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2013 FORD C-MAX: A Fresh Take on the Minivan - VIDEO ENHANCED

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Ford C-Max

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Ford C-Max

Certain to cause a buzz at the upcoming North American International Auto Show is the new Ford C-Max, a 7-seat (or more accurately a “5+2” configuration given the limited size of the rear two seats) crossover, or minivan, or station wagon, or whatever other moniker you wish to apply.

We’ve only had a brief look at the C-MAX during a press preview of Ford’s Detroit auto show offerings. It appears a tad smaller than the original Chrysler minivans, that is, way smaller than current minivans. You’ll recall the originals were quite small based on the innovative Chrysler K-Car platform. The genre then grew drastically to what now are cavernous, roomy, handy haulers included in just a few manufacturers’ lineups.

C-Max is one of 10 new vehicles based on Ford’s new global C-Car platform shared with all the iterations of the new Focus. It visually resembles many of the compact crossovers offered by nearly every manufacturer but adds a third row seat big enough for two little people. What makes it sort of a minivan are sliding rear doors and a center rear seat that folds away for easy access to the third row.

Ford abandoned the traditional minivan segment with the demise of the ill-handling, wimpy Windstar and Freestar. Flex came along to fill the need for a vehicle with generous and functional interior but it is visually boxy, way bigger and without sliding doors. Soccer moms all overt the country had had to shop elsewhere for their kid haulers.

While pricing has not been announced the Ford folks insist C-Max will be “affordable.” To put that in context, we expect it will compete with the plethora of compact and mid-sized crossovers but its only direct competitor at this point is the Mazda 5, which has similar architectural origins, but little else in common.

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2012 Ford C-Max dashboard

For a relatively small exterior we find a lot of room inside. If you eliminate the third row seat (don’t ask adults to spend much time back there) an admirable amount of cargo area opens up. The inside is remarkably well appointed as well, if our preview car is not misleading. The details are lifted principally from the Focus.

The neatest new feature of the C-Max has to be the under-bumper, hands-free automatic rear hatch lift. As part of the keyless entry system the rear lift gate senses your presence (if the fob is in your pocket, of course) just as do the doors. For those times your arms are full of packages just wave your foot under the bumper and the gate rises. How cool is that? One of our colleagues is quoted as asking why no one had thought of that sooner – a testament to its practicality.

Basic power comes from a 2.5-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder making a decent 168 horsepower. The promising new 1.6-liter EcoBoost making 180 horsepower will soon be available. I’m betting that 12 extra hp will feel like a lot more. With the new 6-speed automatic transmission fuel mileage for both is expected to be best-in-class, the Ford execs claim.

Along with all the state-of-the-art safety stuff Ford has included a system they call “Curve Control” that will intervene when you’re coming into a curve too fast. Roof-mounted air bags extend the length of all three seat rows, and all the other chassis dynamic controls are standard.

Click PLAY to watch the Ford C-Max promo video

Ford has become a leader in connectivity and infotainment, all of which will be available on this car. Ford Sync and an upgraded Sony package are optional but all expected connectivity pieces are provided.

Standard content is impressive and will certainly match, if not exceed, the competition. C-Max will offer optional backup camera, HD radio, panoramic sunroof and enough stuff to compete head-to-head with most anything out there. No rear seat heaters will be offered, we understand.

We expect to have some wheel time with C-Max in the next few months so . . . stay tuned for more details.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved