There's a New Buzz in Town: 2013 Ford C-MAX

By Sue Mead, September 15th, 2012

Ford's 2013 C-MAX Hybrid boasts more room, more horsepower, better fuel economy and more than a dozen class-exclusive features over its Japanese rival -- the new Toyota Prius v.

Starting at $25,995 ($1,300 less than Toyota), Ford calls the C-MAX a five-door Multi-Activity Vehicle. A 570-mile, single-tank range, almost two more cubic-feet of interior space over the Prius, defines Ford's competitive edge in the small hybrid car segment.

On the outside, the 2013 C-MAX Hybrid sports the familiar look of many popular crossover-styled vehicles on the road these days; it has angled and sparkling headlamps, a steeply raked windshield and an aerodynamic slant from the top of the A-pillar to the C-pillar and a convenient liftgate.

What distinguishes C-MAX Hybrid is its wide, grinning front grille that is both arresting and functional, allowing for better ventilation to heat and cool the motor more efficiently.

The C-MAX Hybrid is powered by a hybrid electric-gas powered motor combination. The gas-powered motor is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired to an electronic continuously variable transmission; horsepower is rated at 141, while torque is 129 lb.-ft. The electric motor is a permanent magnet synchronous AC generator backed by lithium-ion batteries that were developed in-house by Ford. Regenerative braking technology is built into the system. EPA estimates put C-MAX at 47 city, as well as 47 highway.

strong>There are two C-MAX trims: SE and uplevel SEL ($28,200). We drove the SEL with a premium audio and navigation package, panoramic sunroof, parking technology package and parking assist, keyless entry/start/tailgate locking and unlocking, along with the hands-free technology package and power liftgate. As equipped, it's price was $33,080, which included the $795 destination charge.

On our drive we beat Ford's claims of 47 mpgs. With attentive driving we were able to monitor our regenerative braking energy and -- even driving at posted speeds along with a bit of coasting -- we achieved 60 mpg on a 20-mile-long road course from Los Angeles to the coast. We did not use the air conditioner, which would have placed a slight drain on the system.

After this "fuel economy challenge" section of the drive, we drove the C-MAX in a normal fashion, using air conditioning and achieved 44 mpg, even when our route took us high into the hills about Malibu. C-MAX's drive is notably quiet and we were impressed to find power-on-tap from stop to go. There was no torque lag and plenty of oomph to motivate the heft of this 3,607-pound runabout up steep grades, around the curves of Malibu canyon and when passing on the highway.

Gas-pressured shock absorbers smooth the ride, while electric power-assisted steering carves decent turns. The brakes have a good feel and smooth stop in a graduated manner. While not sports-car-like, the new C-MAX gives a sportier ride than the Prius.

The interior is roomy and more plush than one might expect for a non-luxury hybrid. The instrument cluster has Ford's SmartGauge, which includes a speedometer and a leaf-and-vines themed display that shows the driver how eco-friendly their driving style is.

The SmartGauge also includes a brake display designed to teach the driver how to best use the regenerative braking power -- as with many electric and hybrid vehicles, C-MAX's braking system generates power to charge the battery, so making the most out of braking can add more eco-friendly miles to a journey.

Ford notes that its new hybrid offers 15 features that cannot be found on other cars in the class, from heated seat cushions and voice-activated navigation to the SYNC hands-free infotainment system and a power liftgate.

The C-MAX Hybrid will be followed shortly by the C-MAX Energi, Ford's first plug-in hybrid to be offered for sale.

Specifications

Base price $28,200 (as tested: $33,080)
Curb weight 3,607 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Epa mileage rating 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 13.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 141 at 6000 rpm
Motor type 4-cyl. Atkinson cycle w/SMPFI
Overall length 173.6 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 129 at 4000 rpm
Transmission CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD compact hatch
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