The 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi are dedicated hybrids -- meaning you won't find a simple, non-hybrid version out there. They aim their sights directly at the Toyota Prius (and Prius Plug-In), and definitely offer more driving enjoyment than the iconic Toyota hybrid.
In size and shape, the Ford C-Max pretty much splits the difference between the Prius Liftback and the more family-oriented Prius V wagon. At the same time, it's built on Ford Focus underpinnings, so it's essentially a tall-wagon version of that Ford subcompact. From the front, the C-Max gets a version of the large trapezoidal grille that's now used throughout much of the Ford lineup; alongside, accent lines and window angles add up to what is really a small minivan, or perhaps a tall and upright five-door hatchback. Inside, however, the C-Max builds on the interior of the Focus, with a rich and stylish dashboard and a number of high-end options; in all, it's a 'premium' look.
With a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor system, the C-Max powertrain delivers 195 combined horsepower--54 hp more than that of the Toyota Prius powertrain. While the C-Max is several hundred pounds heavier, it does in practice still translate to a driving feel that's much perkier and less stressed than the Toyota. Ford's hybrid C-Max is rated at 47 mpg on the EPA combined test cycle, just marginally worse than the 50-mpg Prius Liftback but better than the Prius V's 42 mpg combined.
In general, it's really tough to find fault in anything about how the 2014 Ford C-Max drives--especially if you use the Toyota Prius as a benchmark. Steering is very precise and well-weighted—nearly as good as what you'll find in the Ford Focus. With a curb weight of nearly 3,700 in base form and around 3,900 pounds in plug-in Energi form, it's not quite as agile and lithe as the Focus, but not ponderous either.
That C-Max Energi, the first-ever plug-in hybrid Ford has offered, offers a much more compelling alternative to the Prius Plug-In Hybrid. With a longer all-electric range of 21 miles (easy to do in real-world driving), it allows even medium-distance commuter the chance to go completely electric if they charge at home and at work. The key to the C-Max's very useful all-electric driving range is its far larger 7.6-kWh battery—versus 1.4-kWh in the standard C-Max hybrid. But that battery pack takes up some valuable cargo space, turning what would be a flat cargo floor into a compromised, multi-level affair that seems critically flawed when you flip forward the rear seatbacks.
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