Ford looses its Prius killer

The new C-Max Hybrid and Energi models attempt to topple the Toyota Prius from the hybrid throne.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read

Toyota has had an excellent run with the Prius, making it the most popular hybrid in the country. Now Ford will attempt to supplant the Prius' position with the new C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi, dedicated hybrids that can boast similar specs.

The Prius faced competition from the Honda Insight previously, and handily trashed it, so Ford will be challenging a tested competitor. Previously, Ford put its Fusion Hybrid up against the Toyota Camry Hybrid, but this is the first time Ford has brought out a dedicated hybrid, a characteristic that has helped the Prius maintain its position.

Although the C-Max is launching in the U.S. as a dedicated hybrid, it has been sold in Europe with conventional gasoline and diesel engines. The vehicle is an odd size, sort of a large hatchback. Ford puts it between the Focus and Escape for size and utility.

The C-Max Hybrid uses a 2-liter four-cylinder engine complemented by an electric motor with a lithium ion battery pack. Similar to the Prius, the C-Max Hybrid can be driven for very short distances under electric power. Ford boasts a fuel economy of 47 mpg city and 44 mpg highway for the car, worse than the 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway of the Toyota Prius. However, Ford cites the C-Max Hybrid's interior space of 99.7 cubic feet to pit the car against the Toyota Prius v, and its 97 cubic feet. The Prius v only gets 44 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

The C-Max Energi is the plug-in version of the C-Max Hybrid. As such, it has a larger lithium ion battery pack that can be charged from a wall socket or electric-vehicle charging station. The C-Max Energi goes up against the new Prius Plug-in. Ford says that the C-Max Energi should achieve a range of over 20 miles on electric power, greater than the Prius Plug-in's 13 miles. Ford also boasts fuel efficiency for the C-Max Energi of 95 mpg equivalent. Owners will experience widely ranging fuel economy depending on how often the car is plugged in. The reigning champ of the plug-in hybrid set remains the Chevrolet Volt, which can go approximately 40 miles under electric power.

To herald the upcoming availability of the C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi, Ford has launched a Build and Price site where car shoppers can look at trim levels and options, and customize the C-Max. The cars are launching with a base price of $25,200 for the C-Max Hybrid and $32,950 for the C-Max Energi. In addition, the Energi version qualifies for a Federal tax credit of $3,750, plus any state incentives.

Ford C-Max Energi
The C-Max base model is a hatchback with dimensions greater than those of a typical compact car. Ford