The 2016 Ford C-MAX exemplifies Ford's entries in the world of hybrids. Two models in three trims are offered: the Hybrid SE and SEL, as well as the plug-in Energi. All are powered by a 2.0L inline-4 Atkinson engine coupled to an electric motor, which generate a total 188 system horsepower. The difference in the Energi is its battery. The car utilizes a 7.6-kWh Lithium-ion battery (vs. a 1.4-kWh cell in the regular Hybrid). This means the battery alone can power the car, without any gas engine assistance, for a range of up to 20 miles. Whereas the Hybrid's smaller battery is recharged solely by the use of the gasoline engine, the Energi's battery can be plugged into an electric outlet for a total charge time of either 7 or 2.5 hours, depending upon the outlet's voltage. All C-MAX powerplants are mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission driving the front wheels. So equipped, the Hybrid is EPA-rated at a combined 40 mpg, while Ford claims the Energi can deliver a 95 mpg equivalent.
Inside, a dual-LCD SmartGauge with EcoGuide keeps drivers informed with real-time system information, which helps ensure maximum efficiency from the C-MAX driving experience. It is fully customizable and easily controlled through steering wheel-mounted switches. The gauge indicates instant fuel economy and fuel economy history, in addition to other, more common features such as odometer readout.
Technology is infused in nearly every aspect of the C-MAX. Available on all models is SYNC with MyFord, which provides hands-free access to everything needed to keep the driver informed: a 4.2-inch LCD screen, telephone, Bluetooth audio, turn-by-turn navigation and more. SYNC with MyFord Touch adds even more great features, including an 8-inch touch central screen with dual 4.2-inch screens, Wi-Fi capability and voice recognition.
The C-MAX Hybrid SE comes equipped with power mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, with 17-inch aluminum wheels, power one-touch up/down windows all around, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, dual-zone climate control, SYNC MyFord voice-activated communications and entertainment system and a leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls. The Hybrid SEL and Engeri models include power heated mirrors, fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, a reverse sensing system, ambient lighting, SYNC with MyFord Touch, heated seats with 10-way power adjust on the driver's side and much more.
Several packages are available on the C-MAX, including a Winter Package, Power Liftgate Package, a Premium Audio Package and two different technology packages.
All C-MAX models benefit from seven airbags, AdvanceTrac stability control, traction control, and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes.
I circled the San Francisco Bay and drove to the coast, but the fuel gauge in the 2017 Ford C-Max hybrid barely budged. It moved as slow as the wall clock in calculus class.
As I felt the well-tuned driving dynamics from behind the wheel, and surveyed the large cargo area in back, I thought how it's a shame Ford couldn't sell more than 20,000 last year, less than a fifth ofsales.
Then again, the odd body style of the C-Max makes it a challenge to focus on, like the Somebody Else's Problem field described by Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Maybe Ford needs to take a page from Toyota's design book and give the C-Max outrageous styling to force people to look.
The Good With average fuel economy around 40 mpg and plenty of cargo space, the 2017 Ford C-Max makes for a practical car. Newly available Ford Sync 3 infotainment includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
The Bad Neither adaptive cruise control nor forward collision prevention systems are available, and the turning circle is a little wide.
The Bottom Line Given its higher power output than the competition, the 2017 Ford C-Max hybrid makes for an economical commuter and practical errand runner in areas where traffic or terrain requires a little more speed from the pedal.
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