2013 Ford C-Max Review and Prices

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2011

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2013 Ford C-Max Buying Advice

The 2013 Ford C-Max is the best hybrid car for you if you want a fuel-saving compact four-door hatchback that combines advanced technology with European-bred styling and road manners.

The 2013 C-Max launches an all-new line of Ford hybrid and plug-in hybrid five-passenger compact hatchbacks. It comes in two models, both of which team a gas engine with an electric motor. The difference is that C-Max Hybrid relies solely on its on-board charging system while the C-Max Energi can charge its batteries with help from a plug-in source and run longer solely on electric power. Both are based on a vehicle Ford sells in Europe and originally planned to market in the U.S. as a seven-passenger mini-minivan with sliding side doors and a conventional gasoline engine. That plan was nixed and Ford revamped its strategy as part of a commitment to sell a wider selection of fuel-saving hybrid and electric-powered vehicles. So the 2013 Ford C-Max comes to the U.S. as a slightly smaller car with five seats and four conventional doors. The 2013 C-Max Hybrid and the plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi will compete with the expanding Toyota Prius family of hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.

Should you wait for the 2013 Ford C-Max? Wait if you want Ford's take on the new wave of “conventional” and plug-in hybrids. Not only will the 2013 C-Max represent cutting-edge technology it should, like recent Ford “global” designs, deliver European-grade ride and handling. Don't wait for the 2013 Ford C-Max if you’re turned off by its creased-jellybean styling or if you think a Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric, Prius Plug-in Hybrid, or Nissan Leaf pure electric will better satisfy your alternative-propulsion needs.

2013 Ford C-Max Changes back to top

Styling: The 2013 Ford C-Max based on a Ford design that debuted in Europe for model-year 2010 with a choice of two body styles: a five-passenger hatchback and the seven-seat Grand C-Max mini minivan. In the U.S., the 2013 Ford C-Max will be offered only in a five-seat configuration with conventional swing-out doors and a rear hatch. It shares its basic underskin structure with the Ford Focus compact sedan and hatchback and indeed looks much like a taller-roofed Focus hatchback.

The “C” in C-Max refers to the international vehicle-size classification that identifies compact cars like the Focus or Honda Civic (the subcompact Ford Fiesta would be a B-class car). Final U.S. specifications weren’t available in time for this review but the 2013 Ford C-Max should have the same 104.3-inch wheelbase as the European version (wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles). Its body is about as long and as wide as a Focus hatchback’s but the C-Max is about six inches taller.

Both 2013 Ford C-Max models will bear a strong resemblance to the Focus, with a grille divided into narrow upper and deep lower portions and narrow headlamps that flow into the front fenders. A short hood leads into a sharply raked windshield that sweeps into a rounded roofline, which ends abruptly at the stubby tail. The body sides and hood are creased and the wheel openings arched.

The interior of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi will likely mirror their European cousin’s with a fairly modern-looking dashboard accented in black and silver plastic and housing a large pod at its upper center for an LCD display screen and assorted controls.

The LCD display should host the scaled-back version of the automaker’s MyFord Touch operating system, which is also offered on the Focus. This system relegates many functions, including those for the audio and navigation and assorted vehicle settings, to a customizable menu-driven touchscreen. Along with a large control knob are a few “touch points” that substitute for dedicated buttons. MyFord Touch has been criticized as a complex distraction, but fortunately, as in the Focus, the C-Max’s climate control functions will probably be operated by easier-to-use analog buttons and dials.

Expect both the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi models to include a version of Ford’s SmartGauge display. The automaker uses it in its other hybrids to help drivers maximize mileage. As in the Ford Fusion Hybrid, for example, fuel efficiency will be shown on an LCD display to the right of the instrument cluster as either a traditional chart or as a digital vine that becomes more or less “leafy” depending on how economically the car is being driven.

Ford says the 2013 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid will further include displays to help owners plan their most eco-friendly routes, monitor battery-charge level, and maximize energy efficiency to extend operation in pure-electric mode.

