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 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."
7 people out of 9 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!"
3 people out of 4 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."
5 people out of 6 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!"
3 people out of 7 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."
26 people out of 27 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