By Matt Degen
The 2017 Ford C-Max is a gas-electric hybrid car that offers good fuel economy and ample storage thanks to its hatchback design. Like its rival the Toyota Prius and the forthcoming Hyundai Ioniq, this compact Ford is also available as a plug-in hybrid, called the C-Max Energi, which offers up to 19 miles of pure electric range before the gasoline engine kicks in. The C-Max is more athletic than the Prius, but it can't touch the Toyota's fuel economy. Where the C-Max is rated at 41 mpg/city, the latest Prius earns up to 58 mpg. Yet the C-Max has a few tricks up its sleeve, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a hands-free power-operated hatchback that rises with the swipe of your foot.
If you're seeking a fuel-efficient hybrid car with a small footprint but generous interior space, the C-Max is worth a look. It has a more conservative design and is more fun to drive than its main rival, the Toyota Prius. Unlike the Prius Prime, C-Max Energi plug-in models have seating for five.
For nearly the C-Max's $25,000 starting price, the Toyota Prius is significantly more efficient and now comes with a slew of advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking. The all-new Hyundai Ioniq, meanwhile, promises fresh technology wrapped into a sleek design.
For 2017, the C-Max's former SEL top trim is replaced by the Titanium, which brings features like a power-adjustable passenger seat and Sony premium audio system. Blind-spot monitoring is now optional, and a rearview camera becomes standard. The available Sync3 infotainment system has been upgraded to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The C-Max feels solid and well-planted on the road despite its compact footprint. This hybrid's gasoline-electric powertrain works well to provide somewhat spirited acceleration, though like other hybrids...
... using an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT), there is noticeable drone under hard acceleration. For a car that prioritizes fuel efficiency, we dare say the C-Max feels playful in corners, at least compared to a Prius. On straighter paths, the C-Max is quiet and comfortable, the latter trait all the more evident for C-Max Energi versions rolling as an EV on electrons only. In that frame as an electric vehicle, the Energi offers the kind of immediate acceleration and strong torque that make EVs surprisingly brisk. The C-Max trails the Prius by quite a bit in the EPA's official fuel-efficiency numbers, and we've seen that as true in our own real-world tests of both vehicles.
With this nifty feature, it takes only a swipe of a foot under the rear bumper to activate the power-opening hatch door, perfect for when your arms are full of groceries or otherwise occupied. First seen on Ford SUVs, this hassle-saving feature can now be had on the Ford C-Max hybrid.
SMARTGAUGE WITH ECOGUIDE
Do you like the thought of leaves spreading across the instrument cluster as a reward for your efficient driving skills? Well, "efficiency leaves" are part of the C-Max's customizable dual-LCD screens flanking the speedometer, and they'll "grow" as a way of coaching you toward efficient driving.
The 2017 Ford C-Max hatchback has a 5-passenger interior, as does its plug-in hybrid sibling the C-Max Energi, an aspect that distinguishes it from the 4-passenger Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. This Ford hybrid's voluptuous exterior design pays off inside, where headroom is generous for front- and rear-seat passengers. At 24.5 cubic feet, cargo room behind the 2nd-row seats is commendable and just shy of the Prius' roominess. The C-Max Energi, however, has roughly five cubic feet less and an awkward hump that hides its larger battery pack. Both have folding rear seats for added cargo versatility. Up front are comfortable, well-bolstered seats.
Design-wise the bulbous C-Max is more conservative than the space-oddity Prius, but we must admit that to our eyes the forthcoming Hyundai Ioniq line of hybrid and all-electric models is far easier on the eyes than both the Ford and Toyota hybrids. As for the C-Max, its rounded and mounded exterior pays off on the inside, where there is ample headroom and space for taller people and objects. Apart from badging and what looks like a fuel-cap door on the front left that hides the AC plug-in port, the 2017 C-Max Energi looks nearly identical to the standard C-Max hybrid.
In base SE form, the 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi include dual-zone climate control, rearview camera, 10-way power-adjust driver's seat, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD player with USB and auxiliary inputs, and a Sync system with 4.2-inch center display that connects to smartphones via Bluetooth. The new Titanium C-Max models include leather interior with 10-way-power passenger seat, the Sync3 infotainment system with 8-inch touch screen, heated front seats, 9-speaker premium Sony audio system, reverse-sensing system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, push-button start and universal garage-door opener.
If you're buying a base 2017 C-Max, we recommend the SE Driver Assist Package, which bundles power liftgate, Sync3 and the reverse-sensing system for added safety when in reverse. The new Titanium Driver Assist Package, meanwhile, adds blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Active Park Assist to help with parallel parking, and the hands-free tailgate. Other options available on both models include navigation and panoramic moonroof. Unlike the Prius, the 2017 C-Max doesn't offer the advanced safety systems and driving aids such as pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and radar cruise control that come standard on the Toyota.
Every Ford C-Max Hybrid features a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine, a gearless continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and an electric motor to produce a combined 188 horsepower. The Energi boasts a larger lithium-ion battery pack for an all-electric range of approximately 19 miles. The standard C-Max Hybrid doesn't need to be plugged in, as its hybrid system works behind the scenes. Just fill the car with gasoline and you're good to go. You could do the same with the C-Max Energi, but you wouldn't get the vehicle's ability to travel all those miles on electricity only. For that you'll need to plug it into an electrical outlet. Ford pegs approximate recharge times at 2.5 hours on a 240-volt outlet or seven on a standard 120-volt outlet.
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, estimated: 41/36 mpg (Hybrid), 38 mpg combined/88 mpg equivalent (Energi)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just shy of $25,000 when factoring in the destination charge. Titanium models begin about $3,000 more. The C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid starts just under $28,000, and the Titanium model is also $3,000 beyond that. Note that the C-Max Energi, however, may be eligible for around $4,000 in federal tax credits. With options, these prices can increase a few thousand dollars. At its starting price, Ford's hybrid hatchback is just slightly lower than the 2017 Toyota Prius, while the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid is priced nearly identically to the Toyota Prius Prime. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their new hybrid. The Ford C-Max has traditionally had poor resale value.