Although not slated to enter production -- even for the European market -- until the last half of 2010, Ford's slick new C-Max is already starting buzz about what appears to be its near-certain Atlantic crossing. Gearing up to star in Frankfurt next week, the first new product off of the firm's "C1" compact-vehicle architecture embodies much of the basic formula seen in the iosis MAX concept that appeared in Geneva this spring, from its Martin Smith-penned "kinetic design" styling language to the first application of Ford's heralded EcoBoost technology on a small-displacement engine. Unlike the twin-turbo package already in use on the 3.5-liter V6 in the new 2010 Ford Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKS, the C-MAX's 1.6-liter four-cylinder pairs its direct-injection and variable valve timing with a single turbocharger to maximize output while minimizing emissions on a higher-mpg basis.
In keeping with the automaker's stated plan to more effectively leverage its global platform portfolio, the C-MAX also presages the visual cues and advanced technology that will been seen in its close kin, the 2011 Focus. The upcoming Focus will break cover here in January at the Detroit Auto Show and roll into showrooms by the end of the year, although only in a sedan configuration. While the C-MAX will follow the same intro schedule for Euro customers, should Ford green light it here, U.S. buyers will still have to wait one and possibly two more years to slip behind the wheel of this handsome five-door multi-activity vehicle. If that likely scenario does play out, the C-MAX will become a natural competitor to the likes of the upcoming Chevy Orlando as well as the MAZDA5. Unlike the current model, the 2011 version can be fitted with an optional third-row seat. Ford confirmed that it now plans to bring that "Grand C-MAX" configuration to the U.S. for the 2012 model year, a move that would see it get back into the minivan game that it stepped away from in 2007. Also lurking in the high-probability product pipeline is another aggressively styled utility player to be derived from the C1 package: the next generation of Ford's five-passenger compact crossover, the Kuga.