Full 2014 Ford C-Max Energi Review
What's New for 2014
Apart from minor tweaks to the transmission and body aerodynamics to improve fuel efficiency, the Ford C-Max Energi continues essentially unchanged for 2014.
Plug-in hybrids occupy a sliver of a market niche between standard hybrid cars and full electric vehicles. With their larger-capacity battery packs, plug-ins typically allow you to drive somewhere between 10 and 40 miles (depending on which one you get) purely on electric power before switching over to normal hybrid operation. Within this tiny segment, the five-passenger 2014 Ford C-Max Energi wagon has plenty of good points in its favor and only a few against it.
As with the C-Max Hybrid, the Energi employs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with an electric motor. The Energi, however, has a larger lithium-ion battery pack, and that allows owners to drive up to 21 miles (and at speeds up to 85 mph) solely on electric power. For many people, this could be enough to run errands or commute to work without ever switching over to gas. And fully recharging the Ford C-Max Energi on a 240-volt system takes just a few hours.
On longer drives, the C-Max Energi switches over to standard hybrid mode using both gas and electric power. In our testing of a 2013 model, we had little difficulty eking out 40 mpg in this mode. Ford says it has made a few tweaks to the 2014 C-Max Energi to boost fuel economy, but its EPA ratings are identical to last year's car at 43 mpg combined (44 mpg city/41 mpg highway).
Beyond its meager appetite for fuel, the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi has much more to recommend it. The handsome cabin is tightly constructed, boasts high-quality materials and offers ample passenger space. There are also plenty of available high-tech conveniences available including automated parallel parking assist and a power liftgate that's operated by swinging your foot under the rear bumper. Notably, the Energi also drives like a more expensive European car, with a comfortable ride, quiet cabin and responsive steering.
Still, we have to ding the C-Max Energi in a few areas. Price is one: This plug-in version of the C-Max runs nearly $5,000 more than a comparably equipped standard C-Max Hybrid. Then, there's its cargo capacity. The regular C-Max will never win a trophy for hauling capabilities, and the Energi fares even worse due to its larger and awkwardly placed battery pack. Lastly, the available MyFord Touch electronic interface can be frustrating and distracting to use. We suggest trying it out at the dealership before opting for this feature.
If you're shopping for a plug-in hybrid car, there are a few main rivals to consider: 2014 Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi, Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid and the Toyota Prius Plug-In. Each has its own main draw. The Volt offers the best electric-only range; the Accord and Fusion are arguably the most normal-looking and -driving cars in this group, and the Prius provides the most cargo space and the best fuel economy in hybrid mode. Although it doesn't have any huge advantages over these competitors, the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi is nonetheless an excellent, green-themed runabout for small families who want a hybrid car with plug-in capability.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Ford C-Max Energi is a five-passenger plug-in hybrid wagon available in a single SEL trim level. The non-plug-in 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 and 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 two-way power lumbar). Electronic features include the Sync voice-activated electronics interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch 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 2014 Ford C-Max Energi is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine generating 141 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with 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 travel up to 21 miles purely on electric power. Using a 240-volt charging station, fully recharging the pack only takes about 2.5 hours.
In Edmunds testing, a C-Max Energi accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which is a quick time for a hybrid, plug-in or not, and a slightly quicker result than the C-Max Hybrid.
Once the C-Max Energi's pure-electric range is used up, it operates like the standard C-Max Hybrid. Official EPA fuel economy estimates are 43 mpg combined (44 city/41 highway).
The 2014 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. Rear parking sensors are standard, and front parking sensors and a rearview camera are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, the C-Max Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in 126 feet, which is a bit longer than average in its segment. In government crash tests, the C-Max Energi received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The C-Max's cabin will feel familiar if you have been in the current Escape or Focus, and that's a good thing. All of these cars have 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 expected, and the elevated driving position provides a nice view of the road ahead.
The C-Max unfortunately also shares its finicky infotainment system with its siblings, making even basic radio functions complicated. The optional MyFord Touch interface remains an imperfect and often counterintuitive means of 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 voice control 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 are just 19.2 cubic feet available behind the rear seats -- more than the Volt, but less than the Prius.
Lowering the seats opens up 42.8 cubic feet, which is more than 20 cubic feet shy of a Prius V or a typical small crossover SUV. Worse, the load floor isn't flat when the seats are folded, as the battery pack creates a high shelf behind the rear seats that sits about a foot higher than the load floor.
Like other recent Fords, the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi feels like a more expensive European car in the way it drives. While that ride isn't exactly cushy, there's a substantial feel to the way the C-Max goes down the road. The cabin is also notably quiet, especially compared to the Prius, and the communicative steering is another strong point. The Energi is stable through turns, though its big battery pack makes it a bit less nimble compared to the regular C-Max. Interestingly, braking at low speeds feels far more natural in the C-Max Energi than it does in the standard C-Max hybrid, as the plug-in avoids the grabby pedal action that's common with the energy-recovering braking systems in hybrids.
The C-Max's plug-in system is worthy of praise as well. Besides the genuinely useful electric-only range and 40-plus mpg fuel economy, the Energi's big battery pack extends the hatchback's range to more than 600 miles, according to Ford. Or, if it's spirited acceleration you want, the C-Max happily obliges. Acceleration is strong for a hybrid hatchback/wagon, and even highway passing isn't the weak-kneed chore normally associated with hybrids.