By KBB.com Editors
As the mpg wars rage on, there is one word that typically comes to mind when shopping for a new fuel-efficient vehicle: Prius. But the 2013 Ford C-Max intends to disrupt that involuntary word association by offering eco-conscious consumers the fuel economy they expect from an efficiency leader with the driving dynamics of a conventionally-driven 5-door hatchback. Similarly, the interior layout looks, feels and operates like a traditional vehicle, while the plug-in Energi variant bridges the efficiency gap in Ford's lineup between the C-Max Hybrid and the all-electric Focus EV. In a category dominated by the Prius family of vehicles, the 2013 Ford C-Max has all the right stuff to compete head-to-head with one of the most recognized vehicle nameplates in history.
If you are on the hunt for a highly-efficient vehicle, but unwilling to sacrifice horsepower and responsive handling, the 2013 Ford C-Max provides the best balance of fuel economy and driving fun in the segment.
If mpg and price are the key criterion in your next new car, you might find the Toyota Prius' superior fuel mileage and lower starting price more appealing.
The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid constitute a new breed of fuel sippers designed to split the difference between the regular Toyota Prius and the mid-size Prius V in terms of size, price and fuel economy.
Driving Impressions When it comes to driving performance, the Ford C-Max enjoys a sizable advantage over the competition. Ford's third-generation hybrid drive system feels considerably more powerful than its Prius rivals, and...the virtually seamless transition from gasoline engine to electric motor effectively disguises the C-Max's hybrid nature. Although the 2013 C-Max is nearly 600 pounds heavier than the Toyota Prius, winding roads are tackled with a surprising level of precision and control. Outward visibility is equally good, as the C-Max's elevated seating position provides an SUV-like view of the road ahead. Apart from its awkward location, the brake pedal has a firm, linear feel. Despite the Ford C-Max's relatively tidy dimensions, road and wind noise at highway speeds are well contained.
Since plug-in hybrid vehicles are still in a state of infancy, Ford developed a smartphone application to help C-Max Energi owners manage charge times and check battery levels, and it also provides a map of local charging stations.
ACTIVE GRILLE SHUTTERS
When vehicle speeds increase, aerodynamics go to work. By redirecting the flow of air around rather than through the grille opening at highway speeds, the Ford C-Max's active grille shutters reduce turbulent airflow and improve fuel efficiency.
Ford's newfound status as a leader in interior design and material quality is evident in the 2013 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 are 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.
In order to fuse aerodynamics with utility, the 2013 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 multi-purpose vehicle than a hatchback. Though 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 2013 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 hybrid
188 net hybrid system horsepower
129 lb-ft of engine torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA City/highway fuel economy: 47/47 mpg (Hybrid), NA/NA mpg (Energi)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the base 2013 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 of purchase. 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 2013 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 Julia on Friday, February 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Cons: "Poor mileage, battery problems, unreliable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have had this car for about a year and a half. The things that caused me to buy this car were the stated gas milage as well as the comfort. It is comfortable to drive and has enough storage space. First off, the milage (proposed 47 MPG) has been on average 37mpg. The comfort is still there though, so I have that going for me. Unfortunately it has proven to be incredibly unreliable. So far I have taken it into the shop more times than I took my previous car in, which I had for eight years. First there were problems that caused it to not respond for about 10 seconds when you tried to reverse the car. After that, the MyFord Sync system stopped responding. After taking it in twice for that, I have given up and deal with the fact that I can't plug in anything to the USB port, and that the car will randomly interrupt whatever I am doing to say it can't play a device (when there isn't a device plugged in.) There were many recalls (I think there have been 5?) that I have had to take the car in to have something vital replaced. Most recently, I awoke one morning getting ready to go to work and found my car wouldn't start. Nothing was left on, it wasn't out in the freezing cold, and I had driven normally the previous day. In my opinion, a car that won't start regularly isn't worth much of anything. If you can't rely on your car to get you to work in the morning, there is no sense in having it to decorate your lot. I have many times started the car (or not, in this instance) to find a new problem that has no cause. I fear that more problems will continue to arise."
8 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By BT on Friday, January 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,750overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, great exceleration & mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love this car. It's comfortable, solid feeling, handles beautifully, gets really good mileage (about 44 mph average so far…lots more sometimes.) I love the hands free phone and the Sync feature for my iphone music with hands free too. It's also worth the $5 mo for the ability to get directions and tell the system which artist or playlist I want to play without looking at the iphone or ipod. Nice, nice feature! I have the SE, the basic model without the parking feature or foot touch for the back, but I really don't need those features. The visibility is fantastic vs the Prius, and although the hatchback door is heavy, this 69 yr old woman has no problem lifting it! One other note: I have always had a lead foot and love speed, so gentle starts and stops took a little getting used to, but I find that I'm enjoying driving a lot more because I'm not as "driven" to get a fast start and stop. However, the exceleration is really good when you need it (very powerful) and you can put on cruise control when you hit 65 or 70 and let it rip!"
