2013 Ford C-Max: Prius challenger shines (video review)

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A decade after its debut in Europe, Ford unveiled the C-Max in the United States in the fall of 2012 as the carmaker’s hybrid-only line. It’s available as a gas-electric hybrid and the Energi, a plug-in hybrid. It’s not available in a gas-only model.

Ford’s goal is simple: It wants to infiltrate the long-standing dominance of the ever-expanding Prius family.

And the carmaker is onto something with the Ford C-Max. It’s easy to like because like other hybrids, it has a quiet push-button start and a quiet overall demeanor. But it also performs with the acceleration, steering, braking and overall feel of a non-hybrid.

Ford all-hybrid line for 2013
2013 Ford C-Max

I drove the highest-end Ford C-Max SEL edition for a week and primarily during several weekday round-trip excursions from Sacramento the San Francisco Bay Area. I like a lot about the C-Max.

It has a grand, near-panoramic view from the driver’s perspective. Like the Honda Fit, two small front side windows add to the overall open feel of the Ford C-Max.

While it isn’t the  fastest-accelerating wagon around, once the Ford C-Max reaches any cruising speed of at least 40 mph, the C-Max gets its “second speed.” I quickly and efficiently sped around on the freeway and easily passed several drivers with confidence.

Ford C-Max: Small Look, Big Hybrid Deal

It may look like a smallish wagon, but Ford’s engineers did a great job incorporating a lot of space into a small space. The C-Max has plenty of cargo room, a lot of storage bins, cup and bottle holders and the 60-40 split of the rear seat is done well.

The C-Max with SEL trim includes a $2,200 Equipment Group that features a premium audio system, a multi-functional navigation system, power liftgate, rearview camera, keyless start and hands-free technology like the MyFord Touch sync system with voice command functionality. It’s all worthwhile, although the power tailgate isn’t the most efficient and often stuck while opening or closing.

Like a lot of vehicles rated as five-passenger cars, the C-Max is ideally suited for only four passengers unless the three passengers in the rear seat are children or petite adults.

The C-Max suspension isn’t the car’s strong suit. The ride is rough and most bumps and other undulations in the road are accentuated.

The EPA rates the C-Max with averages of 47 mpg in the city and highway. Those averages have been questioned often by reviewers. I drove the C-Max about 300 miles and didn’t have the opportunity the calculate the average via a full-tank refueling. But with more than half the tank remaining, I averaged 32.7 mpg.

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