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2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Review By Larry Nutson

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2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid
A strong player in the hybrid games

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel


Editor's Note: As we were about to publish this story on the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Ford Motor Company announced that it is changing the way it tests and labels the 2013 C-MAX Hybrid for fuel economy to better match performance and improve customer satisfaction.The revised 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid label will carry an EPA combined fuel economy value of 43 mpg, with 45 city mpg and 40 highway mpg ratings. The former ratings as we mentioned in our review were 47 mpg each for combined, city, and highway.

Because this voluntary step results in miles-per-gallon values different from the original C-MAX Hybrid label, Ford also is making a goodwill payment to current C-MAX Hybrid owners for the estimated average fuel cost of the difference between the two labels. Customers who purchased their vehicle will receive a check from Ford for $550. Customers who leased their vehicle will receive a check for $325.

Ford announced powertrain software updates last month for the 2013 C-MAX Hybrid designed to improve real world fuel economy. Now the 2014 Ford C-MAX Hybrid on sale later this year is being upgraded with new transmission gearing and enhanced aerodynamics to further improve fuel efficiency performance.

Related to this the EPA said it will update the test procedures (dating from 1977) used to assign fuel economy ratings to cars "to ensure that the requirements keep pace with industry trends and innovations in advanced high-efficiency vehicles." The EPA said that its own testing rules were a factor that contributed to Ford's overstated mpg claims.

A final note from the author: The new 43mpg combined rating equates to a fuel consumption of 2.3 gallons per 100 miles. That's 2/10s of a gallon more than previous, which, depending on what you pay for gas, is about 80 cents more to go 100 miles.

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Review

Ford’s C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid came in to being in the Fall of 2012. The C-MAX hybrids are Ford’s first dedicated hybrid vehicle line and the first multi-activity vehicle (MAV) line in North America.

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These two C-MAX vehicles are very well suited for big city urban living. They are only 173.6 inches long, they seat five, and the C-MAX Hybrid provides 54.3 cubic feet of space behind the first row and 24.5 cubic feet behind the second row. In C-MAX Energi, there is 43.4 cubic feet behind the first row and 19.2 cubic feet behind the second row…the battery takes up more space.

Before I get in to details on the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid that I lived with for a week I want to make a point. I have fortunately had the experience to drive many of the hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure battery electric vehicles that are on the market today. And the point I want to make is, with that experience I have become convinced that in order to reap the greatest benefit from these fuel efficient vehicles and to maximize their economy a driver must change his or her driving style. Not doing so makes for a poor or negative ROI…return-on-investment in these more costly vehicles.

Hybrids and EVs require moderate accelerations, greater anticipation of slowing and stopping to allow for longer coasting distances, gradual brake application to allow regeneration, gradual throttle applications, and driving at the posted speed limit. Additional fuel could be saved by driving below the posted speed limit, but I’m not a big fan of impeding the flow of traffic. Without driving style modification many folks would be better off saving the increased expense on the alternative drive train vehicle by simply buying a fuel efficient gasoline engine vehicle such as the Ford Focus and use the money saved on the purchase price to buy gasoline.

With that said, let’s talk about the fuel economy of the C-MAX hybrid. The EPA test fuel economy ratings for the C-MAX hybrid are 47 city mpg and 47 highway mpg, for a combined 47mpg rating. These ratings have met with some controversy, that is, some folks claim to not even get close. As a matter of fact there is a class action lawsuit pending in this regard and I won’t touch that. On the EPA/DOT website C-MAX hybrid drivers have claimed anywhere from a low of 29mpg to a high of 56mpg.

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I put myself to the test, following my own recommendation to drive conservatively. On an approximate 100 mile drive out into the somewhat hilly countryside northwest of Philly I achieved an average of over 50mpg. The posted speed limits were 50 and 55mph and I stuck to them. Also, I used light throttle applications, coasted as much as possible, and was light on the brake pedal. Air conditioning was on for about 80% of this drive. I also did a shorter 48mile drive hitting 52.9mpg.

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My 95 mile trip to return the C-MAX to Ford in Manhattan takes me up the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95. Posted speeds are 65 and 55 mph. I averaged 42.4mpg using just 2.2 gallons of fuel. Hybrids pay off more at lower speeds; they are great for city driving.

As for the 2.2 gallons of fuel I used on the 95mile drive from Philly to Manhattan, on the EPA/DOT Fuel Economy label fuel consumption also appears expressed in gallons per 100 miles, the same way fuel consumption is expressed and calculated in Europe (in liters per 100km). The Ford C-MAX is rated at 2.1 gallons per 100 miles. Using this figure to compare to my 95 mile drive to Manhattan, I got 2.3 gallons per 100 miles, which is just 9.5% higher or worse. That’s pretty good considering the EPA mpg is calculated from an indoor test in a controlled environment.

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The C-MAX Hybrid is available in SE or SEL models. My SEL test car had a base price of $28,200. Standard equipment includes lots of luxury and comfort items such as power locks, windows and mirrors, 17inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, leather trimmed seats and leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, keyless entry as well as a full contingent of safety features. An optional equipment group priced at $2215 brought premium audio and a navigation package, rear view camera (almost a must-have for city maneuvering), and power liftgate with hands free operation (via a kicking motion under the rear bumper).

The combined total system horsepower of the C-Max is 188HP coming from the 2.0-L Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder and the Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor coupled to a CVT transmission driving through the front wheels. Acceleration, when you need it, is brisk and the C-MAX is no slouch with a top speed of 115mph. Handling is crisp and responsive, the electric power steering effort is comfortable with good feedback, and the ABS four-wheel discs bring the C-MAX to a smooth stop.

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On the inside the trimmings are very stylish, there is plenty of headroom, ingress and egress is quite easy, and the seats provided good support through my various drive excursions. Visibility from the elevated seating position out through the large greenhouse is quite good and the AC system kept me comfortable on some 90-degree days, in spite of the large glass area.

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An instrument cluster smart gauge with eco guide can be driver configured in a few variations to see the interaction and use of the gasoline engine and the electric motor. A “brake coach” helps you fine tune your stops to get the most regenerative braking benefit to recharge the lithium ion battery. By following the gauges and the brake coach driving style is easily modified to get the best economy.

With the re-urbanization that is occurring in so many U.S. cities, the Ford C-MAX Hybrid is well suited to provide the transportation needs of a variety of households. Whether it be singles, young marrieds, or active life style empty nesters the versatility and economy of the C-MAX Hybrid can fit these lifestyles. Smaller yet spacious vehicles like the C-MAX offered on the market today are a comfortable joy to drive and not punishment like small cars of years past.

If you want to compare the Ford C-MAX Hybrid to other hybrid vehicles you can do that right here on For more information on the C-MAX or other Ford vehicles look at

And remember, many, many factors influence actual real world fuel economy so keep in mind your mileage may vary. There is lots of good information on the EPA/DOT fuel economy website I mentioned.

© Larry Nutson