Ford C-Max Hybrid is a heavy contender in the hybrid market
The first thing to report about the Ford C-Max Hybrid is that it is not one of the vehicles eligible for a government rebate. That would be the C-Max Energi—among others.
The second thing is that the rebate program is scheduled to shut down at the end of March, although that may change.
The third thing is that another Ford model eligible for this rebate is the Focus Electric, which I was originally scheduled to drive but missed out on because it wasn’t working.
Apparently the charging unit onboard the car wasn’t functioning, and it couldn’t be recharged. It was dead in the water, which confirmed my deepest fears about all-electric cars: they are not ready for prime time simply because of fundamentally flawed battery technology that’s just not up to speed.
As it turns out, the C-Max Hybrid probably makes more sense anyway. For one thing, it costs at least $10,000 less than the Energi and the Focus Electric; for another, it doesn’t need to be plugged in for a recharge because, like a proper hybrid, it recharges itself.
Last but not least, it’s fun to drive. This is largely thanks to a purported 188-horsepower hybrid drive that’s similar to the unit utilized in Ford’s Fusion Hybrid. In the 1,640-kilogram C-Max, it gives the car a bit of a performance dimension and it has some snap. Unofficial acceleration runs revealed zero to 100 kilometres per hour times in the eight- to 10-second range, which, for a sensible-shoes hybrid, is pretty decent. Faster than the Toyota Prius, for example.
With a 2.0-litre engine mated to an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack for motivation, Ford is claiming that the C-Max can run on pure battery power up to about 100 kilometres per hour. That was not my experience, but 80 kilometres per hour is definitely within the ballpark, which gives it a leg up on most of the competition right out of the gate. The transition between battery and internal-combustion power while on the highway is unobtrusive, and on that score the C-Max is as refined as the Prius.
As with the Prius, the engine in the C-Max employs Atkinson technology, which, in a nutshell, means the valves stay open a smidgen longer to increase engine efficiency and improve fuel economy. This is usually at the expense of performance, but in this application it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.
It’d be groovy if the C-Max had a proper transmission instead of a CVT, but there it is. I suspect Ford’s thinking here is that the CVT reduces overall weight, and anyway most buyers in this segment of the market don’t care one way or the other.
Elsewhere, the C-Max is well kitted-out. Standard equipment includes the usual roster of convenience features such as tilt/telescoping steering, air conditioning, split/folding rear seat, one-touch up/down power front windows, speed-sensitive volume control on the stereo, and Ford’s dumbed-down Sync/MyTouch system. My tester, an SEL, also came with a rear-view camera, keyless start, an upgraded sound system, and Ford’s cool power remote tailgate feature. This last item is pretty slick: if you’ve got an armful of groceries and need to get the back hatch open, just stick your foot under the rear of the car, and presto. Nice. It doesn’t work until the car has been unlocked, so you still have to get out your remote key fob, but a good idea nonetheless. All of these goodies come with the “Equipment Group package 303A” and will set you back an additional $2,500.
Inside, there’s all kinds of room. The C-Max can seat five, and with the back seat folded, 1,538 litres of cargo space is revealed. By way of comparison, a Prius V boasts 1,900 litres of room.
Speaking of the Prius V, according to Natural Resources Canada, it delivers 4.3 litres per 100 kilometres in town and 4.8 on the highway. The C-Max, by comparison, is apparently slightly thriftier, at 4.0 and 4.1, respectively. So it would seem to have the edge there. Pricewise, the C-Max and the Prius V both start in the $27,000 range. My fully equipped SEL came in at just under $35,000, which, again, is comparable to a middle-range “Luxury” Prius V.
Which one would I choose? I don’t know, but the point, it seems to me, is that there actually is a choice. Toyota has pretty much had the hybrid market all to itself up until now. Various competitors such as Honda and Hyundai have come forward, but none have been able to mount a proper challenge to the Prius and go head to head with it.
The C-Max may signal an end to that.