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 seatwarmer on Thursday, October 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "MPG, if driven like grandma"
Cons: "Too many to list here."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Most cars nowadays are going with the "electronic key" instead of a physical metal key. There are so many flaws in this, I don't know where to begin. The only positive statement I can make about this car is it is decent on MPG's. If you drive like grandma, you can achieve a great MPG, but for the normal driver, high 20's to lower 30's is to be expected. With the FOB, I can never tell if the car is locked or not. There are no physical indicators, ie a knob which is either up or down which can be clearly seen through the window, except for a hard to find, barely visible LED on the dash. For a mechanical test to make sure the door is locked, the door opens every time, cause the FOB is with me. The car does have a little bit of power, however, driving this car is like driving the "hound dog" on the porch whose "get up n go" is done gone.In my over 2 decades of driving, the only thing I have ever had to do with the brake is to "stop" and later on, to shift out of park. Having to "brake" just to start the dumb thing is totally unacceptable! To my hearing, the cell phone "blue tooth" wireless thing is muffled where I can only hear ever so many words. I realize my hearing is not the best, but this is totally awful! Even though I just bought this hunk of junk, I'm looking for a fast turnaround to get rid of this thing as fast as I can."
8 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By VACMAX on Thursday, October 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,900overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "good mpg, fun to drive, hybrid monitoring tools,"
Cons: "ford sync"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"After months of indecision, I bought a C-Max in July 2013 and have not had any regrets. I've had no battery problems, no major sync problems and my mileage currently averages 43 mpg (& still increasing). I love the car's pickup on the highway - I have no problems keeping up with traffic on the interstate or passing when necessary. This is a fun car to drive! Plus, the SEL is very comfortable - I don't feel I sacrificed creature comfort to buy a hybrid. I would buy this car again in an instant. In fact, I'm thinking of taking up my dealer's offer of trading it in for a 2014 model (although I love the blue candy color & they don't have a 2014 in that color)."
10 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Unhappy on Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive."
Cons: "Gas mileage not as advertised."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Those of you that are getting the great gas mileage must drive downhill wherever you go! There is a reason why Ford has refunded C-Max owners some money twice in the past year. We have owned this car for a year and a half and it has been in the shop more than on the road. Ford has reprogrammed the computer several times which they tried to charge me for even after admitting that it doesn't get the gas mileage that it is supposed to. We get 37 on the highway and 34 around town as long as you don't turn on the A/C if you do the gas mileage drops considerably- 32-34mpg. We tried to trade it in but,it is worth about $3,000 less than we owe on it after paying it down about $10K."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful