The first thing to report about the Ford C-Max Hybrid is that it is not one of the vehicles eligible for a government rebate. That would be the C- Max Energi….among others.
The second thing is that this rebate program is scheduled to shut down at the end of March, although that may change. (It did.)
The third thing is that another Ford model eligible for this rebate is the Focus Electric, which I was originally scheduled to drive, but missed out on because it wasn’t working. Apparently, the charging unit on board the car wasn’t functioning, and it couldn’t be re-charged. It was dead in the water, which confirmed my deepest fears about all-electric cars: they are not ready for prime time simply because of fundamentally flawed battery technology that is just not up to speed.
As it turns out, the C-Max Hybrid probably makes more sense anyway. For one thing, it costs at least $10,000 less than either the Energi or the Focus Electric; for another, it doesn’t need to be plugged in for a recharge because, like a proper hybrid, it recharges itself; and last, but not least, it’s fun to drive.
This is thanks in large measure to a purported 188-horsepower hybrid drive that is similar to the same unit utilized in Ford’s Fusion Hybrid. In the 1640-kilogram C-Max, it actually gives the car a bit of a performance dimension and it has some snap. Unofficial acceleration runs revealed zero to 100 km/h times in the eight to 10 second range, which, for a sensible-shoes hybrid, is pretty decent. Faster than the Toyota Prius, for example.
With a 2.0 litre engine mated to an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack for motivation, Ford is claiming that the C-Max Hybrid can run on pure battery power up to about 100 km/h. That was not my experience, but 80 km/h is definitely within the ballpark, which gives it a leg up on most of the competition right out of the gate. The transition between battery and internal-combustion power while on the highway is unobtrusive, and, on that score, the C-Max is as refined as the Prius.
Like the Prius, the engine in the C-Max employs Atkinson technology, which, in a nutshell, means the valves stay open a smidgeon longer to increase engine efficiency and improve fuel economy. This is usually at the expense of performance, but in this application, it doesn’t seem to make much difference.
It’d be groovy if the C-Max had a proper transmission instead of a CVT, but there it is. I suspect Ford’s thinking here is that the CVT reduces overall weight and, anyway, most buyers in this segment of the market couldn’t care less one way or another.
Elsewhere, the C-Max is well equipped. Standard equipment includes the usual roster of convenience features such as tilt/telescoping steering, air conditioning, split/folding rear seat, one-touch up/down power front windows, speed-sensitive volume control on the stereo, and Ford’s dumbed-down Sync/MyTouch system. My tester, an SEL, also came with a rearview camera, keyless start, upgraded sound system, and Ford’s cool power remote tailgate feature. This last item is pretty slick; if you’ve got an armful of groceries or whatever and need to get the back hatch open, just stick your foot under the rear of the car, and hey, presto. Nice. It doesn’t work until the car has been unlocked, so you still have to get out your remote key fob, but a good idea, nonetheless. All of these goodies come with the “Equipment Group package 303A” and will set you back an additional $2500.
Inside, there is all kinds of room here. The C-Max will seat five, and, with the back seat folded, 1538 litres of cargo space is revealed. By way of comparison, a Prius V boast 1900 litres of room.
Speaking of the Prius V, according to Natural Resources Canada, it delivers 4.3 L/100 km in town and 4.8 on the highway. The C-Max, in comparison, is apparently slightly thriftier, at 4.0 and 4.1 respectively. So it would seem to have the edge there. Pricewise, the Prius V starts in the $27,000 range…..as does the C-Max. My fully equipped SEL came in at just under $35,000, which, again, is comparable to a middle-range “Luxury” Prius V.
Which one would I choose? I don’t know, but the point, it seems to me, is that now there actually is a choice. Toyota has pretty much had the hybrid market all to itself up until now. Various competitors, such as Honda and Hyundai have come forward, but none have been able to really mount a proper challenge to the Prius and go head-to-head with it.
The C-Max may signal an end to that.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder w. electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 188hp net
Torque:129 ft. lb. at 4000 rpm
Base Price: $30,119; as tested: $34,749
Fuel Economy: 4.0 litres per 100 kilometres city/4.1 highway. Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius V, Toyota Prius C, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Chev Volt, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid.