Used 2016 Ford C-Max Energi Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2016 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid provides a nice mix of fuel economy, electric-only range, utility and refinement. Depending on your priorities, though, there are competitors that might work out better.
What's new for 2016
While certainly not for everyone, plug-in hybrids can offer a lot of satisfaction for those who seek high efficiency and don't do long-distance daily commuting. The segment is small, but growing, and one of the key players so far has been Ford's C-Max Energi.
The tall hatchback's plug-in powertrain is paired with a battery big enough to provide up to 19 miles of silent electric travel before reverting to regular gasoline-electric hybrid operating mode. In that latter mode, the C-Max Energi's battery is recharged from excess engine power and braking energy. Recharging on the run lets the C-Max Energi's power management system regularly deliver short bursts of all-electric travel, which can stretch overall fuel economy to nearly 90 MPGe. Operating only in standard hybrid mode when the initial battery charge is depleted, the C-Max Energi delivers up to 38 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Although the 2016 Ford C-Max Energi has a pure-electric range of only 19 miles, it takes just 2.5 hours to charge using a 240-volt power supply.
Beyond the useful plug-in functionality, the Energi stands out for its driving personality. Like its separately reviewed stablemate, the standard C-Max hybrid, it offers respectable acceleration, a solid and composed ride and remarkably responsive steering. It simply feels better from the driver seat than most other hybrids. There are a few downsides, including lower fuel efficiency in hybrid mode than the standard C-Max (plus a higher price) and reduced cargo space, but they're far from deal-breakers.
While plug-in hybrids still make up a tiny fraction of available vehicles, there are still a few competitors worth checking out. The 2016 Chevrolet Volt has been substantially updated and greatly exceeds the C-Max's all-electric range, though its sedanlike body style isn't nearly as versatile. The Toyota Prius Plug-In is a solid choice, while sedans such as the Ford Fusion Energi and the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid give you a more traditional-looking body style. Whatever you put it up against, though, we think the 2016 Ford C-Max Energi is well worth considering.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Ford C-Max Energi is a five-passenger plug-in hybrid hatchback/wagon available in a single SEL trim level. The non-plug-in Ford C-Max Hybrid is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, automatic headlights and wipers, foglights, rear parking sensors, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with two-way power lumbar) and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. Electronics features include the Sync 3 technology interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice commands, an 8-inch touchscreen display and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and two USB ports.
The C-Max Energi's options are bundled together in ascending packages: 301A, 302A and 303A. All add a navigation system and a nine-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio. On top of that, 302A adds a rearview camera and a power liftgate that allows you to open it simply by swiping your foot under the bumper. The 303A package includes all of the above, plus front parking sensors and an automatic parallel parking system.
A panoramic fixed glass roof is a stand-alone option.
Performance & mpg
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine powers the 2016 Ford C-Max Energi. It's paired with an electric motor fed by a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, they send a total of 188 hp to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The battery pack is considerably larger than the one in the standard C-Max Hybrid, which allows the Energi to travel up to 19 miles purely on electric power. With a 240-volt charging station, fully recharging the pack only takes about 2.5 hours. Charging from a standard 120-volt wall outlet extends that time to at least five 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 otherwise, and a slightly quicker result than the C-Max Hybrid thanks to the plug-in's heavier use of its electric motor.
A 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds is pretty quick for a hybrid.
Once the C-Max Energi's pure electric range of approximately 19 miles is used up, it operates like the standard C-Max hybrid. Official EPA fuel efficiency ratings weren't available as this was written, but the 2016 C-Max Energi is expected to remain unchanged from the previous model year's combined fuel economy estimate of 38 mpg.
The 2016 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 when paired to your smartphone can automatically call for emergency services in the case of airbag deployment; and MyKey, which allows owners to set certain speed and stereo volume parameters for valets or teen drivers. Rear parking sensors are standard, and front parking sensors and a rearview camera are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, the C-Max Energi came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet, which is a bit longer than average for 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. The standard C-Max Hybrid received the best possible rating of "Good" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact crash and roof-strength tests, as well as a "Good" rating for its seat and head restraint design for whiplash protection in rear impacts. The C-Max Hybrid received the second-highest score of "Acceptable" in the IIHS's small-overlap frontal-offset test.
The 2016 Ford C-Max Energi feels like a more expensive European car in the way it drives. The ride isn't exactly cushy but there's a substantially solid 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 the weight of the bigger battery pack makes the vehicle a bit less nimble compared to the regular C-Max.
The C-Max's plug-in system is worthy of praise as well. Besides the genuinely useful electric-only range, the Energi also boasts an overall driving range of more than 500 miles. Or, if it's spirited acceleration you want, the C-Max happily obliges. Acceleration is strong for a hybrid, and even highway passing isn't the painfully slow process normally associated with hybrids.
The C-Max Energi'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.
While there isn't an abundance of legroom in the back, taller passengers will enjoy the vast amount of headroom afforded by the tall roof.
Ford has dumped its finicky Microsoft-based Sync with MyFord Touch interface in favor of the new Blackberry-based Sync 3 system, which features improved voice controls and menus and brings a lot of smartphone functionality to the 8-inch touchscreen.
A 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 also fairly narrow. As a result, there are just 19.2 cubic feet available behind the rear seats. That's more than in the Volt, but less than the Prius offers. Lowering the rear seats opens up 42.8 cubic feet, which still 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.
The trunk may look roomy, but the high cargo floor (concealing the battery pack underneath) cuts into usable space.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.