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 Pjp on Wednesday, September 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is been an excellent car. The only complaint that I have is that when it is running in full gasoline mode a gasoline engine mileage is really very unimpressive. However in my first year and three months of owning the car I have driven it in electric mode at least 85% of the time. The Car is beautifully built very safe and comfortable and extremely quiet to drive."
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Dennis on Sunday, August 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Amazing mileage"
Cons: "Would like a tray in the center console for change"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've had the Energi for 3 months and and amazed at the mileage. If I plug it in at home I get 21 miles on all electric before it switches to Hybred mode. On an 1100 mile trip without plugging it in, I got 43MPG. Overall been averaging about 85 MPG around my area. I figured out the cost of electricity in my area and a full charge at home cost about $.60 which equals about 110 MPG compared to purchasing a gallon of gas.I can accually drive to and from work all week without gas, just the cost of electricity from plugging it in at home. I'm 6'5" and fit comfortablly in this car. Great car for a family also. I really believe this car is very over looked by buyers. If anyone drove one for a week, they would buy one. Plenty of power, great stereo. Very smooth drive and ride."
9 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By RP on Thursday, July 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "MPGs, baby....I can go weeks without filling up"
Cons: "no spare change holder or drawer...pain in butt"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've actually leased this vehicle for just over one year (didn't want to buy technology that's changing so rapidly) and I have to say it's really fantastic. I tend to be an early adopter, but not reflexively so; I'm often drawn to stuff that hasn't caught on yet in popular culture but that just makes sense to me in a way that other options do not. That's what intrigued me about the C-Max and made the Prius a non-starter for me (though I also needed a vehicle big enough to fit a double-bass, which was another strike against the Prius). The C-Max's interior is very nice, filled with beautiful sunlight (I got the huge glass roof), very roomy, and comfortable. Nice console (some complain about complexity....I think it's great), very good sound system, great voice activated commands and GPS nav system, great performance metrics display options. But the real thrill is the car's efficiency...I just love getting 150+ MPGe on many local, shorter trips (all electric driving) and averaging over 60 MPGe overall. Having put over 20k miles on the car in a year, I've saved thousands of $ in fuel expense. In fact, my wife's car, which gets about 20 MPG, cost over $3200 in gas last year while I drove 5k more miles than she did and spent less than $900 on gas. I'm definitely a convert to the electric/hybrid technology and can't imagine going back to a gas-powered vehicle."
13 people out of 15 found this review helpful