C-Max Hybrid: A Ford challenges Prius

By Ann M. Job

Associated Press

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

's Prius v, which debuted in the 2012 model year, has a longer body than the C-Max, but is shorter in height, and can't match the C-Max Hybrid's front-seat headroom of 41 inches and second-row headroom of 39.4 inches.

The Prius v does offer more total cargo room — 67.3 cubic feet.

But the C-Max styling, inside and out, appears to have more attention to high-line details and doesn't feel like a large, plastic-filled box.

Don't expect a speedster, though. Like the Prius, the C-Max utilizes a four-cylinder engine with Atkinson cycle, so it's tuned for fuel economy, not zippy performance.

The electric motor provides zip at startups and contributes along the way at other speeds, when needed.

What was most impressive is how seamlessly the gas engine and electric motor worked together, meshing power without a hiccup or hesitation, in the test C-Max.

Thanks to a larger engine displacement, the C-Max engine's maximum horsepower is 141, which is considerably more than the 98 horses in the Prius and Prius v.

Torque from the gas engine in the C-Max peaks at 129 foot-pounds compared with 105 in the Prius vehicles.

The combined power, from C-Max engine and motor, totals 188 horses, and in a car that weighs some 3,600 pounds, this is adequate.

But when filled with people and cargo and going uphill, the test C-Max felt — and sounded — taxed.

A few nits: Tires conveyed road noise and the ride felt rigid on some rough road surfaces. The windshield is so large, the wiper on the passenger side leaves a sizable triangle of glass untouched. The turning circle is bigger than it is in some large cars.

And any aggressive pushing on the gas pedal hurt attempts to get 47 mpg. The test car, in nearly equal city/highway travel, averaged 38 mpg.

Still, it was enough for a travel range of more than 500 miles.

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