2013 Ford C-MAX hybrid: The proof indeed is in the pudding
By Don Hammonds I've always said that the perfect car for me to use for my family would be a hybrid minivan. Though it's two seats shy of what I'd need for transport purposes, Ford's all new C-MAX hybrid fills the bill. Though it's not a minivan--at least according to Ford--it looks like one in my eyes, and apparently in many other people's eyes, too based on what we've read and heard. And it's a hybrid. It's economical--though not as much as I expected-- and it's well built, and it's got a really cool, futuristic interior design. And did I mention that it's fun to drive? It is! Way better than almost any minivan I've driven. Only the Mazda5 approaches it in terms of being a really enjoyable ride. Our test car was a five passenger SEL version with a base price of $28,200. Standard equipment inbcluded full power accessories, electronic steerinbg, dual ppower mirrors with heat and security approach lights, intelligent access system with push button start system, speed control, Sync w/MyFord Touch, AdvanceTrac with RSC, driver knee airbags, front and side airbags, first and second row curtain airbags, perimeter alarm, reverse sensing system, turn signal mirrors, tire pressure monitor, dual zone electronic auto climate control system, rear in-floor storage, leather trimmed heated, ten-way power driver seat, leather wrapped shift knob, second row fold-flat 60/40 seat, ambient lighting, smart gauge/ECO Guide and a host of other standard items. Options included a premium audio and navigation pack, hands-free technology package, a power liftgate, rear view camera and several other extra cost features. After options, the C-MAX had a list price of $31,605. Power came from a hybrid system that included a 141 horsepower, 2.0 liter Atkinson-cycle gas engine and a small electric motor, all with a grand total of 188 horsepower. The federeal government rates the C-MAX as getting 47/47 miles per gallon with an oberall rating ofg 47 miles per gallon, which trnaawlates to 2.1 gallons of gas used per 100 niklews,. The government also says you can save $5,850 in gasoline costs over five years, and the annual fuel cost is $12,1560 baerd on 15,000 miles per gallon at $3.55 cents a galoon. We should also point put that you can drive the C-MAX in all-electric mode at speeds of up to 62 miles per hour, which provides plenty of savings on gasolinbe, too. But we would be remiss if we did not also tell you that serious questions raised about the validity of Ford's mileage claims for the C-MAX. We know that we fell considerably short of the 47 miles per gallon mark, and apparently so have a lot of other journalists. The best we could manage was 36 miles per gallon overall. That's good mileage, but a lot of non-hybrid products from a number of automakers, including Ford, can match or beat that, which may make consumers wonder why they should buy the C-Max. According to the website, www.consumeraffairs.com, Consumer Reports magazine was among those questioning the mileage. The website says, "Consumer Reports magazine tested both the C-MAX and Fusion and said they both came in well short of the claimed 47 mpg fuel efficiency. The C-MAX achieved 37 mpg, the Fusion 39 in the magazine's tests. "These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we've seen among any current models," Consumer Reports said in a statement. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which determines the mpg ratings, has said it is confident the 47 mpg finding is sound but has said it will review the ratings of both Ford vehicles, the Detroit News reported. Ford's President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs has defended the fuel efficiency claims, saying Ford followed the EPA's rules. Buyers have been complaining, too. One consumer sounded off on the www.consumeraffairs.com website. "I thought my 2013 C-MAX would be a Prius Killer? NOT! As a returning Ford buyer I feel deceived," said Ronald of South Portland, Maine. "Based on the advertised EPA estimates, I would have been ok with low 40's but 28-33 mpg is not even in the ballpark." But in a story written by Joann Muller of Forbes Magazine, Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president of global product development, said that “the way I drive” the C-MAX falls short of the 47-mpg rating by 12 miles per gallon, or 25 percent. But he also said what many other car writers--including myself--will tell you: It all depends on how you drive. Many people may well be able to hit the 47 miles per gallon mark--or even more--because of their driving habits. In the Forbes article, Mr. Nair said " such variability is to be expected in a hybrid, where factors such as speed, temperature and even the age of the vehicle can dramatically impact one’s fuel economy." Forbes says consumers can get 47 miles per gallon — and Nair says he has consistently done so — by driving in EcoCruise mode, at 60 miles per hour, and using all the coaching tools Ford provides on the instrument panel to perfect your braking and acceleration behavior. Among them is the cool display of green leaves that Ford uses, with better mileage and driving giving you plenty of greenery--and it is discouraging when all those leaves start to fall of because you're driving like a gas guzzling fiend, trust us on that. Another drawback, at least for some customers, is the MyTouch infotainment system that Ford uses. While the one on the C-MAX was not bad, and was in fact better than what we've seen on other Fords, it still is not an intuitive system. But other than that, I loved the interior. It was classy looking, with very nice, comfortable leather, and tastefully done chrome and aluminum. The gauges were gorgeous and easy to read, and frankly, the interior is so nice that I would rank that as the car's best feature with the fuel economy coming in second. There's plenty of room for stretching out. An issue though, is the cargo capacity which lags behind some competitors, including Ford's own Focus hatchback. You'll find about 24.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats of the C-MAX, just about matching the Focus. But the Focus also is considerably less expensive than the C-MAX, and gets about the same 33 to 36 miles per gallon that apparently is what consumers have been getting in "real world" driving of the C-MAX. The C-MAX also falls well short of Toyota's Prius V in terms of cargo capacity made available by lowering the rear seat. Which brings up a point. Which cars do you compare it to? Although the C-MAX comes off to us as a small minivan, Ford doesn't like to think of it that way, preferring to call it a hatchback. But the unusual, somewhat odd styling prompts many people to think of the C-MAX as a little wagon, not a hatchback, mainly because most hatchbacks these days look much sleeker and sexier these days than the C-MAX is able to muster. Nevere mind. The C-MAX has much to recommend it. It's remarkably quiet, feels solid, and is quite a handler around corners and curves. Acceleration--about eight seconds or so to 60--is much better than most hybrids, and it feels almost sporty. Its got a lovely interior, is well-made, and spot-on perfect for urban living. And 36 miles per gallon--which we got, is pretty darn good these days. It's a terrific buy, for sure. But remember--you have a lot of responsibility for the gas mileage you get--and that's with any car.