By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
Toyota may still hold bragging rights when it comes to best hybrid car fuel economy, but Ford's C-Max for 2015 offers a number of compelling arguments for why second best might be a better choice. When it comes to style, comfort, features and overall driving enjoyment, the C-Max leaves the Prius at the pumps. The 5-door C-Max Hybrid can accommodate four passengers and still have room in back for their gear. Flip down the folding rear seats, and the C-Max's cargo bay rivals some compact SUVs. The C-Max shares its platform with the excellent Ford Focus, which is why we think, when compared to the Prius, the C-Max offers a quieter and more premium-feeling interior, a more engaging driving experience and, frankly, less generic styling.
If you're seeking good fuel economy in a green car that doesn't look boring or overly futuristic, the 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid deserves a good look. Handsome styling, a detailed interior and great driving dynamics leave little downside to this purchase.
If you're all about facts and figures, the Prius handily beats Ford's 2015 C-Max Hybrid in miles per gallon. The Prius V offers more interior room, while the Prius C offers a lower starting price. Also, with two exceptions, the C-Max's color choices are simply varying shades of black, white and silver.
Ford has made no changes to its C-Max Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid for 2015.
Driving Impressions The C-Max's ace in the hole isn't its good fuel economy, but rather the way it rides and drives. We think Ford's hybrid engine setup feels more spirited and responsive...... than what Toyota has designed for the Prius, making the C-Max feel much more like a Focus or Honda CR-Z hybrid. A near seamless interchange between gas and electric motor will make you forget you're driving a hybrid, although the cool LCD readouts inside the C-Max's cockpit will quickly refresh your memory. Despite weighing nearly 600 pounds more than the Prius, the 2015 C-Max doesn't suffer from sluggish acceleration or poor handling. Quite the contrary, our C-Max was a joy to push through winding roads and we loved the smooth ride and hushed cabin. In around town driving, the C-Max's tall roof and expansive side glass provide excellent visibility, while the raised seats give a commanding view ahead.
This clever app allows C-Max owners to manage charge times and check battery levels right from their smartphones. When traveling, the app displays a map of nearby charging stations.
ACTIVE GRILLE SHUTTERS
Better fuel economy is achieved when wind resistance is diminished. This is the thinking behind the C-Max's active grille shutters that close at highway speeds, thus redirecting air over and around the front nose, reducing both drag and fuel consumption.
Ford's newfound status as a leader in interior design and material quality is evident in the 2015 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 6-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 2015 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 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid 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 Ford C-Max Hybrid for 2015 features a 2.0-liter Atkinson-Cycle 4-cylinder engine, a gearless continuously variable automatic 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 19 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: 42/37 mpg (Hybrid), 40/36 mpg (Energi)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the base 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid SE starts just under $25,000, with the top SEL trim tacking on an additional $3,000. Energi plug-in hybrid models begin closer to $32,500, but are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $4,000, depending on the state where purchased. Prices for the Toyota Prius and Prius V start around $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, bringing the starting price to just over $30,000. Be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the 2015 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 Prius.