2013 Ford C-Max Extended Review
Proving hybrid wagons can be fun to drive.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: April 4th, 2013
If the 2013 Ford Escape strikes your fancy, but you really, really want a hybrid and you're sad that Ford didn't put a hybrid powertrain in the Escape, well, the Blue Oval has just the vehicle for you. Enter the C-Max.
The C-Max is meant to replace the Escape Hybrid, by virtue of also being a compact crossover SUV. The C-Max is more van-like in stature than the redesigned-for-2013 Escape (Europeans would call it a "people mover"), although it's not a true minivan. Unlike minivans, the C-Max doesn't have sliding doors or seating for seven--it's best thought of as either a short SUV or a tall wagon.
Whatever it is, going (mostly) gas-free is appealing to many people, and families on a budget will be taking a long look at this car--as will potential buyers of the Toyota Prius V.
The C-Max does some things surprisingly well. Handling is one of those things. We've praised Ford's Focus compact and the Escape for having good handling, and the C-Max has many of the same traits. It has the same light and quick-steering feel that engages the driver (although a tad more firmness wouldn't hurt) and it generally gets through corners without much drama, although there is a tad too much body roll and some understeer intrudes. The C-Max handles well for a tall hybrid wagon that is meant to be a family-hauler, although it's a level below the Focus or Escape.
Ride is acceptable around town and on the freeway, although it's a bit on the sporty side. It's never stiff, though, and the C-Max doesn't annoy during commuting.
Where the C-Max is lacking is in acceleration. One hundred eighty-eight total system horsepower can only do so much, and while the C-Max has enough guts for around-town driving, it needs more power for passing and merging. It would help if the brakes were less squishy and spongy, too. We also weren't thrilled with the engine's unpleasant noises under heavy throttle.
Hybrid critics often accuse the car's designs of being derivative of jellybeans, and we can't argue with that, although we like the C-Max's inoffensive look compared to the Prius and the stretched Prius V. It's a bit bland, sure, but plain isn't always unattractive.
Anyone who's spent time in the Focus or Escape will recognize the cabin, thanks to its similar layout. The good news is there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces and attractive design lines; the bad news is our tester came with Ford's confounding MyFordTouch infotainment system, and some of the audio controls are mounted too high on the dash.
Headroom and legroom are plentiful, and the overall cabin atmosphere is pleasant.
The C-Max is meant to be positioned as a fuel-saving family-hauler, and it does that well. It also pleasantly surprises with its road manners. It's not the only fun-to-drive hybrid out there--see the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Lexus GS 450h--but it might be the only fun-to-drive hybrid tall wagon. It's one thing for a four-door like the Fusion Hybrid to have rewarding driving dynamics, that surprises no one. But no one looks at the C-Max and expects it to drive like it does. Ford will win over driving enthusiasts who really need a fuel-efficient people-mover with this one.
To those hybrid skeptics that think anything green can't be fun to drive, your local Ford dealer will be happy to prove you wrong.
Specs, Features, and Prices
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder combined with electric motor
Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 47 mpg city/47 mpg highway
Base Price: $28,200
As-tested price: $31,210 (includes $795 destination)
Available Features: Bluetooth, USB port, navigation, MyFordTouch infotainment system, power liftgate, keyless entry and starting, rearview camera, spotter mirrors, 17-inch wheels, fog lamps
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, click here: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid.