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2013 Ford C Max Review

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The latest Ford vehicle I am reviewing is the 2013 Ford C-Max.  After letting Toyota kind of own the hybrid market with it’s Prius, Ford decided to make an excellent hybrid of it’s own.  Two models are headed to dealerships: the C-Max hybrid in September and, a few months later, the plug-in C-Max Energi with a larger battery pack for more electric-only driving.

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I tested a Ford C Max SEL which has leather (heated) seats, keyless start, and the MyFord Touch system.  The model as tested lists at $30,199. With extra options, the price tag can rise past $35,000.  

Before I get into it, one thing that I realized this week is not all people know what a hybrid is or how it works. The difference in a hybrid engine and a standard engine is this – the gasoline engine works in tandem with a two-motor, continuously variable planetary-gear transmission that uses one electric motor to provide traction power to the wheels and one motor to change the C-Max’s battery is a compact, air-cooled 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack mounted under the cargo-area floor and comprised of dozens of cylindrical cells from Sanyo Corporation.  Let’s hope they work better than my Sanyo Sportster.

The result is that when you start the car, you hear nothing other than the fan.  With the Ford Explorer, the keyless entry worked poorly and I have had the same result because it wouldn’t recognize the FOB.  With the C Max, there is no noise because the engine is being powered by that battery pack.  It’s both initially alarming and amazing.  It feels like you are driving the car of the future.

When you get in and are 6’4, you are amazed at how big the car is.  I have always wanted to buy a Ford Grand Marquis and take a summer and explore the #1 Highway and Route 66.  If I was going to do it today, I would buy a Ford C-Max.  Considering the far is small on the outside, it is quite large on the inside with lots of storage space to keep kids, dogs, and gear in.  

In someways it is a bit of a competitor with my the Ford Escape (click here to let you know how much I loved that crossover).  While running some errands with it, we unintentionally parked it beside a 2013 Ford Escape.  Right beside each other you realize that you are not giving much up in terms of space between the C Max and Escape.

As for as in car experience, it was positive.  While I have long had a car charger for my iPhone, the cigarette lighter doesn’t drive enough volts to it to charge it quickly.  In the C Max I would toss my iPhone into the arm rest compartment and it would be charged up in no time.  The only odd part of it was that when the car would start up with the iPhone plugged in, it would start playing my podcasts that I had downloaded to the phone and not the previously playing Sirius Radio.

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The MyFord Touch continues to baffle me.  I have had quite a few issues with the Touch system in each car I have reviewed.  In the Escape it would often talk over a block to switch from the backup camera to the navigation screen.  In the Edge it was incredibly sluggish, a feature that was shared with the Explorer.  In the Ford Escape, it had problems syncing both mine and Chris Enns phone until it just mysteriously started working.

On Saturday night, the Sync just stopped working for some reason while I was driving home from Walmart.  Then the touch screen froze.  I got home, turned off the car and the screen was still on.  20 minutes later, it was still on and I realized that I was going to have a) a dead battery or b) in my neighbourhood, a broken into car.  I wasn’t happy.

I went online to see what the problem is that I saw that MyFord Touch freezing up is a fairly common problem and pretty easily fixed if I wanted to swap out fuses.  I did not but I read of some other solutions that involved driving, waiting, chanting, doing a rain dance, more driving, chanting, and turning off the car.  Since none of these needed a dealer or involved me doing anything to the car, I chose that route and hoped for the best.  

After about 30 minutes the MyFord Touch reset itself.  As a reviewer I found the problem a little irritating as I don’t have a dealer relationship but I took some time to think about it as an owner and I don’t think it would be that bad.  The fix appears to be quite easy (pop some fuses out, wait a few minutes, put them back in) and then all I would have to do is resync my phone.  There are apparently some apps on the Ford website that can induce a reboot and if that is the case, I would just keep a thumb drive in the console.  

So normally you would think that something that happened during a review period would be even worse.  In this case, if I was the owner, I don’t think it would bother me.  Software bugs are a part of our life right now.  Even my Nike Fuel Band needed a firmware update.   Of course with the system being powered by Microsoft, you almost expect the car to have a CTRL-ALT-DELETE key to come installed. :-)  I tend to think that many of these problems will get worked out in the next software update.  Of course like all software updates, that can bring new problems.  During this I was also thinking, while this is annoying, I would hate for this to happen while flying a F-35 Lightening II which has a lot more complicated software and is, you know, a plane designed to fly into hostile airspace.