Both the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi should be offered in multiple trim levels, though probably not in as great a variety as found in the Focus lineup. Given the cost of their hybrid powertrains, each C-Max is expected to command a premium price, so don’t expect either to be offered in the Focus’ base trim levels. They’re more likely to come only in well-equipped SEL and Titanium versions or their equivalents.

Mechanical: The 2013 Ford C-Max debuts with models covering two categories of hybrid vehicles – the conventional hybrid and the newer-technology plug-in hybrid. Both 2013 C-Max models will come only with front-wheel drive and be propelled by a combination of electric power and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine.  Both will employ a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that swaps a traditional set of gears for a belt and pulley system to deliver seamless acceleration without pausing for shift points.

Ford says the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid will team its engine with an electric motor/generator and a self-charging lightweight lithium-ion battery pack. It’ll be capable of running on gas or electric power or a combination of the two as determined by sensors seeking the optimal blend of power and fuel economy.

As in Ford’s other hybrids, the C-Max Hybrid will be able to drive entirely on electric power at slower speeds. Feather-footed drivers can use a similar system in the Ford Fusion Hybrid to reach as high as 47 mph before the gas engine kicks in but Ford says it’s targeting even higher electric-only operating speeds for the C-Max Hybrid.

Because the battery recovers energy that would otherwise be lost through braking and deceleration, the C-Max Hybrid will never need to be tethered to a wall outlet for charging. As with other hybrids, the C-Max likely also will save fuel by automatically shutting off its gasoline engine when stopped, then automatically restarting it to resume travel.

The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is a plug-in hybrid that taps the power grid and utilizes a larger lithium-ion battery pack in order to run for longer periods solely on electric power. Once the battery charge falls below a certain level, the C-Max Energi will operate like a conventional hybrid, running on a combination of gas and electric power as determined by sensors.

However, the battery will need to be recharged via an external power source before the car can again operate fully as a pure-electric vehicle. Ford says the C-Max Energi will be able to charge from either a 240-volt or a standard 120-volt wall outlet.

The C-Max Energi will come with a portable cord set connector that will include a conventional three-point electrical plug on one end and an industry-standard five-point plug on the other. The latter attaches to a port behind a “filler-door” on the left front fender. A light ring around the perimeter of the port will indicate charge status.

A properly grounded and dedicated 15-amp power line will be required to deliver electricity to the Energi battery pack, and owners of older dwellings may find themselves having to upgrade their electrical systems to accommodate the vehicle. For example, even with a first-rate connection, the need for a dedicated line would preclude keeping a freezer or extra refrigerator in the garage on the same circuit. Many C-Max Energi buyers would be well served to have a 240-volt line installed, both to free up their 120-volt electrical service for other uses and to facilitate faster charging.

Official charge times weren’t available in time for this review but Ford says the C-Max Energi will charge much more quickly than a Chevrolet Volt. The Volt requires around four hours to fully replenish its battery when connected to a 240-volt outlet and around eight hours when connected to a standard 120-volt line. Toyota claims the Prius Plug-In Hybrid’s battery will charge in around three hours with a 120-volt line and in about 1.5 hours with 240 volts, and we expect similar results with the C-Max Energi.

Since it uses the industry-standard five-point plug, the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi will also be able to connect to the public charging stations sprouting up. They’re most evident in urban areas, where owning an electric or plug-in hybrid car seems to make the most sense. Walgreens, for example, plans to have more than 800 charging stations available in its drug stores’ parking lots across the U.S. by the end of 2011.

Ford hasn’t released details on the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi’s top speed or battery range in all-electric mode. But by means of comparison, Toyota says the similarly sized 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid will run as far as 15 miles and reach 62 mph solely on battery power. Ford does, however, suggest the C-Max Energi will offer a net range of 500 miles per tank of gas running on a combination of pure-electric and hybrid gas-electric propulsion.

