The Ford C-MAX is a global vehicle that only recently arrived on US soil and is a bit of an anomaly. One might even relate it to the foreign exchange student you remember from high school, the one that was a really nice kid, loaded with international charm, but looked and sounded a bit different when thrown into the mix of teenage Americana.
C-MAX arrives here as Ford’s first North American MAV, which presumably stands for multi-activity vehicle as the press release really doesn’t expand any further on the acronym. And for its 2013 model year debut it arrives only in hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) form. We recently spent time with the latter, dubbed C-MAX Energi.
Energi is Ford’s new nomenclature for PHEV model vehicles, of which there are two, one on the Fusion line and the other this MAV thing. Its powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter I-4 Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine and an 88kW electric traction motor coupled with a generator in a powersplit transaxle and electronically controlled CVT gearbox. The electric motor is powered by an air-cooled 7.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
As with the Fusion Energi, C-MAX Energi can run in EV-only mode up to 85 mph with a range of 21 miles. EPA fuel efficiency is rated at 108 MPGe city, 92 MPGe highway with total system horsepower of 195 maximum or 188 sustained.
The C-MAX itself is kind of a cross between a crossover and a hatchback. It seats up to five adults and is a very comfortable, stable ride in all driving situations. It is easily maneuverable in town and the powertrain has plenty of acceleration and passing power when needed.
The downside to the PHEV function is the battery pack takes up an unusually large amount of cargo space in the rear of the vehicle. If you are looking for something midsize to carry a lot of stuff you best look elsewhere. If you are looking for a people hauler with great fuel economy and low environmental impact, C-MAX Energi may be your huckleberry.
Overall the vehicle feels just a bit larger than the new Escape crossover with many common styling traits between the two. Exterior styling is new global Ford that is found in Escape, Fusion, Focus, etc. and being a new Ford it offers all the latest bells and whistles including MyFord Mobile, MyFord Touch and SYNC technologies as well as smart gauges with Eco guide.
While our tester arrived with a few added goodies such as power liftgate, premium audio and navigation package, rear view camera and panoramic sunroof, the one thing it did not arrive with was a price tag. Usually the manufacturer provides us with pricing info that includes base MSRP and a final sticker tally as delivered but this one did not.
A quick search of the Ford media website produces a separate release announcing C-MAX Energi as “America’s most affordable PHEV” thanks in part to Ford cutting its hybrid technology costs by 30 percent. C-MAX Energi starts at $29,995 but that is only after a $3,750 federal tax credit. And if you want some extra goodies on your vehicle (such as our test model had) figure on spending about 34-38 grand at the dealership before incentives and credits. Thank goodness for those 30 percent cost cuts, huh?
For those who will never need to crank the gasoline engine on the C-MAX Energi the potential fuel cost savings make this vehicle worth a look, so long as you can afford the four hours necessary to charge this PHEV on a 240-volt charging system.