The New Hybrid Buzz: Priced Low, the 2013 Ford C-MAX Gets High Fuel Economy
“We have a million leaves,” yelled my driving partner, Linda Water-Nelson, of Austin, Texas. It was a slight exaggeration about the number (it was a lot, but not a million!), however, there was no exaggeration about seeing the appealing graphic of bunches of falling leaves in the gauge cluster of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. We felt as if we had hit the jackpot during a 19.7 mile test drive loop of this all-new compact gas/electric vehicle from the Blue Oval automaker. We had been told to expect approximately 47 miles to the gallon and, yet, with thoughtful driving and no air conditioning on (we powered the windows down at every stop to let the breeze blow through!), we achieved 60 mpg! (see photo).
Ford’s 2013 C-MAX Hybrid boasts more room, more horsepower, better fuel economy and more than a dozen class-exclusive features than its Japanese rival—the Toyota Prius v. Positioned as head-to-head competitors, the “v” is a small-sized, minivan-like auto that was added to Toyota’s highly-regarded hybrid lineup this year. Ford claims a 570-mile range, almost two cubic feet more interior space, and a $1,300 lower price tag than this Prius model. C-Max is on sale now and is priced starting at $25, 995; Ford calls it a 5-door Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV).
We started our drive of the new model at the Hollywood-chic Andaz Hotel by Hyatt, near the heart of Tinseltown. Motoring along Sunset Boulevard, we headed west to the coast, where we traveled northward on the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu-this was the portion of the drive that was a Fuel Economy Challenge.
We like the looks of the C-Max Hybrid’s exterior outside; it sports the familiar look of many popular crossover-styled vehicles on the road these days. It has angled and sparkling headlamps, a steeply raked windshield and an aerodynamic slant from the top of the A-pillar (front) to the C-pillar (rear), and a convenient liftgate (available with power as an option). The wheels are attractive 17-inch alloys.
What stands out about the C-MAX Hybrid is its wide, grinning front grille that is both bold and functional, allowing for better ventilation to heat and cool the engine more efficiently.
Inside, you’ll find is more roomy and plush than one might expect for a non-luxury hybrid. The instrument cluster includes Ford’s “SmartGauge,” which includes a speedometer and a leaf-and-vines themed display that shows you how eco-friendly your driving style is—hence, the leaves! SmartGuage also has a brake display designed to teach you how to best use the regenerative braking power – as with many electric and hybrid vehicles, C-MAX’s braking system generates power to charge the battery, so making the most out of braking can add more eco-friendly miles to your trip.
Ford says that its new hybrid has 15 features that cannot be found on other cars in this class, from heated seat cushions and voice-activated navigation to the Blue Oval’s Sync hands-free infotainment system and a power liftgate, with hands-free opening, even without pressing the key fob; a kick motion under the rear bumper releases the rear hatch! Among a long list of standard features are a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter; six-way adjustable driver seats; an anti-allergic interior;110 Volt powerpoint and 2-12 Volt outlets; keyless entry; AM/FM/CD/ MP3 audio with 6 speakers, auxiliary input jack and USB; driver/passenger blind spot mirrors; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; overhead storage; redundant audio controls; speed control; a rear window defroster with timer; tire pressure monitoring system; rear spoiler; and ambient lighting that gives the interior a Tron-like feel at night. Ford also says the new C-Max is so advanced that there are 500 patents on the new model that is built on Ford’s European 5-seater compact utility platform.
Boasting a high roofline and greater head (41.0 front; 39.4 rear) and legroom (43.1 front; 36.5 rear) than Prius, the C-MAX Hybrid seats five comfortably, with plenty of room for cargo or a family camping trip in the rear, although the Prius v has more cargo-carrying capacity. Back seats split and fold 60/40 for pass-through storage, making way for 52.6 cu.ft. when folded, and 24.5 cu.ft., when upright. There’s also second row, in-floor storage – what a great way to corral those iPads, coloring books and other backseat clutter.
The C-MAX Hybrid is powered by a hybrid electric-gas powered motor combination is the first in a series of hybrids that Ford plans to introduce in the coming months – including a plug-in C-MAX Energi hybrid due later in the fall of 2012. The gas-powered motor is a 2.0-liter four cylinder that is paired to an electronic continuously variable transmission (CVT); horsepower is rated at 141, while torque is 129 lb.-ft. The electric motor is a permanent magnet synchronous AC generator backed by lithium ion batteries that were developed in-house by Ford. Regenerative braking technology is built into the system. EPA estimates put C-MAX hybrid at 47 city, highway and combined miles per gallon.
Independent front and rear multilink suspension components, along with front and rear stabilizer bars, provide stability on the road; C-MAX is front-wheel drive. Safety equipment includes seven airbags, power-assisted four-wheel discs with ABS, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability control; electronic traction control; and emergency brake assist.
There are two models- a SE and uplevel SEL, with a base MSRP of $28,200. We drove the SEL with a Ruby Red Metallic Clear Coat exterior, and a Medium Light Stone Leather interior. It came with a premium audio and navigation package, a panoramic sunroof, a parking technology package and parking assist, keyless enrty/start/tailgate locking and unlocking, along with the hands-free technology package and power liftgate. As equipped, it is priced at $33,080, which includes the $795 destination and delivery.
Ford claimed its new model could achieve 47 mpg, but with attentive driving and watching the SmartGauge with EcoGuide, we were able to monitor our regenerative braking energy and, even driving at posted speeds (along with a bit of coasting!), we achieved the 60 mpg on a 20-mile-long road course from LA to coastal Malibu! We next drove the C-Max in a ‘normal’ fashion, using air conditioning and achieved 44 mpg, even though our route took us high into the hills about Malibu. C-Max’s drive is notably quiet and we were impressed to find power-on-tap from stop-to-go, with no torque lag, motivating this 3,607 lb. runabout up steep grades and around the curves of Malibu canyon and when passing on the highway, as we returned to urban Los Angeles. Gas-pressured shock absorbers smooth the ride, while electric power-assisted steering carves decent turns, and the brakes have a good feel and stop in a graduated manner. While not sports-car-like, it gives a more sporty ride than the Prius, which we had driven recently.
Highlights of our trip included our overnight stay and meals at the Andaz, as well as a superb and heart-healthy lunch at the Malibu Country Club.
Andaz Hotel by Hyatt (http://www.andaz.hyatt.com/en/andaz.html) Hyatt operates a collection of boutique luxury hotels in the U.S. and around the world. Our stay was at Los Angeles’ Andaz West Hollywood, located on Sunset Boulevard. They say it is more than a hip boutique hotel in LA; it’s a lifestyle. Andaz means "personal style" in Hindi, and Hyatt boasts that it adds the latest style, service, and high-touch innovation to your West Hollywood hotel experience. With a mix of Hollywood glamour and warm personal style, this modern-day hotel offers beautifully designed rooms and suites, upscale event spaces, and acclaimed dining, but strives for a welcoming atmosphere with its mantra is “my home is yours.”
Malibu Beach and Malibu Country Club- One of the most desirable locations in Southern California, Malibu Beach and the Malibu Country Club are enclaves for the hip, creative and cool. The region is cultural and historical, with a host of restaurants, and trendy clubs; plus, there are beaches for sunning and surfing. There are also numerous drives to try out the features of new autos along coastal trails, as well as the snaking hills high above.
Malibu Country Club; 901 Encinal Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA 90265 (818) 889-6680. (http://local.vcstar.com/malibu+country+club.9.1096218p.home.html)