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 Disgusted (IN) on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,500overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "Don't buy one."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Since i purchased the car in 2012 the car electrical system as gone dead 4 times. The dealer has charged the battery, changed software, put in a new battery, and nothing seems to work. Ford service followup is the worst i have encountered the last 25 years. I called the company customer service center and they assured me that a regional representative would be calling me in 2 or 3 days. I never received a reply. I called again after the car stopped a third time. I was assured the rep would call in 2 or 3 days. Again no reply. I can't wait to get rid of this car. I hope it's eligible for the lemon law. Frustrated in Evansville"
By Becky J (OH) on Thursday, November 14, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great handling, unbelievable Gas mileage."
Cons: "Doesn't have a sunroof"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"It has everything you would want, or need in a Hatchback.(Except for backup camera) It has a beeping signal instead. Custom Ruby Red paint. Great pick-up speed. Haven't used free Sirius trial. Haven't programmed my phone or anything. Just Like brand new! Less than 2700 miles."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By DrKdog (MI) on Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Whole car"
Cons: "Redundant controls"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Mileage was the primary reason to get a hybrid and thought I lose out in performance and be pushing the limits to trying keep up with the cars in the fast lane. I drive about 65 miles a day with 55 miles on the expressway. The performance is outstanding and I travel the fast lane and catch myself exceeding the speed limit quite often. The ride is solid and sticks to the ground. A big surprise to me was the 40 mile per gallon range (39 to 41) without a change in my driving style. The driving part is great, the Hybrid part takes a little getting used to mostly in the way is starts. There is no engine cranking like a typical auto. I have been driving the Cmax for a year and still not used to it. The transition from gas to electric power is mostly not perceptible but once in a while the gas engine automatically transitions to electric can be noticed and may be startling while stopped in traffic. The air conditioning runs on its own compressor so the gas engine will run when needed to charge the battery and the heating is still from the engine but it also starts and stops when required. When warming the car while I was shoveling the snow in the driveway the Cmax engine stops and after a while starts running, all by itself and that got my attention. For myself the Hybrid system is different, The performance is Great, The interior is great, The driving controls are great. But the entertainment system interface takes something getting used to. Switching screens to listen to the radio, CD, AM, tone controls and some of the redundancies steering wheel controls and consul controls, voice controls, touch screen controls. I have no problem with them but I would rather have an old fashion push button radio."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By karman6557 (FL) on Saturday, September 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 300overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, fuel economy, quality, features"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I recently purchased a new Ford C-Max SE Hybrid. This is the best new car I've ever owned! The driving dynamics, performance, fuel economy, quality, styling and functionality of this car are superior. In the first week of driving (highway & city with a 20 mile round trip to work & home) I averaged over 45 MPG and the car isn't even through the break in period! I also bought this vehicle for about $3,000 less than a Toyota Prius V. If you are looking for a hybrid with superior quality, functionality, fuel economy & value you need to look at the Ford C-Max Hybrid or the C-Max Engeri (plug-in hybrid). You won't be disappointed!"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By JK (WA) on Thursday, August 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "handles well"
Cons: "complete lie's about the MPG"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"I got my new cmax 3 months ago and drive mostly on the highway. When I reached 2000 miles and was still only at 36mpg average I called the dealership and one of the sales agents told me that I needed to have a tutorial on how to drive a hybrid and reach higher MPG's. After doing this he was DELUSIONAL in how he said you could drive to improve the mpg's. The only way to do this is if you are always coasting downhill and never have to touch the accelerator, otherwise you will move out of EV mode and not be able to get the advertised MPG's. (which are still not achievable even now that FORD has lowered them to a combined mpg of 43)"
16 people out of 27 found this review helpful
By Jerry (MI) on Monday, August 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Smooth, quiet, great gas mileage, great accel."
Cons: "must stop to adjust navigation"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I traded my 2010 V-6 Accord for the C-Max in order to get better fuel mileage. To my complete surprise, I like every aspect of the C-Max better than the Accord. Its just as quick and has better handling. It's substantially smoother and quieter and the electronics are superb. Ford has really done it's homework with this one."
12 people out of 19 found this review helpful