January 17, 2013 – Vol.17 No. 44
FORD'S C-MAX: SPOT ON.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
I need a new car like I need an additional hole in my head. But, I'm getting the itch. Aside from a few nicks and dings, my Subie is doing just great. Still trouble-free, a joy to drive, its extended warranty has more than a year to go, there's really no reason to sell or trade. Yet the other argument keeps coming back: I want dramatically better fuel economy (the 28 or so that I get now isn't enough). I want at least 40 miles per on average or no gas at all (meaning electric drive of course, not diesel or fuel made from corn.) My planet is reacting badly to my emissions. I need to do my bit in reducing them.
So, with the constant itch overwhelming common sense that says keep the Subaru, I'm looking around.
I don't call myself a smart buyer, but I do a lot of research, probably too much. I always have. If I buy (or perhaps lease for the first time) this next vehicle will be my 22nd. For the most part with every one of those, I knew much about the car model long before I bought it. Only a few of those cars I regret buying. And of those, it was the ones bought on emotion or spur of the moment that were disasters. I've usually bought my cars in my head many months before I've signed on the dotted line.
Well before Ford announced that it would bring the C-MAX to the United States as a hybrid, I had noticed it in European car publications in its gas or diesel form. Even then it perked my interest: a smallish but tallish, van-ish, people and cargo carrying mover that would promise pretty good fuel economy. Just the type of car I'd like.
Needless to say it was a delight to hear that Ford was bringing the C-MAX to the States as a hybrid only line. I couldn't wait to read reviews, see one in the flesh and take one for a spin.
So far, the C-MAX in either Hybrid or plug-in hybrid Energi form, has been getting great reviews with its only burp being the fuel economy issue as studied by Consumer Reports. That watchdog barked that fuel economy was well below what Ford's EPA-compliant testing claimed, or what real world drivers found and posted in such sites as FuelEconomy.gov. I expect that that bit of stomach gas will go away as owners learn to drive the C-MAX with a light foot on the pedal (like Prius drivers) rather than like a sports car.
C-MAX Energi: Nice in maroon.
Just as I was nearly ready for a dealership look-see, I received an e-mail invitation from Ford, on their nickel, for a preview of the North American International Auto Show, as well as attend other Ford events, with a large group of "Internet journalists" (aka blogger types and web editors). I leaped at the chance of course, not just for the trip to the Motor City, but for a chance to get behind the wheel of a C-MAX and perhaps other green Fords like its Fusion Hybrid and Energi plug-in and a plug-in only Focus EV.
Well, as time constraints of the junket had it, there was no ride and drive for moi, other than a back seat, back-to-the-hotel ride in a Fusion Energi (Very nice! Just not my type of car.)
I did however get a chance to poke around the C-MAX at the glitzy auto show. It's what the other reviewers say. Tallish. Easy to get in and out of for those that are sick of crawling in and out of cars. There's a SUV-like commanding view ahead with its tall seating and big front wind screen. There's plenty of room in the back seat with the same easy access and egress. (I can see a lit-up taxi sign on the roof of one of these.) With the rear seats down (which fold really flat) there's plenty of room for bags of mulch, potted plants or that chair you bought at a yard sale. On the Hybrid version the battery hump behind the rear seat is minimal. On the Energi version the hump is much taller and could get in the way of larger items stowed in the way-back. Generally though this is a car that's good at hauling things other than people.
Though it's hard judge quality of a new vehicle since true quality takes a few years of daily abuse to become apparent (low quality cars will fall apart quickly), fit, finish and materials seem top rate on the C-MAX and on par with more expensive vehicles.
I tend to like cars that are not overly stylish because style can fade quite quickly, but I do like cars that have lines that will age well. True, the C-MAX isn't nearly as pretty as its shorter sister, the Focus, on which it's based. Over time, after four or five dozen monthly payments, the C-MAX probably will have aged gracefully.
If there are any complaints I thought the front seat cushions were a little short (though often are in smaller cars) and folding up the rear seat from the flat down position was a little heavy (but this isn't something most do every day.) Folding down is great by the way: Push one button to tilt the headrest forward, then one lever on the side of the seat flattens the split seat back and cushion in one motion.
Right now, as a cross between a van, a wagon and a sedan that gets really good fuel economy, the C-MAX is unique in the U.S. marketplace. Its closest competitor, the Prius v can't match the C-MAX in performance and is not available as a plug-in hybrid. And, for those of that wave the flag occasionally, the C-MAX is assembled in Wayne, Michigan bringing jobs to a state that was really hard hit by the recession we're still recovering from.
To me the C-MAX is spot on. Easy to flop into. Good view from the captain's seat. Room for lots of stuff in the back. Nicely made and attractive. And, I'm positive I can get meet my goal of 40 miles per gallon. The big question is Hybrid or plug-in Energi version for all-electric drive for most of my driving. For that answer I'll be looking closely at my check book to see if it can cope with a larger payment than the Hybrid.
In the interest of transparency and full disclosure, Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations at the three day NAIAS Digital Summit. I was not compensated in any other manner for my time. The opinions above are my own.
The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) opens to the public January 19-27.
--- Disappointing Hybrid Efficiency Or Pedal–Heavy Drivers? Ford’s EPA hybrid fuel economy rating is being questioned.
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