Full 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid Review
What's New for 2014
Apart from minor tweaks to the transmission and body aerodynamics to improve fuel efficiency, the Ford C-Max continues essentially unchanged for 2014.
Although the iconic Prius remains the front runner among hybrids and small cars that get great fuel economy, the 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid could very well have you reconsidering your options. Although its gas mileage isn't quite as good as the Toyota's, the C-Max is still very miserly. And more importantly, the C-Max hatchback/wagon has a lot of appeal beyond just EPA mpg ratings.
Starting things off for the Ford C-Max is essentially the same hybrid powertrain that Ford uses for its Fusion Hybrid sedan. Here, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine plus electric motor combo is good for 188 horsepower and upward of 40 mpg. Last year, Ford revised the car's fuel economy ratings downward slightly after receiving consumer complaints that the car wasn't meeting those estimates in real-world driving. Ford says it has made various changes to the hybrid drivetrain to improve fuel economy on the 2014 model, but actual EPA ratings are unchanged from last year at 43 mpg combined (45 city/40 highway).
In profile, the five-passenger C-Max is a little taller than your typical hatchback or wagon, and that gives this four-door hatchback/wagon mash-up a nice little boost in interior room for passengers. The C-Max also boasts a handsome interior design trimmed in quality materials and, depending on the trim level, plenty of handy high-tech convenience features. Behind the wheel, we've been impressed with the car's grown-up, refined feel. This wagon offers composed handling, a comfortable ride and low levels of wind and road noise.
These qualities are even more apparent in comparison to the Prius, which lags behind in terms of interior design and road-going refinement. That said, if you're looking for as much space as possible, the C-Max isn't the best choice, especially compared to the bigger, more wagonlike 2014 Toyota Prius V hybrid. Other choices for a roomy family shuttle with a small footprint -- but lower fuel economy -- might include a compact SUV, such as the well-regarded 2014 Honda CR-V, a small wagon such as Volkswagen's Jetta TDI SportWagen or the one true minivan, the Mazda 5. Overall, though, we're pretty fond of Ford's versatile C-Max.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid hatchback wagon seats five and is available in two trim levels: SE and SEL. The plug-in hybrid version -- the C-Max 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 command system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Available options on the SE include the Power Liftgate and Rear Park Aid package, which adds rear parking sensors, a power liftgate and ambient interior lighting. Another package is the Sync and MyFord Touch package, which gets you an enhanced gauge cluster, a touchscreen display, 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 mirrors.
All of the above comes standard on the SEL, with the exception of the power liftgate and navigation system. Additional perks of the SEL include foglights, automatic wipers, keyless ignition and 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 the 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 trim levels can be equipped with a panoramic sunroof and remote start.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine good for 141 horsepower and 121 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, they produce 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 a Prius but a little slower than the latest batch of hybrid midsize sedans.
Although Ford recently made tweaks to the car's transmission and body aerodynamics to improve fuel efficiency, the 2014 C-Max Hybrid earns the same EPA ratings as last year's model. It's rated 43 mpg combined (45 mpg city/40 mpg highway).
Every 2014 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. Rear parking sensors are available on both trim levels, while the SEL model can be equipped with front parking sensors and a rearview camera.
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.
In government crash tests, the C-Max Hybrid 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 Hybrid's cabin will feel familiar if you've driven a Focus or 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 gives you a slightly more commanding view of the road than you'll get in most wagons and hatchbacks.
Unfortunately, the C-Max also shares its finicky infotainment interface with its Ford siblings. Even the radio controls are somewhat complicated to use in the base model. Meanwhile, the optional MyFord Touch interface remains an imperfect and generally counterintuitive means of controlling the car's many functions. On the positive side, the combination of MyFord Touch and the Sync voice control system does allow for useful hands-free operation and various display customization possibilities. You'll certainly want to spend some time with the system during your test-drive to make sure you're OK with MyFord Touch's learning curve.
Although the C-Max has more cargo capacity than a compact sedan or hatchback, it falls short of similarly priced wagons and SUVs. In fairness, the hybrid system's battery pack (mounted under the cargo floor) reduces potential capacity only slightly. Instead, Ford has chosen to emphasize passenger space, and indeed, rear-seat space and comfort are strong, with generous legroom and abundant headroom for adults.
The trade-off is that there are only 24.5 cubic feet available behind the rear seats -- about the same as in a Focus hatchback. Lowering the rear seats, however, yields 52.6 cubic feet of space. That's much better than a Focus, but still 15 cubes shy of the Prius V wagon or a typical small crossover SUV.
Like other recent Fords, the 2014 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. 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 V, and the Ford's communicative steering is another comparative strong point. One of the few things you'll have to get used to when driving a C-Max Hybrid is the slightly awkward, grabby feel of the brakes at low speeds (due to the energy-recovering braking system).
Otherwise, the 2014 Ford C-Max's hybrid system is worthy of praise. Running in electric-only propulsion mode at relatively high speeds helps the C-Max Hybrid post impressive fuel economy numbers, even on the highway, where hybrids typically aren't as efficient. Acceleration is also strong for a hybrid hatchback/wagon, and highway passing isn't the weak-kneed chore normally associated with hybrids.