Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle (2015 Model Review)

Written By: EightySix

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

Ford C-Max Energi: the Plug-In Prius Killer has a Fatal Flaw

                                             2015 Ford C-MAX ENERGI Plug-in Hybrid

Reacting to the success of the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Ford brought its C-Max over from Europe to compete. This Focus variant was first sold in 2003, powered only by gasoline or diesel. In September 2012, it arrived in the United States available as a hybrid. The following month, the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid went up for sale. The Escape Hybrid was discontinued at the same time.

Both C-MAX versions contain 188 horsepower 2.0 liter four cylinder engines. The hybrid carries a 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery. The Energi has a 7.6 kWh battery. Both achieve a combined 38 MPG in hybrid mode. The Energi adds around 20 miles of pure electric range. Performance is identical to the Fusion, which is no surprise considering they are different bodies upon the same frame and power train.

How does it Compare to the Prius?

The C-Max is a more exciting drive, reaching sixty miles per hour in the low eight second range rather than nearly eleven. While the Prius is known for soft handling, mushy brakes and an unresponsive throttle, the C-Max is actually fun to drive. It does share a platform with the Fusion and Focus. Testers say the steering is sharp, handling solid and ride fairly smooth for a hybrid.

The plug-in Prius has only half the electric range of the Energi. It gets just 11 miles or so from its 4.4 kWh battery. The Prius on-board charger is 6.6 kW, as opposed to 3.3 kW, and reaches full charge in 1.5 hours from a 240 volt plug, as opposed to 2.5 hours.

The C-Max is five inches taller outside and gives occupants a couple more inches of headroom inside. The C-Max Energi also outweighs the Prius Plug-In by 700 pounds. Some of this weight comes from the larger battery pack. The added heft contributes to the Ford's more stable driving feel.

At the bottom line, the C-Max Energi ($31,770) costs about $2000 more. The Ford has a softer interior with less hard plastic. Both come with advanced touch-screen entertainment and performance feedback systems. Which one is better? It's a matter of taste.

The Fatal Flaw?

                 lack of trunk space - 2015 ford c-max energi plug-in hybrid

The battery pack is placed on the floor of the rear cargo area. Lift the hatch (which does have the cool Ford hands-free lift-gate option) and you come face-to-face with the wattage. The battery and its cargo cover stand nearly a foot high and take up nearly ten cubic feet of storage space. Fold down the rear seats and, rather than having a flat floor to slide in that garage sale coffee table, you have a blocky multi-level area not nearly so useful.

You knew it already, but this is when it becomes obvious. This is a gas vehicle with plug-in hybrid gear bolted on. The Prius and the Nissan Leaf were built to be green and their batteries are discretely integrated.

You buy a tall five-door hatch-back so you can easily store your stuff. The cargo space on the C-Max is awkward. When getting luggage or boxes in or out, you'll always be wrestling with the battery pack.

Is it Worth it?

The difference between a $31,000 Energi and its $24,000 Hybrid brother is the 20 miles of electric range. If your daily drive does not exceed that range and you have ample access to charging, you may save most of that $7000.

Of course, the Hybrid does have 52.6 cubic feet of flat, unimpeded cargo space. Try them both out and see if that's a big deal to you.

2015 Ford C-MAX ENERGI Plug-in Hybrid - Salt Lake City Auto Show (2015)

What will be New for 2016?

The European C-Max received a mid-year update, giving us a glance into what the new US version may look like. At the 2014 Paris Auto Show, a new mini-van style was unveiled with a longer wheelbase and sliding doors. The grille is larger and more chiseled with sharper head-lamps. Overall, the vehicle looks less like a jelly bean.

Ford did not hint to any mechanical changes and was also forced to lower its MPG and electric range numbers by the EPA. It may argue to have them raised again.

Will it Change the World?

Like its Fusion cousin, the C-Max Energi does nothing new for the industry. It looks less like an ordinary sedan, at least. It is unashamed about being called a Prius copycat. It drives better, but the snap-on application of the battery in the rear cargo area shows that it's a gas-guzzler in EV disguise. It still is not large enough to accommodate an average sized family and their gear.

Put a 2.5 liter engine and a nicely integrated 10 kWh battery in a Windstar and the globe may start to change.