2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid SE – review

2016 Ford C-Max

2016 Ford C-Max

Wow!  I never expected to be impressed with Ford’s smallest hybrid, the C-Max, but after driving it for a few days in its natural habitat, stop-and-go urban trawling, it left us with a decidedly very good impression.

Let’s face it.  Hybrid cars aren’t for everybody.  They tend to be more expensive than their gasoline counterparts, and the ‘pay-off’ period for the money saved on fuel used to be on average about 7 years.  And that’s when gasoline prices were much higher.

Still, hybrid cars appeal to those who want to live environmentally ‘green’ lifestyles and those who want to scrimp on every penny after purchase and flip the bird to oil companies every day.  And, of course, like wearing a Hugo Boss suit, owning a hybrid car gives a message to society about the social status, personal values, and personality of the driver.

Driving

On the road, the C-Max feels ‘European.’  That’s to say, handling is solid and remarkably responsive for a car whose mission is to provide basic, urban transportation.  In this role, the C-Max excels.  The cabin is tall and feels like a mini London taxicab.  The front seats are broad and comfortable and ingress/egress is good.  Rear seat passengers complained about the slight difficulty of getting in and out, but overall, passenger accommodations are good.

The C-Max’s instrument cluster follows Ford’s basic design that is used commonly in many of the company’s different vehicles, a large, central speedometer flanked to the left with a display that can be changed to show fuel economy and power modes (whether the car is running on electric, gasoline or a combination of the two.)  We found the EV/gasoline display mode difficult to see in bright sunlight and the pictures used to depict the car’s operating mode to be confusing.

But getting the C-Max underway is a joy.  The electric motor and 2.0-litre gasoline engine give this hybrid very good acceleration from a stop.  The two power systems (combined) yield a strong 188 horsepower, and that was more than adequate for our day-to-day hauling of three adults in urban expeditions.

Like it’s corporate sibling the Ford Focus, the C-Max has accurate steering with good feedback.  The car is easy to drive in dense traffic, just what one would expect for a hybrid car, which tend to show off their best features in city traffic.

If there’s one main complaint we have is the braking system.  The C-Max employs regenerative braking, so when the brakes are applied, energy is generated and used to charge the batteries.  Brake feel is ‘mushy’, and we’d ask for a firmer brake feel if anybody at Ford were to ask.

Over rough roads, the C-Max’s rear suspension can sound a little ‘thumpy’, but that’s when one drives the car a little too fast for the road conditions.

The fifth door (or ‘hatch’) is handy.  The battery pack in the rear cargo hold raises the floor a couple of inches and has a bevel at facing the rear opening.  If your groceries come loose, items like cans and jars will roll and get trapped between the hatch and battery pack’s bevel.  When you open the rear hatch, anything trapped in that space falls to the ground.  So be aware.

Fuel economy

NRCan officially rates the Ford C-Max Hybrid at 5.6/6.4 L/100 km (City/Hwy).  During our test period (of predominantly city, stop-and-go) driving, the C-Max returned an excellent 6.9 L/100 km (on unleaded regular fuel.)  For you old school readers, that’s 40.9 Imp. mpg.

Chassis/Platform

The C-Max’s basic ‘architecture’ was jointly developed by engineers from Ford, Volvo and Mazda.  The C-Max is based on the excellent Ford Focus platform which has design elements in common with the Volvo V40 and Mazda3/Mazda5.  (Interestingly, when we interviewed Hans Nyth, the then Director of Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Goteborg, Sweden, Nyth said while Volvo’s engineers brought expertise in designing safety systems to the development of the platform, Ford’s engineers provided expertise in chassis/suspension development – that is, handling and on road dynamics.)

Pricing

Our 2016 C-Max SE test unit was a base model, with an impressively low base MSRP of $25,999.  That’s very competitive.  A few options (many not needed), added to this low price:  Ruby Red metallic paint ($450), floor mat package ($225), block heater ($100), remote start ($350), stainless steel scuff plate ($150), and an exterior protection package ($300.)  Add on destination and delivery ($1600) and AC excise tax ($100) and your out-the-door price (before GST) is a reasonable $29,274.

Overall

The 2016 Ford C-Max is one impressive hybrid vehicle.  It’s priced aggressively, drives superbly and achieves excellent fuel mileage.  Will Ford sell a lot of them?  Not likely, especially with very low petroleum prices these days.  That’s a shame.  The C-Max is a car I’d actually consider spending my own money on.  It’s that good.  If you’re shopping for a practical, reasonably priced hybrid, put the 2016 Ford C-Max on your ‘Must Drive’ list.

Likes

  • Aggressive base price
  • Superb fuel economy
  • Handling
  • Acceleration

Dislikes

  • Spongy brakes
  • Difficult to decipher EV instrument display
  • Awkward rear seat ingress/egress for adults

 

 

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