By KBB.com Editors
When it comes to bragging rights, the Toyota Prius has long dominated the fuel-efficiency argument. However, the 2014 Ford C-Max is looking to change the debate by offering a hybrid with features that go beyond good mpg, namely style, comfort and a fun-to-drive attitude. Like the Prius the C-Max is a 5-door hatchback that can comfortably fit four people, or with its seats folded haul loads of cargo. Because it's based on the Ford Focus the C-Max is more driver-friendly than the Prius, offering a better ride, a quieter cabin and a more polished interior. While the Prius may have been first to the party, the 2014 Ford C-Max looks to be the kind of gate-crasher that isn't going to leave without a fight.
If you're impressed by the good fuel economy a hybrid can deliver, but you don't want to sacrifice the comfy features yielded by so many non-hybrid cars, the 2014 Ford C-Max masterfully blends both desires into a single vehicle.
If you're car-shopping mojo is motivated solely by the highest mpg ratings, the Prius still dominates the field. The Prius also has a slightly lower starting price.
The Ford C-Max sails into 2014 relatively unchanged. New transmission gearing aims to improve fuel economy, while a new approach to fuel-economy labeling results in slightly lower EPA estimates more in line with real-world driving.
Driving Impressions The C-Max's trump card isn't its excellent fuel economy but rather its very Focus-like driving characteristics. Ford's hybrid powertrain setup feels considerably more responsive than the system Toyota employs in...... its Prius cars, and a near-seamless transition between gasoline engine and electric motor, even at higher speeds, makes you forget you're driving a hybrid car. The C-Max's added weight – nearly 600 pounds – over the Prius should work against it, but we found the car accelerates briskly, loves to play in the curves and delivers a surprisingly comfortable and quiet driving experience. A tall roof and wide side glass provide excellent 360-degree visibility, while the elevated seats provide an SUV-like driving position. We found the C-Max brakes to be quite good, but the brake pedal's position relative to the driver is a bit awkward.
As the technology behind the plug-in hybrid is still relatively new, Ford created a smartphone app to assist owners in managing charge times and checking battery levels. The app also provides a map of nearby charging stations.
ACTIVE GRILLE SHUTTERS
Aerodynamics is the key to better fuel economy and less wind noise inside the passenger compartment. The C-Max's active grille shutters close at highway speed, directing air over and around the car's front end, reducing drag and thus reducing fuel consumption.
Ford's newfound status as a leader in interior design and material quality is evident in the 2014 C-Max. The 5-passenger cabin is filled with attractive, soft-touch surfaces that combine to produce a remarkably upscale feel, particularly for this class of vehicle. Ergonomics is excellent, with controls that are user-friendly and easily accessible. Headroom is overly abundant in all seating positions, and rear legroom is suitable for six-footers. The cargo area offers slightly more space than the regular Prius, but significantly less than the larger Prius V.Exterior
In order to fuse aerodynamics with utility, the 2014 Ford C-Max's exterior design emphasizes function over form. While no less stylish than a Prius, the Ford C-Max features a distinctive shape that associates more closely with a multipurpose vehicle than a hatchback. Although it shares the majority of its underpinnings with the Ford Focus, the C-Max is roughly five inches shorter in length. The C-Max's taller stature makes it easier for taller drivers to enter and exit the vehicle, while the available power liftgate incorporates a height-adjustable function to accommodate users of all sizes.
In base SE form, the 2014 Ford C-Max includes dual-zone climate control, manually adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split rear seat, 17-inch alloy wheels and a 6-speaker audio system with basic hands-free voice recognition and a USB port for portable music players. SEL models add heated front seats, leather seating, push-button start and the MyFord Touch infotainment system with an 8-inch touch-screen display and conversational voice-recognition software. Safety equipment includes seven airbags, a full complement of electronic stability aids and Ford's SOS post-crash alert system that activates the horn and hazard lights in the event of an airbag deployment.
