A car? A minivan? An identity crisis?I’ve made it no secret that I’m a true horsepower junkie; this week my ability to be objective as a writer was truly put to the test.
The first time I laid my eyes upon the new-to-North America 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, I couldn’t help but wonder what in hell it is; a car or a minivan? Now granted, I had the same thought a few years ago upon the launch of the Mazda5, but that’s a story for another day. After a few initial minutes just looking at the thing, I decided to hop into my tester for the week. Upon a few kilometers, the realization dawned on me that the C-Max Hybrid is actually a car; though this begged another question; why is there so much darn headroom in it? I mean, Yao Ming would be able to fit into this thing without any issues at all.
The 2013 C-Max I had the opportunity to drive for a week was the Hybrid SE model; equipped with the 2.0L Atkinson-cycle inline-4 gas engine. This brute, with some help from the electric motor, puts out 188 horsepower of fury. Available in 3 trim levels; Hybrid SE, Hybrid SEL, and Energi, the C-Max provides buyers with a ridiculous amount of flexibility. The primary difference (and a huge selling point for the vehicle) between the Hybrid and Energi models is the ability to plug-in the Energi model, featuring a 7.5kWh Lithium-ion battery. A 7-hour charge on this model gives it an added 43 km of full EV range.
I’ve made it no secret that I’m a true horsepower junkie; this week my ability to be objective as an auto writer was truly put to the test. I decided to play the role of a tree-hugging Prius-market driver. I was forced to not only accept an 8.1 second run to 100km/h in the C-Max, but actually enjoy doing so. Driving a hybrid vehicle brings out a different type of enthusiast. I applied gas-saving techniques such as hypermiling, pre-planning routes, timing traffic lights, and getting rid of unnecessary weight in my trunk. I didn’t initially think this would be my cup of tea, but after a week of it I have to say this economy thing isn’t all that bad.
My wallet is only now starting to recover from my week with a V8-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee. In fuel savings on my daily 100km commute, the C-Max began to shine. Much like my fellow writers, I decided to try and compete with Ford’s estimated number of a combined 7.5L/100km. Initially I was skeptical, but I decided to see how close I could get. My daily commute is 60km of city driving, and 40km of highway driving. Somehow, I was able to pull off an average of 7.0L/100km. The C-Max did better in the city as the EV-mode refuses to engage at any speed over 105 km/h. Compared to other vehicles I’ve been exposed to lately, I can’t say that I came away from this new Ford anything short of impressed.
Upon reading the spec sheet on the C-Max, I immediately dreaded the standard CVT. Ford decided to give this one their own moniker and call it “e-CVT”. I’ve been so critical of these gear-less transmissions lately that I feel as though I need to give them another chance to impress me; especially seeing as more and more vehicles seem to be adopting the system. Words from my colleagues seemed to make much more sense as I drove on with the C-Max; CVT coupled to a hybrid drivetrain isn’t all that bad at all. In fact, dare I say that it’s actually the perfect transmission for this vehicle?
Multimedia in the C-Max is Ford’s standard-issue MyFord Touch system. I must say, I truly enjoyed using this system over its competition. I remember dreading doing anything audio-related with Honda’s i-MID and Cadillac’s new CUE; these complaints seem to be all but nonexistent with the Ford. This system is responsive, packed with features, and easy to use. It’s a real no-nonsense approach. Standard features in my Hybrid SE model include reverse sensors, heated seats, and a few other little tidbits here and there. Overall, I can’t help but notice a few features lacking for a vehicle with a $31,000+ sticker. For starters, it has a traditional key. If Ford can stick a push-button starter in the Focus (not to mention nearly everything else in their lineup), why isn’t there one in the C-Max? Also, I’m not a stickler for driver aids (especially those that could potentially have negative effects), but the Hybrid SE lacks a reverse camera as well.
All this being said, the C-Max is definitely going to sell well. With the right marketing strategies, it’s easy to see why Ford has a real winner on their hands. With the station wagon version of the Focus unavailable on our shores (combined with the absence of any minivans in Ford’s lineup), this thing is actually an extremely viable option for young families. It may not be for me, as it’s 4-cylinders and about 200 horsepower short of my liking, but hey, it has a tiny carbon footprint, it’s not a Corolla or Civic, and it’s actually reasonably cool.
2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid Gallery