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Ford takes aim at Prius

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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid: C-MAX Hybrid headlines Ford's transformed lineup, one-third of which will feature a model with 40 mpg or more in 2012, building on the company's commitment to give fuel-efficiency-minded customers the Power of Choice. The new C-MAX Hybrid is targeted to achieve better fuel economy than Toyota Prius v. (08/22/12)

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From page B3 | January 18, 2013 | Leave Comment

The Toyota Prius has been the king of hybrids; there are others out there, but nobody has been able to forge a true competitor. Now, Ford thinks it has the answer with the C-Max.

The C-Max is 2 inches shorter than a Prius and 4 inches wider. The biggest difference is the height, with the C-Max a whopping 5 inches taller.

The roomy C-Max  is very well sized for a family. The rear seats offer comfortable seating for two and a third person will be comfortable on short trips. The only complaint of the interior is centered on the trunk, where the battery pack takes up valuable space.

Once sitting in the driver seat, you’re faced with a well-put-together and functional interior. There are high-tech touches but, fortunately, Ford engineers have shown restraint. The climate control system is simple to operate and the large touchscreen LCD screen in the center of the dash controls most functions. The system controls the phone, climate control, sound system and navigation.

Most functions are logically positioned and there are just enough buttons to make the system easy to operate. The biggest issue with the interior revolves around the inadequate sun visors. The tall roof results in a tall windshield, and the visors are simply too small to cover the sun.

In Europe, you can get the C-Max with a gasoline engine or diesel engine. In the U.S., the C-Max is available as a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. Our test car was the hybrid model which comes with a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine. It puts out 141 horsepower and, with the addition of the electric motor, the output totals 188 horsepower. The result is a very strong powertrain that can go up to 62 mph in electric-only mode. At full throttle, the engine does not sound very sporty, but hybrid owners are not seeking Ferrari engine sounds.

The C-Max is rated at 47 mpg in both city and highway driving. Those numbers are a little lower than a Prius, but we wanted to know what is really achievable. Almost all hybrid cars show very high EPA numbers that are not realistic.

The C-Max is no different, with our testing resulting in 36 mpg. We tried to see what it would take to get 47 mpg on the freeway and it was not easy. If you want to reach those numbers you would have to drive around 50 mph on the freeway. Drive at 75 mph or 80 mph and you will be seeing your mileage numbers drop quicker than the price of homes in California a few years ago.

The C-Max prices start out at $25,200 which is about a thousand dollars more than a Prius. What that extra thousand buys you is a much better car overall. The Ford just oozes quality and never feels like an economy car even in our base SE model. The car rides well and is quiet on the road and feels very solid.

The other bonus to the Ford is how it drives and looks. The C-Max feels very sporty and is not afraid to tackle corners. It is not exactly a sports car, but other hybrids are as sporty as a refrigerator, so it’s nice to see that Ford engineers spent time on the suspension tuning. It also has clean proportions and the beautifully designed front end with an Aston Martin grille look. It just does not look like an economy car.

The C-Max is a great family car with good fuel economy that may not reach the advertised numbers but nevertheless is efficient and cheap to operate. Most importantly it is well sized with a small footprint but lots of room on the inside. And at $25,000 it is affordable. That is always a good thing and it is showing on the sales floor as the C-Max is selling at record numbers.

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