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HEELS ON WHEELS:2015 Ford C-Max Review +VIDEO

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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The five-passenger Ford C-MAX hatchback combines small-crossover style with great fuel economy from a 2-liter hybrid electric powertrain – either 47 combined or up to 88 miles-per-gallon under the plug-in Energi version with the stronger 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery.

I drove a 2015 Ford C-MAX with the standard 2-liter four-cylinder Atkinson engine and electric motor with the stronger lithium-ion battery pack. Drivetrain equipment also included an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT). Available in three trims, the base SE, SEL, and my Energi test drive, the following were standard features: leather upholstery; ten-way power driver’s seat; heated front seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; dual-zone climate control; ambient interior lighting; SYNC with MyFord Touch; push button start; a reverse sensing system; and SmartGauge with EcoGuide. Price as described came to $31,770.

The main competitor is the Ford C-MAX is the Toyota Prius Plug-in (as well as the Toyota Prius V with more storage space0 and the Nissan Leaf. Since its shape is reminiscent of a smaller SUV, those seeking a family ride with all-wheel drive and decent fuel economy might want to check out the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The design of the C-MAX isn’t all that aerodynamic or inspiring – it’s glaringly compact look needs to be downplayed with a sweeping beltline. Space isn’t much of a highlight, as the battery pack limits storage. Yet what makes the C-MAX a contender in the hybrid market is that is addresses basic vehicle desires that most hybrids seem to ignore, like plushier plusher interior materials. But like most domestics, the extras will cost you: my test drive featured a $3,000 technology package (premium audio, navigation, liftgate, rearview camera and parking perks). The few quirks include limited positioning with the steering wheel, no backup lines on the rear camera display, and the complexity to work Ford’s connectivity system outside of the well-organized touchscreen.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2015 C-MAX a total of 4-Stars, with best results in side-impact crash tests. It is a Top Safety Pick with the Insurance Institute for Highway safety (IIHS) with scores of “Good” in all areas omitting small overlap front, which earned an “Acceptable.” Standard safety equipment includes an advanced airbag system, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, MyKey for –pre-setting volume and speed, and 911 Assist for automatic calls to emergency services through paired smartphones.

Cost Issues: The C-MAX has a starting price of $24,170 for the base SE. Yet many of the optional equipment on the SEL trim make hatchback driving life easier for a mom, like the optional remote power liftgate and keyless entry, so I typically recommended the SEL of Energi that allows for these packages. My C-MAX Energi with the extras tapped out at $35,365. A Prius Plug-in starts at $29,990.

Activity & Performance Ability: Responsive and refined, the C-MAX doesn’t harbor any of your typical hybrid characteristics – acceleration is smooth, even and instant. Yet braking proves to have hallmarks of being too tightly wound up and sensitive, never easing into a stop lightly. The powertrain engineering is impressive, with the C-MAX operating at up to 35 miles-per-hour on electricity alone, and then automatically shutting off the gas flow when gliding at speed below 62 miles-per-hour. The Energi will net you an excellent 88 miles-per-gallon, and I can attest it is less stressful to know you can always rely on the gas-powered engine if you forget to recharge (unlike the 100-percent electric Nissan Leaf).

The Green Concern: No argument here: Ford is offering an environmentally focused vehicle with the C-MAX Energi’s fuel economy of 88 miles-per-gallon. The Toyota Prius gets 50 and the Prius Plug-in version gets 95 miles-per-gallon equivalent.

Ford puts forth a strong hybrid with the 2015 C-MAX that gets 88 miles-per-gallon equivalent running on both gasoline and a stronger lithium-ion battery. You’ll enjoy the extras, like upgraded interior finish and technology perks at the higher trim levels. The price is competitive, but you will pay a little extra than an import like the Toyota Prius Plug-in.

2015 Katrina Ramser

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