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By NikNik on Wednesday, January 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"Pros: -Comfortable *More length between the seats and floor boards, which makes you feel like you aren't sitting on the ground and gives more leg room. *Spacious head room -Smooth transition between battery and gas -Plenty of space in the back for anything and everything I have wanted to put in it, including a large bathtub. -Enough horsepower to not feel strained even with 4 large men in the car. Cons: -Terrible turning radius. -MyTouch features are constantly messing up, such as clock changing times, Sirius 'buttons' show blank rather than the stations, and bluetooth to my phone hardly ever works and when it does the person on the other side says it sounds like a hair dryer is blowing. -My MPG over the lifetime of the car is 42.0 and I've put 30k on it in the year that I've had it. Since the software update, I have been getting a little better gas mileage. With the way I drive, in the city it's about 46 and highway 36. -Ford customer service has been extremely difficult to talk to. Any time I have a question or am unhappy with something on my car, they have been rude and always say 'that's just the way it is', 'we have never heard of that before' or some other remark that's equally unhelpful. -The clicker on the key for the hatchback can be frustrating at times. You are supposed to click it twice to open it, but sometimes it will just refuse to open. It will unlatch, but not lift. -If you do have to break hard (like a score of 50 or less on the 'coach' thing), the car lurches forward a couple times during the break almost like there are air bubbles in the breaking system. I think it has something to do with the hybrid system."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Unhappy on Wednesday, January 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Easy to park."
Cons: "Poor gas mileage for a hybrid, poor quality."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Nothing but problems with car since day one. Car doesn't get anywhere near the mileage it is supposed to. I get at best 39mpg turn on the A/C and mileage goes down to 32-33. Ford says this is normal! Car is built light I suppose for mileage. Interior parts are always rattling loose. Car is full of squeaks, rattles, parts coming loose. If the car got the gas mileage as advertised some of the other problems could be overlooked - maybe. Door panels have waves in them - Ford said was normal! Computer had to be reprogrammed 3-4 times. Software problems that I was told would take months to overcome. Software problems were such that the clock didn't even work!"
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Force on Wednesday, December 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Ride, mileage, makes me happy to see traffic(!)"
Cons: "minor software idiosyncrasies"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I did a lottt of research before plunking down thousands of dollars to buy my C-max, so was aware of the possibility that I might not get the full 47mpg claimed, and still I love this car even on the trips I don't achieve that mpg, and there are lots of trips I get a lot more than 47. My record is 82mpg. The main reason I chose the C-max over the Prius is the ride- I sometimes have back pain from all the driving I do, and the Prius's suspension is way too tight and hard, it would feel like being kicked in the butt all day long. I've been driving the C-max for 10 months with no back pain. There are lots of reasons to love the C-max, the active noise cancellation that makes the car as quiet as a luxury car (and not incidentally also shuts out the obnoxious bad music losers insist on playing at neighborhood disturbing volume levels) the automatic parallel park is brilliant, the space and size of the vehicle is excellent, especially for those who drive a lot and will be getting in and out of it all day. Which makes it even more baffling that the Prius's suspension is so punishing... And the center control panel of the Prius looks like it's covered with warts, (ugh) plus the actual physical controls of the C-max are better looking and much easier to use. I had the hatchback unreliability, but that has been fixed by a software update, and now works 100% of the time. The back-up camera with parking guidance lines that show you where the car will end up have made me back in to all parking spaces now because it's so much easier... fortunately, people are catching on to the back-up camera concept so that only one person in 10 months has tried to park in the space I was backing into. And it has power to spare, you're not locked into eco-hybrid-boring driving only, you can tear it up if you want/need to. And the voice control of everything, including the temp/climate, is great, and safer than looking down to control things."
27 people out of 28 found this review helpful
By capv on Sunday, December 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 140,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Gas mileage and space."
Cons: "added expense for Energi version versus hybrid,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned this car for a year. It has been flawless in operation with no mechanical issues. We are saving $600+ in gas a month. It fits our family comfortably and works great as a business car for us. We would highly recommend it!"
8 people out of 9 found this review helpful