2013 Ford C-Max HybridFord has its sights squarely on Toyota, more specifically the Toyota Prius, as it finally rolls the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid to U.S. shores. CNET's Brian Cooley checks the tech and also puts it head to head against Toyota's flagship hybrid.
-This car is pissed off because the Toyota Prius, which it hates, has outsold every other hybrid in the world combined. Ford thinks that they've got the antidote. Let's drive the 2013 C-Max SEL Hybrid and check the tech. Now, the first thing anybody asked me about the C-Max is what is it? They hear it's a Prius killer for it's kind of in positioning at that way. Well, it sits somewhere between the Prius and the bigger Prius V in a number of different matrix. To begin with, this can be hot as a hybrid or a plug in hybrid like a Prius. We have the standard hybrid today by the way. It delivers MPG smacking between the Prius and a V. It costs about $900 more than the cheapest Prius. It's shorter than that car, but has more passenger volume then the big Prius V. It also has more front and rear leg room than either Prius or Prius V. It's the tallest by the way. You probably spot of that already. It's also the heaviest by at least 333 pounds. Now, inside the C-Max, first thing you notice is nice head room. Because it's damn tall, you get the benefits inside. We've got the panoramic roof over my head. It's optional by the way a la carte. Dashboard is very affiliate. I've told you before I have an issue with the Darth Vader mask up here because all these eyebrow and check things here getting the way of me touching the screen. Now, we have all the bells and whistles in this guy because we have a high trimmed car and pretty much all the tech options; as a result, communications, navigation. I poked the left corner down here if I can get my hand in there, you see our media choices, and they are many on this car. Obviously, you've got AM/FM. We have HD radio as part of an optional trim up. The USB jack, there are 2 of those and you could use those of course for sticks or iPads. Here's my Droid phone on Bluetooth streaming and of course audio/video inputs. Meta tag information is shown nice and big, good use to the real estate. It's very important for Bluetooth streaming because you wanna know where you are and what you're playing. Unfortunately, it doesn't pull the tags all time, but it's got lots of real estate when it says unknown. Now, because this car is a hybrid, we've got some fairly advanced efficiency gauges here on the on the left to show not just the usual fuel economy, but all kinds of things about charges, regeneration, charge level, things you'd expect, which Toyota tends to make much more front and center kind of always up on that big center display, but in this car, they are tucked away, and you could really reduce them down, and everything else in here looks like a ford, not some different line of car. Other indicators and unlike a Prius, there is no EV mode button or V selector on the shifter, nothing to make you doubt you know how to drive it. Instead, you just put the thing and drive and drive it. Now, you do have a rocker switcher on the side of the shifter, which would typically be an overdrive lockout in this car. It turns on this little icon that shows descent and what that really makes you think is that's gonna go for the kind a descending grade gear, but that's not really what it's doing, it's going in the higher regeneration mode like Toyota's V position, but it's masquerading it as something that most drivers will understand. Now, we have package 303A, cryptic, yes, but remember that number because that brings in all the toys without any scrolling around, which means the navigation with voice and traffic and weather, Sony sound instead of Base audio. HD radio with iTunes tagging. You might like the former. You'll never use the later. A power lift gate with that handsfree technology. Waggle your foot and the gate comes up. Rear camera, front sensors, and self-parking, which you enable with this button right here. Just turn that guy on, follow the prompts, let it do the steering, and you're gonna be parking like an Ace. People will think you know how to drive. The powertrain on the C-Max hybrids starts off with a 2-liter Atkinson-cycle lean burn gas engine. That's all hybrids begin. Set side saddle, drives the front wheels only to do a one choice only CVT gearbox. Now, 141 horsepower by itself, but it doesn't run by itself. It's got the electric motor attached to it. That gets the horses up to 188 and a commensurate bump in torque as well. We're also looking at a car that weighs 3600 pounds here folks, hundreds more than a Prius or Prius V. Therefore, the 0 to 60 of 8.1, it's fine. The MPG is a little lower than a Prius 47/47 on the C-Max. We're also talking about a car here that's going to have perhaps better crash worthiness because it's got more weight. There have been studies lately that indicate the additional weight of hybrids has made them safer certainly in terms of serious accidents, fatalities, and injuries, but this car may have a little more of an edge that way. Consider that anecdotal or undocumented, but it's an interesting trend we're watching. Also, this car uses lithium-ion batteries. The Prius lines still uses the somewhat older nickel-metal hydride formulation. Let's go for a ride. Okay, let's drive our little blue friend, which I noticed it's the same color as one of those blue slurpees. What flavor is that, blue? Anyway, the car is-- it actually very Prius like in its feel in terms of how heavy it feels, how springy it feels, how responsive, things of that nature. You're always aware of the great degree of space in this car much like a Prius V. It feels very airy and roomy. It feels like a people mover to me more than a car. This car has begun in Europe by the way. This C-Max started selling in Europe in 2003 where they go in for more kind of practical compact utility vehicles, more than we do or at least earlier than we do, and that's why this car has the DNA it has. Now, this car is reporting almost 39 MPG over most of our testing. Remember the targets are 47 according to EPA. We're doing our testing here in San Francisco where you don't go anywhere without encountering a hill for the most part. So, I'm gonna spot it a few miles per gallon. I mean, it's doing pretty well, pretty close to estimates. The last thing I'll say is this CVT transmission, your only choice. It feels like a CVT. It's got a degree of kind of vagueness and wondering to it. It feels a little disconnected. Nothing wrong with it. That's just the way CVTs tend to be and this one is among those that tends to be that way as much as any other. That means that the performances-- Oh, it's modulated as opposed to really giving you a kick when you step on, which is a little bit disappointing because hybrids have the ability to have really great snap because electric torque can come in. This one mutes that out in favor, I'm sure, of efficiency. Okay, let's price the C-Max Hybrid SEL CNET style, starts off at thick below 29 grand delivered, then go right to the top and just check off package 303A. It rolls in pretty much all the tech toys I showed you. It's a good value for what you're getting and all the technologies work well, then optionally 1,195 for that glass moon roof also a pretty good value. All in, this car is bout 32,700 out the door with a lot of tech toys and a lot of efficiency.