Used 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid Review

The 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid is an interesting alternative to compact crossovers, wagons and hybrids. Its high fuel economy and refined driving manners make it especially appealing.




what's new

The 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid carries over unchanged.

vehicle overview

When shopping for a small hybrid, your top consideration is probably fuel economy. Find the car with the most miles per gallon and you've won the day, right? But Ford shows that it's worth digging a little deeper than a number followed by "mpg." More enjoyable to drive than most of its efficiency-fixated rivals, the 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid has a bit of driving personality to go with its high mileage ratings.

Using the same gasoline-engine-and-electric-motor combination as the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the 2015 C-Max is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that, together, make 188 horsepower. In the C-Max, this is good for an EPA-estimated 40 mpg combined. If that weren't impressive enough, it offers composed handling, a refined ride and sleek interior to set it apart from rivals. Instead of feeling sluggish and floppy, the Edmunds "B"-rated C-Max is quick off the line and enjoyable to pilot around turns.

Unfortunately, as a cargo-hauling, five-passenger family wagon, the 2015 C-Max may not be your best bet. For starters, the shelf created by the battery pack makes storage in the back of the C-Max a bit awkward -- rival hybrid hatchbacks best the C-Max's storage space by 15 cubic feet. The backseat has seating for three passengers, but adults will certainly be cramped if they're forced to sit three wide. And despite Ford's attempt to provide lots of standard tech features, both the standard and optional electronics interfaces can be difficult and complicated to use.

Even though hybrids like the C-Max still make up a small fraction of the automotive marketplace, shoppers have a few viable competitors to consider. There is no doubt that the 2015 Toyota Prius is the reigning champion in the hybrid market, thanks to its long-standing reliability and extraordinary mileage ratings, while the bigger and pricier Toyota Prius V offers significantly more cargo space than the C-Max (but similar fuel economy). Neither, however, comes anywhere close to this Ford's interior and driving refinement. Then there are a variety of hybrid sedans, including the Ford's excellent Fusion. It's also worth considering Volkswagen's highly refined diesel-powered Golf TDI, which can be just as efficient as (or better than) the C-Max in certain driving situations.

Against any of these competitors, we'd urge you to look beyond just fuel economy, since the mpg difference between hybrids isn't as significant in terms of actual gasoline usage as you might assume. You may also find that those above-and-beyond attributes offered by the C-Max are worth a drop of a few extra mpg here or there.

trim levels & features

The 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback/wagon available in two trim levels: SE and SEL. There is also a plug-in hybrid version called the C-Max Energi, which is reviewed separately.

The SE trim comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, automatic headlights, integrated blind-spot mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, the Sync voice command system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, smartphone apps (including Pandora Internet radio) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

Major options on the SE are bundled together in equipment groups 201A, 202A and 203A. Equipment group 201A adds rear parking sensors, a power liftgate and ambient interior lighting. The 202A group further adds satellite radio and the MyFord Touch interface, which consists of an enhanced gauge cluster, a touchscreen display and extra Sync services. The 203A combines both previously mentioned packages and adds a navigation system with traffic information to MyFord Touch. Available separately, the Winter package includes heated seats and mirrors.

All of the above come standard on the SEL, with the exception of the power liftgate and navigation system. Additional perks of the SEL include foglights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, an eight-way power driver seat (with two-way lumbar adjustment), leather upholstery, heated front seats, multicolor ambient lighting and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

For the SEL, there are three main equipment groups as well: 301A, 302A and 303A. All get the navigation system and a nine-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio. The 302A further adds a rearview camera and an enhanced power liftgate that allows you to open it simply by swiping your foot under the bumper. Equipment group 303A includes all of the above plus front parking sensors and an automatic parallel parking system.

Both trim levels can be equipped with a panoramic fixed glass roof and remote start.

performance & mpg

The front-wheel-drive 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine good for 141 hp and 129 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, they produce 188 hp.

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. The Prius V is another half-second behind that. The EPA estimates that the C-Max Hybrid will get 40 mpg combined (42 city/37 highway). By comparison, the Prius returns 50 mpg in combined driving (though the fuel savings from 40 to 50 mpg aren't as much as you might think).

safety

Every 2015 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 when paired to your smartphone can automatically call for emergency services in 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 optional 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's similar plug-in sibling, 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 C-Max Hybrid received the best possible rating of "Good" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-crash and roof-strengths tests, as well as a "Good" rating 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.

driving

The 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid certainly doesn't feel like a soulless penalty box as many other hybrids do. Instead, attention has clearly been paid to how the suspension is 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 with the Prius V, and the Ford's communicative steering is another comparative strong point.

The C-Max's hybrid system is also worthy of praise. Running in electric-only propulsion mode at relatively high speeds helps the C-Max Hybrid post impressive fuel economy numbers. Acceleration is also strong for a hybrid, and highway passing will feel similar to that of gasoline-powered equivalent wagons.

interior

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 instead of 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.

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.