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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid first drive: an efficient urban runabout

Ford's replacement for the Escape Hybrid is a one-two attack on Toyota with more space than the Prius and better power and efficiency than the Prius v. Is this urban hybrid just right?

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

It's a van; it's a hatchback; it's a wagon? It's the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and its tall, liftback design is not exactly any of those things. Ford's betting that this blend of small-car parkability, wagon flexibility, and crossover visibility will be a hit with urban drivers looking for a do-everything runabout. Helping to seal the deal for these city dwellers is the C-Max's hybrid power train, which offers Prius-battling levels of power and efficiency.

In pictures and when isolated on a platform at a car show, the C-Max looks like a little minivan. I imagined something about the size of the Mazda5. However, when approaching the C-Max at ground level in a parking lot, I was surprised to find that Ford's little multipassenger vehicle (MPV) isn't that much larger than the Ford Focus with which it shares its Ford Global C Platform. The C-Max also shares Ford's Kinetic design language styling cues with the Focus and Escape. Take those two vehicles, toss them into a blender, and the resulting car will resemble the C-Max in both size and style. The Escape is already a fairly small crossover, so the C-Max's proximity to it in size possibly explains why the automaker dropped the Escape Hybrid for this generation. The C-Max Hybrid's dimensions also fall between two of Toyota's dedicated hybrid vehicles, offering more passenger volume than the Prius, but with a smaller footprint than the Prius v.

The C-Max is a tall five-seater that places more emphasis on passenger space than cargo room behind the rear bench. By doing this, Ford was able to create a smallish vehicle that is easy to park in cramped city conditions, but with enough room for four over-6-foot-tall adults to sit comfortably. Fold the rear seat-backs flat and the C-Max's cargo space opens up with plenty of space for bulky items. Ford tells me that you could fit two mountain bikes (presumably with their front wheels removed) back there.

Click here to continue reading our 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid first drive.