Ford, Fuel Economy, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi SEL – Road Test

The All-New C-MAX is a great looking little city runabout that’s sure to stand out in a crowd. With the world striving to go green, manufacturers are forever trying to find a way to make vehicles more fuel-efficient. Each manufacturer has their own take on how to save the planet – for some it’s hydrogen, for others it’s diesel, hybrid, electric or combinations thereof. The C-MAX is a different animal – it straddles the realm between and EV and a hybrid. Its forté is that you can plug it in and run on electric-only for short trips around town – where the majority of pollutants are emitted in stop-and-go traffic. Unlike other EVs it has a real motor to extend its range, making the C-MAX far more desirable than your standard EV or hybrid.

What Is It?

  • Plug-in EV (Electric Vehicle) Hybrid
  • It’s a plug-in battery-operated vehicle with the bonus of having a real 4-cylinder engine for longer commutes or when the battery runs out
  • Can be used as electric-only in town/city
  • Or set to Auto and allow the computer to decide what’s most efficient
  • All-electric range is 43 kilometres, gas-plus electric is 1,221 km (highly doubtful based on my usage)
  • Re-charge overnight using standards 120-volt outlet
  • There is a regular hybrid version available too – called the C-MAX Hybrid
  • In Europe, there’s a gasoline and diesel version called B-MAX

How Does It Look?

  • Fun, young and sporty
  • Looks of a hybrid – the expansive glass to bring the outside – IN!
  • Ford’s new attractive styling – I like the way Ford is going with their consistent theme throughout their car lineup…a family face with each having their own individual look (the C-MAX looks like a lowered version of the Escape with a dash of Focus for flavour)

What’s It Like Inside?

  • Soft where you touch
  • Great rubberized anti-reflecting dashboard
  • Aesthetically pleasing layout, quite logical, though annoying touch screen navigation that’s tricky to use when driving
  • Good seating position – like a chair
  • Comfortable seats – driver gets power adjustments including lumbar
  • Very comfortable for long-distance driving
  • Sat Nav – The WORST navigation system I’ve ever used – nothing comes remotely close to being this bad!

How Does It Handle?

  • Surprisingly well for a hybrid. Lots of power and torque (195 hp combined / gas engine -129 lb-ft)
  • Handles tight twisty bits well at high speed
  • Well planted and solid feel
  • It begs to be driven! Punch the throttle and it goes!
  • Light and nimble despite the weight of its hybrid system and batteries
  • Steering is nicely boosted, but this driver would still prefer it was heavier
  • Turning radius on-par with a steamship – takes some getting used to which is odd for a car of this size
  • Brakes are very good – confidence-inspiring

Is It Safe?

  • Complete with all the latest safety compliments
  • Love the addition of convex mirror section on side mirrors. More manufacturers need to take their cue from this old-school concept – basic is better!
  • Love that it’s not full of dumbed-down electronic sensors – it makes you THINK – and use of the convex mirrors is a great example – you’re not relying on technology that could malfunction – every car should have these!

Is It Utilitarian?

  • A first reaction to this 4-door hatch was: “I expected more – the batteries eat up a lot of room. If it had a trunk you’d have some challenges.”
  • On our weekend road- trip we were pleasantly surprised that appearances are deceiving and the C-MAX Energi swallowed most of our gear with the need to put only a couple of oversized (tall) items on the back seat
  • Within reason, yes it’s utilitarian with the back seats folding perfectly flat (many hybrids don’t offer this feature at all)
  • Headroom is generous with a total passenger capacity of 2,823 litres (99.7 cu.ft)
  • Cargo Capacity is: 1,211 litres (42.8 cu.ft) behind front seats, and 544 litres (19.2 cu.ft) behind rear seats
  • Passenger comfort is taken into account with plenty of room – even for 3 in back with an almost flat footwell
  • It excels as a city/town runabout as it is intended to be (especially when run exclusively on battery power)
  • Unlike some other EV’s you don’t need to rent a vehicle to go on a road trip!

What Does It Cost?
To Buy…
As tested: $36,999
+ Premium White Platinum Metallic Paint: $300
+ Add Premium Audio and Navigation Package: $1,700
+ Block Heater: $100
+ Destination/Delivery: $1,550
Total: $40,649 (plus Gvmt taxes and add-ons)

To Operate…

  • Fuel economy wasn’t impressive. We averaged 7.9 L/100 km going and 6.5 L/100 km on our return journey which was 100% freeway at around 120-130 k/hr.
  • Electricity isn’t cheap unless someone else is letting you charge it on their dime (more and more places are providing charging points, so there is indeed a free lunch to be found)
  • Special considerations: expect to be replacing the batteries/hybrid system every 10 years or so (approximately $6,000)
  • Fuel economy is rated at: 1.9 Le/100 km (150 MPGe)

 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • It is extremely quiet at highway speeds (exceptional on concrete U.S. interstates). No wind noise – not even from the large mirrors. As with all hybrids – virtually silent when driving around town/city.
  • The foot-swipe detecting auto lift gate accidentally closed bonking me on the back of the head when I was loading the hatch area (I happened to shuffle my feet to the left)
  • Windshield wipers – nice large wipers that do a great job of clearing the rain, but you can’t clean the blades because they are tucked away behind the hood of the car
  • It’s not the European version – they have sliding doors, a regular gas version and even a diesel version over there
  • Sat Nav – The WORST navigation system I’ve ever used – nothing comes remotely close to being this bad! Watch for a complete review on this system coming soon.

What’s The Verdict?
We were excited when we heard the C-MAX was coming to N. America, but were very disappointed that Ford left the ‘good’ version in Europe. What happened to the sliding rear doors, Ford? You don’t have a minivan anymore… you just might have lured a few customers back to your showrooms. I guess Mazda will continue to be unique with the Mazda5.

Would I Buy This Car? Sadly, No. I love the car, but the price of hybrid vehicles still negates the benefits (typically $10,000 more than their gasoline-powered counterparts). You would have to do a lot of city driving to make up the price difference – would you ever recoup that much? And then after 10 years or so you’d possibly have to spend upwards of $6,000 for a new battery – that’s a tough sell!!

If you’re doing a lot of city driving and want the fuel savings, or just “have to” drive a hybrid for ecological/environmental reasons, consider the lease option of the C-MAX Energi. [as of this writing- $581/month for 36 months @ 0% financing]

Copyright © 2013 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

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