Newest Ford Has Appeal in Many Ways

2013 Ford C-MAX.

Many times after people make a visit to Europe, they come back home remarking about all the interesting cars they saw over there, and wondering “Why can’t we get them here?”

Well, Ford now says you can, in some cases. The auto giant has decided that they’ll be offering many cars as “world” models, sold essentially the same way here as in Europe and other parts of the globe. The 2013 C-Max looks, functions, and drives just like the one that’s been on sale across the Atlantic for some time.

And here’s a little bonus: The C-Max is sold only as a hybrid in the United States, which means it’s among the most fuel efficient vehicles in its class. Official EPA estimates are 47 mpg in city driving and 47 highway, with a combined figure of 47. Ford says that gives their new ride a potential range of 570 miles on a tank of gas.

Those figures would be impressive for a really small car, but the C-Max isn’t all that small. It’s hard to classify, as it’s bigger inside than a small car, but smaller outside than a mid-size. Its closest competitor is the Toyota Prius V, which is the more wagon-like version of the popular Prius hybrid that’s become a staple of Southern California roadways.

It casts about the same shadow on the ground as the Ford Focus, but climb inside the C-Max and it’s very roomy. Tall seats let you sit upright, and there’s plenty of headroom even with a sunroof, and even in the split rear seats. Fold each of those seats flat via one pull of a lever, and you’ve got a huge cargo area. This is essentially a wagon with an extra bit of height.

Under the hood is the latest version of Ford’s gasoline-electric hybrid system, now with a more efficient 2.0 liter four cylinder engine plus a lithium-ion battery for the electric drive portion. Combined, the system produces 188 horsepower, and the vehicle can run in electric-only mode at up to 62 miles per hour if conditions are right.

To help you make the most out of each gallon of gasoline, the C-Max has something Ford calls SmartGuage with EcoGuide. Essentially a series of electronic monitors that help you drive more efficiently, including one that measures how much energy you’re recovering via the regenerative braking system.

All this efficiency helps the C-Max produce that high mpg number of 47, though in my brief drive on both freeways and surface streets I was only able to manage about 44. To be fair, there were three people in the car, and we had the air conditioner running pretty hard in one of the San Fernando Valley’s recent heat waves. I imagine that a solo driver in mild weather could easily achieve the advertised figure.

Speaking of advertising, Ford’s really playing up the comparison to the Prius V, pointing out that the C-Max gets better mileage, has more room in some dimensions, and costs less. Toyota will probably just sit back and let the fact that the name Prius is synonymous with hybrid vehicles speak for itself.

Toyota also has a plug-in Prius (not the V but the standard size one) that functions as a purely electric vehicle for a short range, and soon Ford will offer the C-Max as a plug-in as well. The upcoming C-Max Energi will offer EV driving for up to 20 miles before the gasoline engine has to kick in. If your daily commute is fairly short, you could conceivably never use any gas at all.

The regular hybrid C-Max is hitting showrooms any day now, with a base price of $25,200 for the SE grade. The more upscale version is the SEL and comes in at just under $30,000. You can then add option packages that include bells and whistles like a hands-free power liftgate and a slick automatic parking system.

The Ford C-Max is a nicely-sized, easy to drive vehicle with every comfort and convenience feature you could imagine, and would make a great little vehicle on its own. The fact that it’s a hybrid? Icing on the cake.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave

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