Electric power steering will probably be included to help fuel economy by eliminating a hydraulic steering system’s drag on the engine. As in other Ford models, the C-Max electric steering it will likely include the carmaker’s Pull-Drift Compensation that automatically adjusts steering effort when driving in crosswinds or over crowned roads.

Since both 2013 Ford C-Max models will share structural elements and other components with Ford’s lively Euro-tuned Focus, expect their ride and handling to reflect the sporty European tradition rather than the softer manner typical of small wagons and crossover SUVs. Both versions will include antilock four-wheel-disc brakes and Ford’s AdvanceTrac system that includes (federally mandated) stability control to help prevent sideways slides in sudden or extreme handling situations.

Features: As has been the case with other Ford cars in recent years, expect the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and 2013 C-Max Energi to offer a long list of the latest convenience, infotainment, and safety gear.

Among these will likely be Ford’s new hands-free hatch that allows an owner carrying the keyless-entry keyfob in a pocket or purse to unlock and open the power rear hatch--even with hands full of goods or groceries--by simply waving a foot below the rear bumper.

The 2013 Ford C-Max will also likely offer Ford’s Active Park Assist system that literally takes control and steers the vehicle into a parallel parking space while the driver simply modulates the brake pedal. Ford’s MyKey system should also be included to help parents set limits on their teenaged drivers with regard to speed, audio volume, and seatbelt use.

The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi will reportedly include a new MyFord Mobile feature that will enable owners to connect with the car and retrieve vehicle information remotely via a smartphone. For example, an owner would be able to monitor the car’s battery-charge status, remotely lock or unlock the doors, even program the vehicle to tap the power grid to heat or cool the passenger compartment while it’s plugged in. The Energi will also feature a “value-charging” function enabling owners to automatically take advantage of off-peak or reduced electrical rates their local utility company may offer.

Standard equipment across both model lines will no doubt include such safety basics as torso-protecting front-side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags for all outboard seating positions.

A USB iPod interface and Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity also are likely to be standard. So will power windows, locks, and mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

Also expect to see the latest version of Ford’s Sync multimedia control system, which can work independently or in conjunction with the aforementioned MyFord Touch system. Sync enables control of many vehicle functions via voice commands; these include programming the optional navigation system, changing radio stations by frequency or call letters, and selecting songs from a connected iPod or iPhone.

Other Sync functions include the ability to receive turn-by-turn directions and select trip information in the absence of an onboard GPS navigation system. This version of Sync also should enable live music streaming from the Pandora Internet radio service through the audio system, and the ability to have Twitter text messages read aloud via a synthesized voice. In a nod to General Motros’ OnStar system, this version of Sync should also connect to a live Sync operator as needed for assistance.

The navigation system available on the 2013 C-Max should include a hard-drive for onboard digital media storage and an HD Radio system for receiving higher sound-quality broadcasts (at least where HD stations are available). The system will probably include a “song tagging” feature that saves artist and title information of HD Radio tunes on a connected iPod or iPhone for later retrieval and/or purchase via the online iTunes music store.

Either or both C-Max versions will probably offer a version of Ford’s Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert. This uses radar to detect and warn Fusion’s driver of other vehicles or obstructions in adjacent traffic lanes; it also signals the presence of vehicles and objects to the rear and sides when backing out of a garage or parking space.

2013 Ford C-Max Prices back to top

Prices for the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and 2013 C-Max Energi were not released in time for this review but expect them to be competitive with the vehicles’ closest rivals, the 2013 Toyota Prius v wagon and 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid hatchback, respectively.

That suggests a starting price of around $27,000 for the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and around $33,000 for the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufactuer’s mandated destination fee; Ford’s fee for 2012 models was $795).

Top trim levels of either version could add another few thousand dollars to these prices, depending on how they’re equipped.

Buyers of the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi will likely be eligible for a one-time federal income tax credit of at least $2,500.

Option prices should be roughly on a par with other Ford models, with most coming as part of extra-cost packages. Assuming they’re also available as standalone options, adding the navigation system could cost around $800, Active Park Assist about $550, and the power liftgate near $600.

