Energi takes hyrbrid tech to the max

2013 C-Max is part of Ford's new electrified vehicle range

T hroughout the history of the automobile, the car has always reflected the current social climate. In the early days it was all about tall, skinny tires and swooping fenders, mirroring the fashion of the times. Over the years, the tires became shorter and wider and the fenders blended with the rest of the car.

With the world’s infatuation with air travel, car features mimicked planes. This was followed by pure muscle and masculine features.
Eventually though, the fuel crisis forced a focus more on function over form. Thankfully, manufacturers soon learned how to combine both function and design in one package.

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Today’s market is defined by diversity. There’s a multitude of body styles, powertrain and performance options. The Ford C-MAX is one of those models that’s become available because Ford is willing to showcase diversity and flexibility when it comes to delivering hybrid cars to the world.

The Ford C-MAX is a five-seat hybrid which offers a plug-in version called the Energi.

Design
With the success of Toyota’s Prius cars, it’s not surprising other manufacturers are trying to replicate it. Ford’s response is its C-MAX line-up.

The C-MAX vehicles are built on Ford’s C-segment platform and are two of the five electrified vehicles within Ford’s range.

All C-MAXes feature a 2.0-litre hybrid electric powertrain mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.

The C-MAX Energi is differentiated by the fact you can turn off the gasoline engine for 43 km of electric only driving, plus it has a charge port and a larger lithium-ion battery.

The Energi can be fully charged in 7.5 hours using a standard 120-volt outlet in 2.5 hours using Ford’s available 240-volt charging station.

The C-MAX is designed to comfortably seat five passengers. With Ford’s innovative hands-free liftgate and maximized cargo space thanks to its boxy body shape, Ford believes the C-MAX is ideal “for people with active lifestyles who want an energy efficient vehicle and still be able to transport things with ease.”

Performance
When if comes to hybrid vehicles, the most important performance indicator is fuel efficiency. The C-MAX Energi doesn’t disappoint with its ability to deliver a 4.5 litres/100 km overall average, which breaks down to 4.2 city and 4.9 highway.

And while certainly secondary, the C-MAX also has a decent horsepower rating. The Base C-MAX Hybrid is projected at a healthy 188-hp, but the Energi improves that to 195-hp.

The greatest aspect about driving the C-MAX is how normal it feels. It doesn’t drive overly artificial like the Chevy Volt, yet it’s still more fun than a Prius. The ride quality is also better than in a Prius but the Volt is still the most athletic of the group.

The only extraordinary sensation comes in full EV mode, when the C-MAX Energi can comfortably cruise along at highway speeds leaving only the sound of the wind. This is something you can experience in a Volt but unfortunately not in a Prius.

The overall driving feel of the Energi is actually surprising good — I might even say that the handling and the overall feel is quite athletic.

Environment
The cabin continues the theme of “making the occupants comfortable” with a great deal of emphasis on practicality.   But while the materials and instruments are similar to what you will find in an ordinary Focus, the quality is of higher grade than what you expect in this price range.

The front seats provide satisfactory comfort with plenty of adjustability in the driver’s seat. Two adults could ride in the rear for a short period without complaint and the centre seat is a viable option for a child.

The MyFord Touch system is standard on the Energi and the latest version is simplified and more user-friendly. It’s still not the best infotainment system on the market, but the high-resolution screen looks great.

However, if cargo space is an important factor, you may have issues with the Energi. Because of the enlarged battery pack, which is housed in the trunk floor, cargo volume is measured at 544-litres, down 150-litres from the base C-MAX Hybrid.

Features
The C-MAX Energi is offered in one well-equipped trim level starting at $33,854.

Standard equipment includes MyFord Touch, heated leather-trimmed front seats, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, power and heated exterior mirrors, and a reverse sensing system.

Additional features, available as options or on higher trims, include hands-free liftgate, rearview camera, and Active Park Assist.

Fuel efficiency for the C-MAX Energi is 1.9Le/100km city and highway combined on electricity and gas.

The Bottom Line
The C-MAX Energi provides the comfort and practically of a present day family car with the fuel economy of a car of tomorrow. The ability to drive at highway speeds on battery power alone sets it apart from most other hybrid electric vehicles currently on the market. While the additional battery power vastly improves fuel efficiency, it certainly diminishes cargo space. The design is decent but actually quite boring and conservative. The Energi proves that a family vehicle can provide extreme efficiency while providing above average handling.

@david.chao@leansensei.com

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