C-Max Hybrid: A Ford challenges Prius

By Ann M. Job

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10 2012 10:30 a.m. MDT

This undated image provided by Ford shows the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.

Ford, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Ford's newest gasoline-electric vehicle, the C-Max Hybrid, is so roomy, stylish and smart, it's likely to attract buyers before they see the noteworthy 47 miles-per-gallon fuel rating on the window sticker.

New for 2013, the five-passenger, five-door C-Max Hybrid hatchback has a federal government fuel economy rating of 47/47 mpg city/highway that beats the 44/44-mpg rating of the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid and the 44/40-mpg rating of the 2012 Toyota Prius v.

Only the long-running "regular" Toyota Prius, with a government rating of 51/48 mpg, is higher.

But where the Prius' round-nosed, plain styling has not changed appreciably in recent years, Ford's C-Max Hybrid has fresh, modern looks.

The car features a comfortably raised driving position for good views out, optional high-grade amenities and smart tech displays and aids to help drivers get the most from every tank of gas.

As an example, the C-Max Hybrid's Brake Coach monitors the amount of energy a driver recoups during stops.

Did the car gather 65 percent of the brake energy in that last stop, or did the driver apply the pedal just right so 95 percent of the brake energy could be saved and stored in the onboard battery? Brake Coach knows and tells via a dashboard display at each stop.

Best of all, the C-Max Hybrid comes to the United States with a starting retail price that's just a bit above long-running and smaller hybrid cars such as the Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid. The C-Max Hybrid starts $1,350 below the Toyota Prius v, which, as a van-like vehicle, is the closest direct competitor to the flexible, people- and cargo-hauling C-Max hatchback.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base 2013 C-Max Hybrid SE is $25,995.

Every model has a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor and lithium-ion battery for total power output of 188 horsepower.

A driver does not plug in the C-Max Hybrid, because electric power is generated onboard, stored and then routed out of the onboard battery pack.

But a plug-in version of the C-Max, called the C-Max Energi, is slated to debut later in the model year.

The 2012 Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid non-plug-in model has a starting retail price of $24,795, while Toyota's introduced-for-2012 Prius v five door carries a starting retail price of $27,345. The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid sedan has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $24,990. Toyota and Honda have not announced 2013 pricing yet.

Ford Motor Co. was the first U.S.-based automaker to venture into mass-produced gas-electric hybrids years ago with its Escape Hybrid.

But while the Escape Hybrid was a version of the regular gasoline-powered Escape sport utility vehicle, the C-Max Hybrid is Ford's first hybrid-only line of vehicles.

Given the attributes of the C-Max Hybrid, it could prove to be the biggest competitor to 's Japan-built Prius line, which is the top-selling gas-electric hybrid in .

Built in , the C-Max Hybrid looks more compact than it is. At 14.5 feet long, it's shorter, bumper to bumper, than a regular Prius and is about the same length as a Honda Civic Hybrid sedan.

But with total passenger volume of nearly 100 cubic feet and maximum cargo volume of 52.6 cubic feet with rear seats folded flat, the C-Max Hybrid easily bests the Prius and Civic sedan in interior and cargo volume.

For example, with tall-riding back seats that provide more rear-seat headroom and legroom than the Prius and Civic sedan, the C-Max Hybrid has pleasant passenger room, even for back-seat riders.

The tall ceiling keeps passengers from feeling confined and helps make entry and exit stress-free. Passengers in front and rear seats don't drop down but merely turn and set upon the nicely positioned seat cushions.

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