2013 Ford C-Max Fuel Economy back to top

Fuel economy ratings for the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and 2013 C-Max Energi were not released in time for this review, but projections based on competing hybrid and plug-in hybrids are possible.

We anticipate the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid will deliver fuel economy roughly on a par with that of the similarly sized Toyota Prius v, which for model year 2012 was EPA-rated at 44/40 mpg city/highway and 42 mpg combined city/highway.

Expect the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi to post EPA ratings similar to those of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Toyota estimates the 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid achieves the equivalent of a combined 87 mpg city/highway when running solely on electric power and 49 mpg when running on a combination of electric and gas/electric hybrid power.

What's next for the 2013 Ford C-Max back to top

The Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi should continue with only minimal changes for at least three or four model years. At the most we’ll see a few added color choices, some option-package shuffling, and perhaps a feature enhancement or two.

With the pure-electric Ford Focus Electric debuting for model-year 2012, there’s a strong possibility a pure-electric C-Max could be added to the model range by 2014 or 2015. Pure electrics, such as the Nissan Leaf, do not have a gas engine and rely solely on grid-supplied plug-in battery power.

Ford’s original C-Max plan called for U.S. sales of the minivan-like Grand C-Max sold in Europe with sliding rear doors and three rows of seats. Ford of course could change direction again and offer that model here if demand warrants. It might offer it with a version of the hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain, or even with a gasoline engine as originally envisioned.

The three-row C-Max, however, poses problems of high price, cramped third-row seating, and extra weight that could offset hybrid fuel savings. So don’t expect an American Grand C-Max anytime soon.

2013 Ford C-Max Competition back to top

Toyota Prius v: Toyota turned the Prius nameplate into its own sub-brand with the debut of the Prius v, for “versatility,” for model-year 2012. The Prius v is a longer, taller wagon-like alternative to the standard four-door Prius hatchback. It’s also a bit longer and taller than the C-Max, but still seats five. The v uses virtually the same gas-electric hybrid system as the standard Prius hatchback. It teams a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor/generator and a self-charging battery pack for a net 134 horsepower. The extra weight and cargo capacity takes a toll in fuel economy, resulting in Prius v ratings of 44/40 mpg city/highway, 42 mpg combined versus the standard hatchback’s 51/48/50. The 2013 Prius v should start around $27,500.

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: Following limited availability for model-year 2012, the plug-in Prius should be offered in all 50 states for 2013. Toyota also dubs it the Prius PHV, for plug-in-hybrid vehicle, and it essentially adds a larger battery pack to the standard gas-electric powertrain of the Prius hatchback and Prius v. This enables the Prius Plug-in Hybrid to run for up to 15 miles solely on electric power. Once the battery is depleted it behaves much like the standard Prius hybrid. As the name suggests, the Prius PHV can be charged from a wall outlet to extend its initial all-electric range. Toyota estimates the Prius Plug-In achieves a combined 49 mpg city/highway when running on a combination of electric and gas/electric hybrid power. Expect to pay around $34,000 for a base version of the 2013 Prius PHV, but also to take advantage of the one-time $2,500 federal income-tax credit.

Chevrolet Volt: Not quite a pure electric car, not quite a plug-in hybrid, the four-door hatchback Volt’s primary source of propulsion is an electric drive unit that generates the equivalent of 150 horsepower. In contrast to life with a pure-electric car there’s no fear of becoming stranded once the Volt’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack runs down. When that happens, its 1.4-liter gasoline engine engages to run a generator that, in turn, powers the electric-drive system. While the Volt can run longer than the Prius Plug-in Hybrid on electric power—the EPA says an average of 35 miles—it uses more gas when it has to utilize the engine to run the generator, rating a combined 37.5 mpg city/highway. The Volt seats four and is far smaller inside than the Prius hatchback or the Prius v, though it delivers livelier all-around performance. Expect the 2013 Volt to again start around $40,000 but to be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

2013 Ford C-Max Next Steps