"There is a premium feel to the interior, whether you’re seated in the cloth seats of the SE or the leather of the upscale SEL"
LOS ANGELES - Some automotive writers are calling the 2013 Ford C-Max Detroit’s Prius fighter - and it is. But the four-door hatchback comes by way of Ford of Germany, where it has been available with either gasoline or diesel power since 2003.
The version going on sale in North America is actually the second generation C-Max but, unlike the European variation, is available only as a hybrid gas/electric, with a plug-in version called C-Max Energi to come later in the fall of 2012.
The styling of C-Max gives a refreshing new look to the hybrid hatchback segment which, until now, has been defined by Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. Its only hybrid competitor in terms of size and versatility is the Prius V, and Ford claims C-Max beats the Toyota in many key areas such as fuel economy, driving range, horsepower and top speed.
It’s also quieter in operation - with less road and engine noise - and there is a more premium feel to the interior, whether you’re seated in the cloth seats of the SE or the leather of the upscale SEL.
There’s a lot to like here and, after a brief drive through the hills of Southern California, not much to complain about.
Power is supplied by a 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable valve timing plus an electric motor for a total of 188 hp. The only available transmission is a CVT. Ford claims city/highway fuel economy will be almost equal - 4.0 litres per 100 km and 4.1 L/100km, respectively - which is about 11% better than Prius V. However, those numbers will likely prove to be a bit optimistic in real world driving.
On the road, there’s lots of sophisticated electronics to keep you entertained, including a gauge that shows how effectively you’re braking (like other hybrids, regenerative braking feeds the lithium-ion battery pack) and a virtual vine that either grows or sheds leaves depending on how economically you’re driving.
C-Max is built on Ford’s global Focus platform yet achieves far more rear seat legroom - 927 mm vs. 843 mm. How did they do it? “Magic,” says chief engineer John Davis. Okay, I’ll have to buy that since wheelbase is the same - 2,649 mm.
Volume of the roomy passenger compartment is 2,823 litres and cargo space is equally generous - 694 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats upright and 1,489 when they’re folded flat. All of this in a compact, five-passenger vehicle that is just 439 cm long from bumper to bumper.
The base SE model starts at $27,199 and comes with standard features such as electric power steering, anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, traction control, remote keyless entry and SYNC with MyFord. For a base MSRP of $30,199, C-Max SEL adds 10-way power driver’s seat, push-button start, heated front seats, reverse parking assist and rain sensing wipers.
The hands-free power liftgate available on C-Max SEL is really neat. Got your arms full of packages? No need to fumble in your pocket for the fob, just step right up to the rear of the vehicle and make a short kicking motion toward the bumper. The liftgate will open automatically.
C-Max is built in Michigan and should be arriving at Ford dealerships just about now, with the plug-in hybrid version to follow in November 2012.
2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid
Trim levels available: SE, SEL
MSRP range: $27,199 - $30,199
Freight & PDI: $1,550
Notable options: fixed panorama roof with power shade; power liftgate; rear park aid; satellite readio; premium sound system; navigation system.
Configuration: Front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cyl. with electric motor/ continuously variable
Power/torque: Net 188 hp/129 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (51L)
Fuel economy ratings: 4.1 L/100km city/4.0 L/100km highway
Warranty: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain); 8 years/ 160,000 km (hybrid components)
Competitors: Toyota Prius V
Strengths: good seats; fuel economy; entertaining to drive
Weaknesses: wide turning circle; ride over rough surfaces