Well, that was embarrassing. Pulled up to a gas station and couldn’t find the fuel filler release. And not only could I not find it, neither could the gas station attendant. Searched in the usual places: on the floor, below the dash, inside the door panel….nothing. And you’d think I’d know better. Been doing this for – what? – 35 years at least. But with cars waiting behind me and the frustration level mounting, I had to admit defeat and move on.
Found it later, of course….it’s a little button on the centre dash….clearly marked and right in front of me.
But if that’s all I can find to criticize with Ford’s C-Max Energi, that’s not much at all. In fact, it’s not even a criticism, but a comment on my own stupidity. In my own defense, I haven’t driven this nice little hybrid much and what seat time I have had didn’t involve me putting gas in it…..it’s a hybrid, after all, with one of the lower fuel consumption figures in the industry: 6.1 L /100 km.
For those who don’t know, the C-Max is Ford’s answer to the overwhelmingly popular Toyota Prius. And it’s a pretty good answer, at that. It’s the Prius’ equal in virtually every area.
A few specs.
The C-max Energi is a four-door hatchback powered by Ford’s interpretation of the Atkinson cycle engine mated to an electric motor. In this case, it all develops 141 horsepower, with 126 foot-pounds of torque. This last number is more relevant than horsepower output, because the C-Max is all about efficiency and thrift, and how much energy is required to get it moving. The Atkinson engine basically alters camshaft lift to keep the valves open a titch longer and get maximum efficiency out of the combustion process. Transmission is a CVT and this may be one of the best-coordinated drivetrains I’ve encountered with the aforementioned gearless transmission.
Helping things along is a permanent magnetic AC electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery pack that will enable the careful driver to get up to 130 km/h-plus on battery power alone, with a purported 33-kilometre electric power-only driving range. This matches the Prius and the C-Max Energi is actually a pretty lively car….should you choose to drive it that way, and it will definitely give the Prius a run for its money in the stoplight derby.
And it’s a pleasure to drive. Aside from the fuel filler issue - an oversight you’d only miss once - the C-Max has excellent ergonomics and switchgear. A subtle little dash graphic lets you know just how much battery juice is left and the Energi version has a plug-in option….the power cord is stored under the floor behind the driver’s seat.
Speaking of interior volume, with the seats folded down, the C-Max Energi has some 1211 litres of cargo room….the non plug-in non-Energi version slightly more. This is considerably greater than the Prius….almost double, in fact…..but less than the Prius V.
As to price, the C-Max Energi is costlier than a base Prius, which starts at just under $26,000. A base, non-plug-in C-Max starts at about $29,000, and the plug-in version adds another three large. So, you’ll pay more up-front for the C-Max.
And it must be mentioned that the Prius has better fuel economy…..much better. Combined fuel economy for the Toyota product is 4.5 L / 100 km….which, over the long haul, would add up.
So, in a nutshell, the C-Max is slightly livelier and has more room, but the Prius is cheaper and delivers better fuel economy.
And don’t forget, both the C-Max Energi and Prius Plug-In are eligible for various rebates and incentive. At this point, in Ontario, for example, you can claim up to $7730 back for the Energi….and $5000 for the Prius Plug-In. Note: the vehicle in question, whether it’s a Ford or Toyota or anything else, must be either fully electric or feature a plug-in option.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder w. permanent magnet electric motor
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 141 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 129 ft. lb. @ 4000 rpm
Price: $31,999 (base); $38,329 as tested.
Fuel Economy: 5.6 L /100 km (city) & 6.4 (hwy.) Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Toyota Prius, Audi A3 SportBack, Chev Volt, Hyundai Sonata Plug-In.