The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid is the Dearborn-based automaker’s gambit to unseat the Toyota Prius from its current throne as ruler of the North American hybrid marketplace. More specifically, the Ford C-MAX Hybrid has been imported from Europe in order to steal sales from both the standard Prius hatchback and the larger Prius V wagon – a task it is uniquely-suited to accomplish thanks to its size, its drivetrain, and its pricing. It also doesn’t hurt that dynamically, the Ford C-MAX Hybrid leaves both Toyotas in the dust.
Less Is More - At Least, When Compared to the Competition
The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid is based on the brand’s global small car platform, which is the same chassis used by automobiles like the recently redesigned Ford Focus. This is relevant to understanding how the Ford C-MAX Hybrid is able to engage pilots more directly when contrasted against the isolated driving experiences frequently encountered in the compact hybrid sphere.
Maneuvering the Ford C-MAX Hybrid through the winding canyon roads that crisscross Malibu revealed that while it’s certainly not intended to light a fire in the hearts of performance enthusiasts, the C-MAX Hybrid is more than capable of holding its own even when the roads get twisty. The electric steering system was not loaded with feedback, but body roll was kept to a minimum by the vehicle’s suspension system, and the ponderous feel associated with the larger Prius V was completely absent from the equation.
Acceleration was also above par for the Ford C-MAX Hybrid, thanks to the willingness of its gasoline / electric drivetrain to answer the call of duty when its full 188 horsepower was required. The vehicle’s pair of electric motors and 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine were up to the task of passing uphill at a moment’s notice, helping us avoid getting squeezed in the slow lane as we drove up Mulholland. Perhaps even more importantly, we were able to almost duplicate the C-MAX Hybrid’s 5 L/ 100 km efficiency rating while driving through the uneven terrain – an important achievement for any fuel-conscious automobile.
A Look Inside
The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid’s interior was familiar, as much of it has been directly lifted out of the all-new Ford Escape. A customizable fuel efficiency monitoring screen (taking the now-familiar form of the MyFord Touch system) sat to the left of the speedometer, while a second LCD screen to the right either filled with green leaves or withered based on how eco-friendly our driving habits were. Although this writer finds this particular efficiency-tracking system to be somewhat hokey - and distracting - it is genuinely distressing to watch individuals leaves peel off and disappear to the right of the screen when one's right foot is glued to the floor.
Rear-seat room was acceptable, but the hatchback’s cargo area featured an unusual, semi-vaulted load floor with a concealed cubby underneath. Ford will be offering the C-MAX Hybrid in two different trim levels in Canada (SE and SEL). The former provides a fairly extensive list of standard features, including power windows and door locks, automatic climate control, cruise control, a CD player, parking assistance, and SYNC. The SEL version of the C-MAX Hybrid, which we drove in California, grafts on a number of additional premium items such as leather seats and MyFord Touch. Pricing for the vehicle starts at an MSRP of $26,882 (SE) and tops out at $29,552 (SEL) before options.
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid's presentation was a complete lack of pretense. Whereas vehicles like the Prius have managed to get customers to swallow unconventional dashboard designs, strangely-labeled and almost prehensile shift knobs, and the requirement to push a button to put the automobile in Park, the C-MAX Hybrid's passenger compartment looks and feels much like that of any other compact in the Ford lineup. Much to their credit, instead of trying to 'out-cute' the competition, the engineers at Dearborn have elected to make its hybrid vehicles as accessible as possible.
An Excellent Hybrid Effort
There’s no question that Ford has put together an intriguing battery-assisted hatchback in the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid. A smooth, comfortable ride that doesn’t give up in the corners and the ability to deliver real-world fuel mileage benefits put the compact a few steps ahead of several other gasoline / electric options.
The real challenge for Ford will be penetrating the established Prius hegemony that has dominated the hybrid hatchback market for over a decade. By offering more than the base Prius and just a bit less than the Prius V in all of the important areas, the C-MAX Hybrid is able to deliver value and performance where it really counts without asking buyers to make any significant sacrifices. Ford’s most important concern will be getting enough potential buyers behind the wheel of its new hybrid for a test drive so that they can come to these conclusions first-hand and stave of the autonomic reflex to simply re-up with Toyota for another five years.
|Test model||2013 Ford C-Max|
|Trim level||Hybrid SE|
|Price range||$25,995 - $25,995|
|Price as tested||$32,699|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Options||Power liftgate Hands-free tailgate Navigation Parking Technology Package|
|Competitive models||Toyota Prius Toyota Prius V Mazda MAZDA5|
|Fuel consumption||The C-MAX Hybrid delivers on its 5 L / 100 km promise.|
|Value for price||More expensive than a regular Prius, but cheaper than a Prius V.|
|Styling||A good-looking compact that will fit right in with many other conventional hatchbacks on the road.|
|Comfort||The C-MAX Hybrid's ride was smooth and compliant, and interior amenities were plentiful.|
|Performance||The C-MAX Hybrid has an edge over other hybrids in its class when it comes to handling and acceleration.|
|Overall||The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid could help sway more non-believers into the hybrid camp.|