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 Davo on Tuesday, October 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Like most C-Max buyers, I test drove a few Prius's and was not impressed by the lack of power - not an issue with this car. I have had this C-Max for 2 years now and am very happy. I can be a very fast driver at times, especially on the freeways, yet still achieve over 40 mpg. Only a few issues. The power hatch needed many adjustments to properly close, but is ok now. The AC unit failed on a long trip in AZ, but Ford fixed the problem. The software update improved the electric motor's ability to run the car at 60 mph, very impressive. My only complaint is that the seats are a little too firm, noticeable on long trips."
7 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Troglodyte on Friday, September 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "MPG, Ride, Fit and Finsh, Features"
Cons: "Tire noise on rough roads"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"First I like to note that I have never bought a Ford before, always GM or Chrysler, but this car blew me away! I've owned this car for about a year and just cant believe what a neat car it is, I got one that had all the bells and whistles and Ford just did a great job putting this car together. When it gets very cold I get around 43 mpg, but when its warmer, over 50 degrees, I been getting from 47 to 52 mpg and I'm very pleased. I was told to expect 43 and some reviews Consumer Reports for one (which I learned a long time ago was not all together trustworthy) say they couldn't get better than 37? Well beyond that great mpg, its also a just a great car, it has the C-Max body (from a Ford car marketed in Europe for a number of years), focus chaise, and fusion hybrid engine system. It has on board blue tooth, and a computer voice command system that's not bad at all (bit of a learning curve). Great Sun Roof, and super back up camera and front/back beeping sensors (it even parallel parks itself). The breaks are bit jerky at first, but once you learn to light foot them, they are just fine. The hybrid system is near flawless, you can't feel the gas motor cutting in and cutting out, sometimes on a steep hill you can hear it, but don't feel it. Most of the time the only sound I hear is the road noise from the hybrid tires, not bad on good roads but can get noise on rough or gravel roads. Talked to a Ford mechanic about this car and he said they had the least amount of trouble out of this drive system than of any car they service. Oh and just a note, I came out of a Cadillac Deville and this is a lot smaller on the outside and much more nimble, but has the fit and finish of the Cadillac and on good roads as good a ride. That's saying a lot form a $25k car going up against a $45k car. Well good luck and good hunting, this is a nice, neat, and well organized car."
14 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By Tony on Thursday, September 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, great gas mileage, quiet smooth ride"
Cons: "No spare tire,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My wife and I love driving the C-max. Lots of room diver and passenger seat and quiet ride. All the option was easy to learn and use. The only three negatives: 1. For a compact car the turning ratio is large( K or U turns, tight spaces)2. No spare tire. 3.Glass on rear door does not open( had to open door to put small packages in)."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful