underpinned the arrival of shake-up cars like the Flex, Fusion Hybrid and F-150 Raptor. Although the marketing bravado has since faded, Ford is still throwing the dice, this time with the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi.
The C-Max wagon has already been on sale in Europe, but the 2013 model year marks the debut for the C-Max stateside. But where European buyers get conventional turbocharged gasoline- and diesel-powered models, Americans get one of two hybrid models: the C-Max Hybrid and the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.
Like the C-Max Hybrid, the C-Max Energi uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor, a combination good for 188 total horsepower. Compared to the C-Max Hybrid, though, the Energi has a larger lithium-ion pack that allows it to go farther and faster on electric power alone -- up to 21 miles at a top speed of 85 mph. Ford also promises a full recharge is possible in about 3 hours on a 240-volt outlet.
This engineering attribute allows it to achieve an EPA combined rating of 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), which makes it one of the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans in all the land. For comparison, the Toyota Prius Plug-In rates 95 MPGe and the Chevrolet Volt earns 98 MPGe. One needs to know, however, that "e" estimate relates to when the Energi is running in full electric mode. After that, it gets about the same mileage (43 mpg) as the regular C-Max.
No matter which C-Max you look at, you'll find top-quality materials and construction that is more premium midsize sedan than economy wagon. There are plenty of tech-oriented features available, too, including parallel-parking assist and a power liftgate that opens up when you swing your foot underneath the rear bumper. The Energi also drives like a more expensive European car, with a comfortable ride, quiet cabin and responsive steering.
There are some drawbacks to the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi, however. One is price. To get this plug-in capability, you'll have to pay about $7,000 more when new than the Hybrid. Meager cargo capacity might also be an issue. While its passenger space is about the same, the Prius V beats the C-Max handily for carrying the spoils of an Ikea haul. The much-maligned MyFord Touch is also present and will require some time in the driveway to set up properly. Make sure to test it out at the dealership.
If you can see past these faults (as well as the oddball styling), then the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi should make an excellent, green-oriented suburban runabout for small families. It's an alternative to compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, wagons like the 2013 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI or the minivan style of the Mazda 5. It also compares well to plug-ins like the 2013 Prius Plug-In or Chevrolet Volt. The Energi may just be one of Ford's boldest gambles yet.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is a five-passenger hatchback wagon available in a single SEL trim level. The Ford C-Max Hybrid is reviewed separately. Standard equipment on the Energi includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors with integrated blind-spot mirrors, foglamps, automatic wipers, rear parking sensors, keyless entry/ignition, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar). Electronic features include the Sync voice-activated electronics interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a touchscreen display with the MyFord Touch interface, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Premium Audio and Navigation package adds a navigation system and a nine-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio. To this you can add the Hands-Free Technology package, which includes a rearview camera and an enhanced power liftgate that allows you to open it simply by swiping your foot under the bumper. The Parking Technology package (requires the previous two packages) includes front parking sensors and an automatic parallel parking system.
A panoramic sunroof is a stand-alone option.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine generating 141 hp and 129 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to an electric motor fed by a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, they produce an estimated 188 hp sent to the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
The battery pack is considerably larger than the one in the standard Fusion Hybrid, which allows the Energi to be propelled for up to 21 miles purely on electric power.
According to the EPA, the C-Max Energi achieves a combined MPGe of 100 miles, but as stated earlier that's when it is only running via electric power. Once that electric range is used up, it operates like the standard C-Max Hybrid and earns EPA estimates of 44 mpg city/41 mpg highway and 43 mpg combined.
The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Also standard are 911 Assist, which automatically calls for emergency services via a Sync-paired smartphone, and MyKey, which allows owners to set certain speed and stereo volume parameters for teen drivers. Parking sensors and a rearview camera are available.
Interior Design and Special Features
The C-Max's cabin is a dead ringer for those in the Escape and Focus, and that's a good thing. Both of those cars use top-notch materials, solid construction and an eye-catching, if slightly over-designed, dash and instrument panel. The dash in particular is a massive expanse, so wide a large dog could take a nap on it. The seats are comfortable, with supportive bolstering that makes the C-Max feel sportier than you expect.
The C-Max unfortunately also shares its finicky infotainment system with its siblings, making even basic radio functions complicated. Even the optional MyFord Touch interface remains an imperfect and unintuitive means for controlling the car's many functions, including audio, climate controls and navigation. But there's an upside: The combination of MyFord Touch and the Sync system allows for hands-free operation and customization possibilities once you spend some time dialing in the system. Make sure to explore the system thoroughly during your test-drive.
A more significant downside is the C-Max's cargo capacity. The space needed for the Energi's battery pack beneath the floor of the cargo area reduces the capacity of the rear compartment, which is already fairly narrow. As a result, there's 19.2 cubic feet available behind the rear seats -- more than the Volt, but less than the Prius.
Lowering the seats gets you 42.8 cubic feet, which is still more than 20 cubic feet shy of a Prius V or typical small crossover SUV. Worse, the load floor is tiered, the battery pack creating a shelf behind the rear seats that rises about a foot higher than the load floor when the rear seats are folded.
Like other recent Fords, the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi feels like a more expensive European car in the way it's been tuned to provide both responsive handling and a refined ride. There's a substantial feel to the way it goes down the road, while the cabin is notably quiet -- especially compared to the Prius V. The C-Max's communicative steering is another strong point compared to the Toyota.
The C-Max's plug-in system is worthy of praise as well. Not only does the Energi return 43 mpg combined when burning only gasoline, but the battery extends the hatchback's range to more than 600 miles, Ford says. That's range that until now has been limited to established diesel-powered cars like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.
If you're prone to acceleration outbursts, the C-Max happily obliges. Highway passing is not the chore you'd imagine, as the electric motor delivers instant, ample torque and helps the Energi hustle up to 85 mph on electricity alone.