When the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid goes on sale this fall, most American consumers are likely to ask, “What’s a C-Max?” That’s a fair question, considering that the model is new to the U.S. market—not only as a new nameplate, but as a different kind of vehicle altogether.
One immediate distinction is that it’s Ford’s first hybrid-only vehicle. Ford is not new to hybrids—far from it. The company has been selling the Ford Escape Hybrid for nearly a decade. (It will be discontinued next year). The Ford Fusion Hybrid racked up all kinds of awards, including 2012 North American Car of the Year, for its smooth-as-silk hybrid powertrain. But the C-Max is the first hybrid with a blue oval logo that is not being offered in pure gas as well as hybrid form.
When powered by gasoline, the C-MAX Hybrid uses the all-new 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine—what company executive say is “among the most advanced non-turbocharged four-cylinder powertrains Ford has ever offered.” That engine combines with an electric motor powered by lithium ion battery pack to deliver a projected—drum roll please—47 miles per gallon in the city and 44 mpg on the highway. That puts the C-Max Hybrid right below the Toyota Prius liftback in the fuel economy charts. At the same time, it will deliver an anticipated 188 horsepower, compared to 134 ponies from Toyota’s quintessential hybrid.
The novelty of the powertrain is matched by the newness of the vehicle design. The C-Max defies familiar segmentation. Is it a wagon? Is it a small utility? Is it a compact on steroids? Well, somewhere in between. Americans aren’t familiar with the idea of a utility vehicle that is not nearly as big as even a crossover ute—but provides a lot of the same functionality. But Europeans are. More than 144,000 units of the five-passenger C-MAX gasoline and diesel versions have been sold in Europe since late 2010. (Again, in the U.S., the C-Max is hybrid and only hybrid.)
The C-Max is tall. It has a high roofline a five feet and four inches. It offers a spacious 100 cubic feet of passenger space, and equally ample headroom. For cargo, C-MAX Hybrid has 60/40 split-fold rear seats that fold flat with 54.3 cubic feet of space behind the first row and 24.5 cubic feet behind the second row. Ford is calling it a “compact hybrid utility vehicle” or “multi-activity vehicle.”
Is fuel efficiency in the mid-40s not enough for you? Then, how does 95 miles per gallon sound? By early 2013, Ford will begin selling the same C-Max Hybrid, but with plug-in capability—thus transforming it into the C-Max Energi. By juicing up the C-Max Energi’s larger lithium ion battery pack, the vehicle will deliver an anticipated 95 miles per gallon equivalent rating—with the first 20 miles of driving purely on electricity. Total vehicle range will be around 550 miles.
This all sounds good, but what about the price? The 2013 C-MAX Hybrid will be available this fall with a competitive base price of $25,995.
The plug-in Energi’s price, announced this week, is $33,745—but that does not factor a federal tax credit of $3,750, plus a $1,500 rebate in California. The incentives bring the price below $30,000 for most customers. (The Energi is likely to roll out for the first year or so only in California and New York, in a pattern similar to the Ford Focus Electric.)
Based on what we know now—yes, it will take a while to fully grasp this enigmatic new model—the C-Max will be a welcome addition to U.S. roads.
For more information about the latest hybrid and electric cars, visit eBay’s Green Driving Center.