by Roger Biermann
If you want to build a capable hybrid, it's generally best to engineer the platform for that purpose from the start, although Ford thinks otherwise, and has turned the Focus into a hybridized MPV with the Ford C-Max. Available in mild- and plug-in hybrid versions. For Ford, this hybrid-only line of vehicles needs to be good enough to outgun the Toyota Prius V. Unfortunately, though the C-Max has a few redeeming qualities, it struggles to be a great example of either an MPV, or a hybrid fuel-saver. It's a tricky scenario for the Michigan-based brand. Read on for more information and images as we review the C-Max hybrid.
Although being based on the Focus, it's dimensions differ substantially, with the Ford C-Max hatchback standing taller and having a curb weight of 3,640 pounds, which is around 600 lbs heavier than the Focus hatch in its base configuration. Still, it's not an unappealing car, and can be hued in elegant colors such as White Gold, Shadow Black, and Ingot Silver, or more cheeky options like Hot Pepper Red.
Based on the Ford Focus, the interior design is simple but feels solid. However, repurposed as an MPV, the C-Max gets a more upright seating position - great for visibility, but unfortunately not so great for comfort levels, as the seats don't offer support enough for long-haul travels. For shorter journeys, you could easily manage five passengers, with plenty of head and legroom, and easy ingress and egress.
However, if there's one reason to have an MPV, it's likely for the masses of cargo space available, with the seats as is, or folded down. Unfortunately, the batteries in the C-Max eat into the trunk area. The C-Max hybrid boasts an ample 25 cubic feet, but the Energi (plug-in hybrid) offers a rather sub-par 19 cu. ft. with the rear seats in place. Drop the second row and you get 42.8 cu. ft. - it sounds decent until you consider that a Prius V offers a massive 25 cubes more.
Those redeeming traits I mentioned start here. Being based on the Focus means the C-Max shows real composure out on the road. The suspension is steadily supportive, though soft, and resists body roll. It doesn't easily get unsettled either - absorbing bumps without losing a good connection to the tarmac. Those transitioning from youthful hot hatches into family life with this MPV will be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the drive can be - direct, communicative steering, and a chassis that responds to being pressed make the C-Max feel a lot more like a Focus than it does a family van. Of course, the size, extra heft and raised proportions mean this is no hot hatch, and the grip levels run out in time to remind you of this - but the fun is real while it lasts.
Hybrid electric motors are great for economy - 2.0-liter gasoline engines aren't. The C-Max combines the two for a total output of 188 hp. The electric boost means sprightly acceleration and getting up to speed is no problem, and claimed EPA figures are impressive too, at 42 MPG in the city for the hybrid, and 104MPGe for the Energi PHEV. Real-world conditions don't yield anything close - and the 20-mile electric range on the PHEV is below average, too.
Standard charge time for the PHEV is 7 hours from a 120V socket, but a 240V makes for a more convenient 2.5 hour charge time. FWD is standard through a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) gearbox.
Even in base SE trims, there's a decent amount of standard equipment, with specs such as a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, and a 110-volt power source. Leather upholstery is optional on the SE trim but standard on Titanium models, which adds power adjustment to the front passenger seat, SYNC 3 infotainment, with active park assist also available.
Safety is taken care of by stability control, potent ventilated brakes with ABS, and a full suite of seven airbags. The C-Max scores four out of five stars in NHTSA crash tests, and received the best possible 'Good' rating from the IIHS.
Fun as it may be for eager drivers, the Ford C-Max tries and fails to combine MPV practicality and hybrid efficiency. Hybrid hatchbacks offer similar functionality, though, and the Toyota Prius V offers vastly better efficiency. Sadly, Ford missed the boat on this one. It retails in the USA for a starting price of around $20k for the SE trim, and upwards of $25k for the Titanium, without taking taxes, licensing and registration into account.
With the Energi plug-in hybrid dead and gone, the 2018 Ford C-Max Hybrid is all that is left in the C-Max line-up. A 2.0-liter combustion inline-four pairs with an electric motor and 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery to produce a combined power figure of 188 hp. Drive goes to the front wheels via an eCVT, with the EPA figures at 42/38 MPG. The available Cold Weather package includes heated seats and heated mirrors for extra comfort in cold climates. ABS brakes and electronic stability control are standard, while blind-spot monitoring and park sensors are optionally available.
Check out some informative Ford C-Max Hybrid video reviews below.