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 JDK on Sunday, January 18, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great mileage, outstanding passenger & driver comfort"
Cons: "No spare tire"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I wasn't looking for a C-Max. It found me. Had never heard of them when I saw one in the Ford showroom. Realized it had everything I needed. Comfortable seating for 5, rear seat folds down flat, good mileage (40 mpg), very smooth ride, performs well out on the highway and in town, attractive quality interior cabin, nice exterior styling. I love the sound system, navigation, comfort controls. Get lots of compliments (usually prefaced by "What kind of car is this?) I don't know why Ford hasn't advertised the heck out of this car. I love it. So do my passengers. The windshield/windows/moonroof make this a great car for touring pleasure. My only concern: Old school me wishes I had a spare tire. Recently I caught a nail that blew through my sidewall. Fortunately I was close to a dealer. Wouldn't want to get stuck somewhere remote without a spare."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By Julia on Saturday, January 17, 2015
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Poor reliability
Pros: "Comfort, storage space"
Cons: "Battery, transmission, inclement weather driving."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I purchased the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and began to regret my decision very quickly. Yes, the seats are comfortable and the gas mileage on the sticker is enticing. However, the mileage is not at all as advertised. When I purchased my car it was advertised at 47 MPG. My average at 36,000 miles is 38.4 MPG. The seats remain comfortable as I am tall, and the visibility is nice. It has decent storage room for a small vehicle. However it has been nothing but problems since the day I drove it off the lot. In the past month I have had to take my car back to the dealer 3 times. Twice I had to have it towed there. In the first year of owning this car it spent more time in the shop than my previous vehicle, which I owned for 10 years. The worst of the problems include the battery failing (twice, it was on its third battery when I sold it,) the transmission leaking, and the gear shift locking to where I couldn't put the car in gear. There were also numerous smaller issues and some other significant issues, so this car has been nothing but trouble. Another negative is that it does not drive well in any sort of weather. I have had the "traction control" kick in and cause me to start sliding while starting (slowly) from a stoplight in light rain. It slides around on the snow, unable to get any traction. In short, it is a comfortable car, but you can never really rely on a car that is at constant threat of failing to the point that it cannot be driven. It also does poorly in inclement weather."
8 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By rick on Thursday, December 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,700overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought a 2013 left over June of 2014, wasn't to sure about it but, my wife loved it. We were getting up to 45.2 mpg, and then there was a accident. A driver crossed over the center line of a two lane road, at a high rate of speed and hit her head on. To my surprise the passenger compartment was not compromised, and EMT's were able to just open the doors to get her out. I latter found out the car has a Four star rating for frontal collisions. My wife sustained some serious injuries but she lives to tell her story. Thank You FORD. She Will buy Another"
12 people out of 21 found this review helpful