The only other bad thing about the car can be chalked up to karma.  After testing several cars with heated seats and then quietly turning them up while we drive on the unsuspecting passenger, both Wendy, Mark, and some friends got me with it.  It’s a lot nicer feature when it happens to someone else.

The Hybrid Experience

I really enjoyed driving this hybrid.  Like all Ford Eco vehicles, the leaves appearing and disappearing according to how you drive but for me, the best part of the hybrid experience was a summary screen that showed my fuel usage, efficiency, and mileage at the end of each trip.  It left me thinking as I got out of the car, how that trip could have been more efficient and as I got back in, it made me think how to do this trip better.  I actually walked more and drove less.  I don’t know what that does the Ford C Max sales if it encourages us to drive less but I liked it.  It is something that I would love to see in every vehicle.

A combination of driving less and the hybrid motor meant that I used less than half the fuel that we would normally use in a week.

The rated MPG for the C Max is 47/47 (US) mile per gallon city/hwy EPA-rated.  If you take a look at Fuelly, you will see some real world mileage numbers for a variety of Ford C Max owners.   As you can see, they range from a low of 33 to a high of 48 mpg with the majority averaging around 40 mpg which was a little less than what we got.  I was impressed.  The EPA rated MPG of 47 was higher than the Toyota Prius but the Fuelly numbers show a different story.  It’s an issue that has caused Ford some problems but the National Post suggest the way that the EPA calculates fuel economy is “asinine” and inaccurate.

So, why is there such a vast discrepancy? That I cannot state for sure, although the tests used to generate the “official” federal numbers are asinine, particularly when it comes to calculating the highway consumption figure. I quote: “The highway test simulates a 16-km trip with an average speed of 77 km/h and a top speed of 97 km/h.” Ask yourself, when was the last time you drove on the highway following this guideline? I never have because it could involve getting run over by a tractor trailer — to my mind, that sort of highway speed should be classified as dangerous driving.

That being said, when I was out on the highway and hit the cruise, the Ford Eco engine would kick in and I burned very little fuel at 100 kph.  Low RPMs and almost no engine noise even though the 2.0L/188 hp engine is doing almost all of the work.   Because of it’s larger size and larger engine, I would expect highway fuel economy to be good but not amazing, essentially because at that speed, the electric engine isn’t doing the work, the gas one is.  

The Rest of the Car

As Mark will post later tonight, the backseat experience is good.  My 13 year old had adequate foot room and as I could see on the passenger side, Oliver was able to reach the back of his mother’s seat with his feet.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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I did plug my iPod Nano into the Sony audio system, something that I hadn’t done lately and took the car for a drive.  The sound is rich and nuanced.  While any car audio experience isn’t as rich because of the road noise, it does generate a nice rich sound.  It goes back to my initial thoughts about the car, this is a car that you will enjoy highway travelling in.

The batteries go in the back which does reduce trunk space a bit.  Here is the rear storage area with a window in it (it’s going to the cabin)

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Underneath the back compartment there is a secret compartment.  Well not secret but a good place to hide Christmas gifts while you are out shopping with the family. 

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Mark said you someone could use it for contraband but my thinking if you are that bad of a smuggler, Jabba the Hut or the RCMP has tossed you in jail years ago. 

To be honest, the storage thing is really not that big of deal for me.  I drove the C Max Energi in Regina and there is less storage in it but there is still a large room to put a dog, gear, groceries, or hockey equipment.  The hidden storage compartment would be perfect for a tool kit and emergency gear.  

Would I Buy a Ford C Max?

I love the Ford Escape but I would be sorely tempted to buy a Ford C Max.  A combination of fuel efficiency and so much interior room would make up for the Escape’s all wheel drive.  More importantly I think Wendy liked the C Max more so it may be a decision that is out of my hands.  If you are thinking of a hybrid or just a new car, head down to your local Ford dealer and make sure you take a test drive.  It’s worth checking out.

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