"I want a car that gives me the passenger space and commanding view of the road of a compact SUV, but I'd like it to get the fuel economy of a Prius."
Up until now, finding such a car was just as plausible as waking up to find a unicorn munching on your lawn. Yet the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid proves that such a magical blending is possible. This replacement for the former Ford Escape Hybrid gives you much of the Escape's practicality, but with an EPA-estimated 47 mpg in every driving cycle, it betters its hybrid SUV predecessor by a whopping 15 mpg. The C-Max is actually 5 mpg better than the wagonlike Toyota Prius V.
Like the recently redesigned Focus and Escape, the Ford C-Max's eye-catching interior boasts top-notch materials and construction and comes with an extensive collection of convenience and high-tech features. The C-Max also drives like a more expensive European car, delivering a comfortable and composed ride, responsive steering and low levels of wind and road noise.
Unfortunately, even though the C-Max offers passenger space similar to that of a small crossover SUV, it falls short in terms of carrying cargo. Even the Prius V has it handily beat when the time comes to visit Ikea. The much-maligned MyFord Touch is also present, and although it's not quite as bad as some have claimed, you should definitely make sure to try out this complicated electronics interface at a dealership.
If you can see past these faults (as well as its oddball styling), then the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid should make a very good suburban runabout for small families. It can be an alternative to compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, wagons like the VW Jetta TDI, minivan-style vehicles like the Mazda 5 and hybrids like the Toyota Prius V. It might not be the perfect family runabout, but it's close.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid hatchback wagon is available in two trim levels: SE and SEL. The plug-in hybrid version -- the Energi -- is reviewed separately.
The SE trim comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, integrated blind-spot mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, the Sync voice-activated electronics interface (includes Bluetooth phone connectivity) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Power Liftgate and Rear Park Aid package adds rear parking sensors, ambient lighting and (surprise!) a power liftgate. Another package includes the MyFord Touch electronics interface, an enhanced hybrid-specific gauge cluster, extra Sync services and satellite radio. A navigation system can be added when both of these options are selected. The Winter package includes heated seats and heated mirrors with side indicators and puddle lamps.
All of the above comes standard on the SEL, with the exception of the power liftgate and navigation system. Other extras include foglamps, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, keyless ignition/entry, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat with two-way lumbar adjustment, leather upholstery and an auto-dimming mirror.
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.
Both trims can be equipped with a panoramic sunroof and remote ignition.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 141 horsepower and 121 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to an electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, they produced an estimated 188 hp. Power is sent to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds performance testing, the C-Max Hybrid went from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which is about 2 seconds quicker than most hybrids.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is an impressive 47 mpg in the city, highway and combined driving cycles. On the combined cycle, this is 5 mpg better than the Toyota Prius V.
Every 2013 C-Max Hybrid 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.
In Edmunds brake testing, the C-Max Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, which is about 10 feet longer than average in its segment.
Interior Design and Special Features
The C-Max Hybrid's cabin is a dead ringer for those in the Focus and Escape, which is a very good thing since these cars all incorporate top-notch materials, solid construction and eye-catching design. The supportive, high-mounted driver seat reminds us of the SUV-style Ford Escape, which should please those searching for a commanding view of the road.
Unfortunately, the C-Max also shares its finicky infotainment functions with its Ford siblings, as even the radio controls are complicated to use in the base model. Even the optional MyFord Touch interface remains an imperfect and generally unintuitive means for controlling the car's many functions. On the positive side, the combination of MyFord Touch and the Sync system does allow for hands-free operation and customization possibilities. You'll certainly want to spend some time with the system during your test-drive.
One other downside is the C-Max's cargo capacity. The space needed for the hybrid system'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 24.5 cubic feet available behind the rear seats, which is about what you'll get from a Focus hatchback. Lowering the rear seats gets you 52.6 cubic feet of space, which is much better than a Focus, but still 15 cubes shy of a Prius V or a typical small crossover SUV. In terms of rear seat comfort, though, the C-Max provides sufficient legroom and abundant headroom for adults.
Like other recent Fords, the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid 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 hybrid system is worthy of praise as well. Not only does the C-Max hybrid get an EPA-estimated 47 mpg in every driving cycle, we also managed to reach 47 mph on electricity alone. This is a difficult task in most hybrids, yet the C-Max pulled it off without creating a freight train of slow-moving cars behind us. Should you want to be less judicious with the throttle, however, the C-Max will be happy to oblige, as it's one of the quickest hybrids on the market. Even highway passing isn't the chore you'd think it would be thanks to the willing gasoline engine assisted by the electric motor's ample torque.
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