2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid
- Clever cargo and gear storage
- Spacious interior
- 570-mile range
- Solid value for a hybrid
- Full-electric power up to 60 mph
- Bland steering
- Poor cornering
- Heavier than expected
- Rough ride
- Tech overload on the dash
Among hybrid hatchbacks (and only hybrid hatchbacks), the Ford C-Max is a worthy choice for those who want more people and gear room—and a better price. Performance is not its selling point. It’s about bringing comfort and killer fuel economy to the masses—for $26k.
My first impression of the Ford C-Max was a good one. It brings a sleek Euro-look to the States that doesn’t scream “domestic.” Inside, the cabin felt spacious and futuristic with cubbyholes and the like stuffed everywhere and a vibrant flat-screen dash. It’s generous rear seat head and legroom was a welcome experience.
A hidden storage compartment under the floor mat of one of the rear seats can hold your wallet, keys, and smartphones when, say, you come across a swimming hole or sheltered beach on your travels. Smart.
Another cool feature: a sensor along the rear bumper allows you to swipe your foot under the bumper to trigger the power rear hatch to open. Nice when your hands are full and you don’t want to fumble with your keys.
On the roads and freeways of SoCal, the C-Max’s 2.0-liter, 141-hp gas engine mates to a 118-hp electric motor to produce a max of 188 hp. That was enough to get us up to speed, but the engine feels overmatched for the C-Max’s weight. It took awhile to accelerate (It has a reported 0-60 time of 8.2 seconds), and when attempting to pass, the transmission/hybrid engine took a beat or two longer than I wanted for it to figure out how to power me ahead.
But performance isn’t what the C-Max is about. It’s about bringing people comfort and killer fuel economy to the masses for $26k. On that end, it does a decent job. An “ecoguide” rating screen on the dash helped me drive with more fuel-sipping awareness: braking later and harder to recharge the battery, coasting when possible, and replacing my lead foot with a feather foot on the gas pedal.
Still, I was disappointed to see that through 135 miles of driving, my average fuel economy never broke 40 mpg. I wasn’t driving that aggressively: 65-75 mph on the freeways, and then an up-and-back run to the base of the Mt. Baldy ski area at 6,500 feet.
However, it was on Mt. Baldy’s twisting two-lane road that the C-Max’s shortcomings became apparent. The steering wheel and tires don’t provide a good tactile feel for the road—it’s almost like they’re not connected. This made cornering less than enjoyable.
On the way downhill, the vehicle’s mass (3,640 pounds, a full 300 pounds heavier than the non-hybrid C-Max), and its high stance resulted in an uncomfortable amount of body roll. I couldn’t wait to get down off the mountain.
I call the C-Max hybrid a good vehicle for city/suburban driving or long haul trips on the interstate. As for using it to take the scenic routes along winding two-lane highways, it’s not the best.
How We Tested It
The Ford C-Max Hybrid was driven 135 miles throughout Orange County, Calif. over a long weekend at the beginning of September. Freeway driving and mountain driving was conducted late at night to avoid traffic. The vehicle was used to ferry a total of four passengers and luggage around the region. One regret, we didn’t test it during a prolonged rush hour where we could’ve better determined its city mpg, nor in winter conditions.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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- Drivetrain: 2-Wheel Drive (front)
- Engine: 2.0-Liter, 4-cylinder gas/electric motor
- Hybrid: Yes
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