The 2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid and plug-in hybrid Energi have become dedicated hybrids – meaning they have no gasoline-only versions. This makes the C-Max compact hatchback a direct competitor to the Toyota Prius liftback and Prius V wagon.
There are a few changes in this model year. There are two new colours and the addition of the new Sync 3 voice-control software, to replace the earlier and much-maligned Sync with MyFord Touch system.
The bones of this tall C-Max comes from the highly acclaimed Ford Focus compact hatchback and sedan. I think the C-Max looks much better than a Prius with a wagon-like appearance. It’s not hard to see it’s part of the Ford family with a familiar front-end treatment. Along the sides, accent lines and window angles give it more of a small minivan appearance.
At a base price of $25,999, there's a lot of sporty charm inside. The C-Max's rich, stylish dash and soft-touch materials appeal to me in a way that the sea-of-plastic dash and incoherent instruments in the last Prius simply couldn't.
Under the hood, a 2.0-litre inline-4 and hybrid system with two electric motors gives 195 combined horsepower – which is 54 h.p. more than that of the last Prius powertrain. The Ford is several hundred pounds heavier, but that added power translates to a driving feel that's much perkier and less stressed than the higher-efficiency Toyota. As for the plug-in version, the C-Max Energi offers a very useful all-electric driving range of 20 miles, thanks to its larger 7.6-kWh battery – versus 1.4-kWh in the standard C-Max hybrid. I was able on occasion to drive the C-Max hybrid just on electric power up to 60km/ph. Done regularly the gasoline savings begin to add up.
I did very little highway driving in the C-Max but my combined rating worked out to around 6.0L/100km. On the road, it's hard to find fault in how the C-Max drives, especially if the last-generation Toyota Prius is your benchmark. The C-Max is far less stressed and noisy under maximum power. Overall this is not a sporty vehicle per se. Lacking the tight, lithe feel of the Focus hatchback it's 650 pounds heavier than a Focus. Road manners for the C-Max are good where a suitably stout suspension and a firm ride allow occasional road-surface imperfections to come directly through to passengers.
Those passengers should be happy riding along as there is plenty of interior room, with the C-Max comfortable and spacious for its size.
This model is perfectly capable of hauling around four adults and their luggage. There's plenty of headroom and legroom front and rear, though the back seats are a bit on the low side, leaving anyone adult-sized in a knees-up position. Luggage space maybe a sore point with some people because of the battery pack intruding into what was a flat cargo area. This is a compromise some potential family buyers may not find acceptable: What would be a flat cargo floor turns into a multi-level affair. If it were simply two people driving in the C-Max cargo space would certainly be sufficient as you can lay down the rear seatbacks.
The addition of a few options raised the price of my tester to $29,274.00 still very reasonable for a hybrid of this size. The C-Max Hybrid gets two thumbs up from me as it’s well designed, comfortable, good looking and economical to operate.
Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the ’70s.