Features available for both SE and SEL trims include a panoramic moonroof with a power-operated sunshade, remote-start system and touch-screen navigation with customizable routes from MapQuest. SEL models offer a convenient foot-activated power liftgate that opens and closes by simply waving your foot under the rear bumper as well as an active park-assist feature that makes parallel parking as simple as pressing a button. The C-Max Energi comes in one trim level and offers most of the features available for the C-Max Hybrid.
Every C-Max features a new 2.0-liter Atkinson-Cycle 4-cylinder engine, a gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a 35-kW electric motor to produce a combined 188 horsepower. The Energi boasts a larger version of the Hybrid's lithium-ion battery pack for an all-electric range of approximately 20 miles. And, unlike the Toyota Prius, the C-Max Hybrid can travel up to 62 mph under full electricity.
2.0-liter inline-4 + electric motor
188 net hybrid system horsepower
129 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 40/45 mpg (Hybrid), 44/41 mpg (Energi)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the base 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid SE starts just under $26,000, with the range-topping SEL trim tacking an additional $3,000 to the bottom line. Energi plug-in hybrid models begin closer to $34,000, but are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $3,750, depending on the state where purchased. Prices for the Toyota Prius and larger Prius V start in the neighborhood of $25,000 and $27,000, respectively. Because federal tax credits for plug-in hybrids are based on the size of a vehicle's battery pack, the Prius plug-in qualifies for a smaller $2,500 tax credit, which brings the starting price to just over $30,000. Before heading to the dealership, be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are actually paying for the 2014 Ford C-Max. We expect the new C-Max to retain higher-than-average resale values over a 5-year period, with residuals that fall just shy of those held by the popular Toyota Prius.
By Maxi on Sunday, January 18, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,650overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "$1112 elect/gas in 19 months vs $2200 @ 3.67/gal"
Cons: "Rear storage could be better, but there's the batt"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We traded our 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid for this 2013 Ford C-Max Energi, the Ford's first plug-in hybrid. After 46 years of driving experience, this is hands down the best vehicle ever! On average, it is driven between 28 and 50 miles per day. At 10¢ per KWh for electricity, it costs about 88¢ to fully charge. Despite some initial recalls, all related to the computer systems on board that control the hybrid system, it has been a flawless friend. With its intelligent oil monitoring system, we have yet to change oil at 18,600 miles. Since the engine runs so infrequently the car tells you when the oil needs changing. Winter driving in snow and ice is "no worry" due the the excellent, intelligent traction control system. Never a worry with Michelin X-Ice tires. Summer e-mileage with AC averages 17 to 20 miles per charge. Winter e-mileage with heat averages 13 to 17 miles per charge. Summer or winter, with no heat or AC, e-mileage averages 21 to 27. We have become very familiar with the build-in "brake coach," that taught us how to get our 98% energy return every time we brake. Though it looks small from the outside, its interior area is identical to our 2006 Escape hybrid. Check the figures - that is true. All-in-all, the best vehicle we have ever owned!"
8 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By Steve on Thursday, January 01, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, lots of pep."
Cons: "Recalls, Laughable turning radius."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Nice entry into the plug in hybrid market. Despite several recalls and minor quality issues, I consider it one of the most enjoyable cars I've owned. Downside is residual value... it plummets quickly!"
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Concrete Davey on Friday, December 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 600overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great visibility, MPG and comfort."
Cons: "limited storage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Recently leased this car. 600 miles in and still have 1/2 tank of gas. Fun and easy to drive. Great visibility. traded in my 2013 Escape which has a much smaller windshield and much lower MPG. Winter in Maine charging with 110v cord 6 hrs to charge gets 13-15 EV only miles. Hope it will get closer to the advertised 20 miles EV in warmer weather. $9000 in rebates really lowered price below other hybrids/plug-ins. Interior is very roomy. Trunk space very small. This may be an issue for summer beach going, Might have to get a roof rack."
8 people out of 14 found this review helpful