KPBJ COM 2013 Ford CMax Energi Ford’s new plugin hybrid …

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Ford C-Max Energi

June 3, 2013 @ 5:33pm | Bruce Caldwell

Ford s new C-Max Energi is a stylish take on fuel efficiency in a compact package. It s Ford s answer to the Toyota Prius plug-in and the Chevy Volt. The C-Max is also available as a traditional hybrid without the ability to run solely on electric power.

Both models have their merits, but as residents of a hilly neighborhood, we d pick the considerably less expensive C-Max Hybrid over the Energi. If we lived in Pancake, Kansas, or commuted from one end of the Bonneville (Utah) Salt Flats to the other, the Energi would win.

The electric-only range is claimed to be 20 miles, but we never came close to that lofty goal. The regenerative braking system is constantly replenishing the battery, but a full charge requires either a standard 120-volt household plug-in (the recharging cord stores neatly beneath the floor behind the driver s seat) or the optional (and much quicker) 240-volt charger. It takes about seven hours for a 120-volt recharge and three hours using 240V power.

Avoiding gas stations altogether would take incredible driving/navigational skills for our highly variable topography. Anyone able to use electric power exclusively could more easily justify the $7,700 price differential between the plug-in and standard hybrid C-Max models.

Walkaround: The Ford C-Max is a handsome little hatchback. The body looks a little like an extra small mini van, but the four standard style, front-hinged doors, five-passenger seating, and limited cargo space place it squarely in the compact sedan/wagon category.

Its styling is contemporary with strong ties to other Ford passenger cars (especially in the grille and front end). The roof is tall, but a gentle rearward slope keeps it from being a boring box. Fit and finish are excellent.

Interior: Abe Lincoln would enjoy driving the C-Max based on its ample front legroom and top hat friendly headroom. The three-passenger back seat is still great for big hats, but shorter on legroom. Accommodations improve if the front seats are moved up a little.

The floor is flat and there is good foot room under the seats. The middle seating position is narrow. Three adults are a tight squeeze, but the seat is fine for children.

Cargo space is disappointing for a vehicle that looks so promising. The oversized 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and short body limit cargo capacity and shapes of items that can fit. The split seats fold flat, but the battery box is higher than the seat backs.

Miscellaneous interior bins are on the small side.

The C-Max Hybrid has 10 cubic feet more cargo space than the Energi. Our well-equipped tester had all the latest high tech audio/communications/navigational features including voice recognition.

Under The Hood: Both the C-Max Energi and the regular hybrid model use the same 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine, which is rated at 141 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque. The auxiliary electric motor is rated at 118 horsepower and 117 lb-ft of torque. Both versions of the C-Max end up with a net 188 horsepower.

A continuously variable automatic transmission sends the power to the front wheels.

Fuel economy figures are a little confusing. The EPA rates the C-Max on gasoline at 43 mpg combined city and highway. The EPA electric plus gas combined figure is an astronomical 100-mpg. The information display on our tester said 42.5-mpg after 300 miles of various mode driving.

We weren t able to make any sustained electric-only trips.

Behind The Wheel: The Ford C-Max Energi is a decent driving car. The ride is pretty smooth (especially considering the 38-psi inflation pressures for the Michelin Energy Saver P225/50R-17 tires). The handling is reasonably nimble. The compact size makes it ideal for city driving.

Our tester had the optional Automated Parking System (an outstanding parlor trick if ever there was one).

Switching between electric and gasoline power is seamless. There isn t anything unusual about driving the Energi unless you pay too much attention to the various dashboard displays. It can be like a rolling video game watching the readouts (including a regenerative braking judging system that rates your braking techniques).

Ford calls the display Smart Gauge with Eco Guide.

Acceleration is glacial in electric-only mode, although there is the strong initial electric motor torque sensation. The Energi weighs a full two-tons, so that s a heavy box to accelerate. The 0-to-60 time drops in half when the gas engine is added to the equation.

As a hybrid the C-Max delivers very acceptable acceleration characteristics — not a rocket, but not a slug, either.

Whines: Cargo space is noticeably compromised by the larger battery pack in the C-Max Energi. With the pullout cargo cover in place we were only able to fit one carryon size suitcase between the cover and the battery. The foot-operated rear hatch opener is a great idea, but we couldn t get it to work as quickly or as effortlessly as the TV commercials.

Bottom Line: We like the 2013 Ford C-Max as a hybrid, but we re not sold on the plug-in Energi. The underlying vehicle is a fine urban transportation module, but we can t justify the added cost of plug-in capability. The price differential between the C-Max plug-in and the C-Max hybrid along with real world fuel economy averages don t currently pencil out.

Our advice is to buy the C-Max Hybrid.

Ford C-Max Energi

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