2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Test Drive – Yosemite and Back Without Stopping for Fuel


I didn’t really drive to Yosemite and back this week.  But I DID get to drive the new C-MAX at Ford’s First-Ever C-MAX Hybrid Games.  And one of things I learned about Ford’s new hybrid utility vehicle (dubbed the “Prius Fighter”) is, with a 570 mile range, you could drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park and back on one 13.5 gallon tank of gas.  Awesomeness.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid
Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company


First Impressions

The first thing I noticed when I sat in the driver’s seat was the roomy interior.  The C-MAX feels BIG!  This is huge (pardon the pun) because it’s not a huge vehicle.  In fact, the C-MAX is only a couple inches taller and wider than the Prius with 2 more cubic feet of cargo space and an inch and a half more headroom.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid Interior

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid Interior
Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company


The instrument panel is beautifully designed.  The SmartGauge® with EcoGuide features LCD screens on either side of the analog speedometer that can be configured to show different information such as the fuel and battery power levels, average and instant miles per gallon (MPG), “EV” display to show when the vehicle is operating on battery power only, and Brake Coach to help the driver optimize use of the regenerative brakes (more about that later).

In the center of the dash, is the C-MAX Hybrid’s SYNC with MyFord Touch® system offered on select models.  This is where the climate controls, stereo and navigation systems are found in addition to a slew of other features like hands-free phone, real-time traffic (with advance warnings and detour suggestions – my all-time FAVORITE feature in Los Angeles traffic), news, and much more.  MyFord Touch can be operated using the touch screen or voice activation.  Everything is very intuitive and user-friendly – I was able to use the MyFord Touch system to program a trip in the navigation system using voice recognition without any instruction.


The Drive

I took the C-MAX on a spin around West Hollywood and was impressed by how much it felt like a “real” car.  For those of you who have driven a hybrid, you know what I mean.  Some hybrids can feel… uh… a bit like a tin can.  And the obvious starting and stopping of the engine and electric motor in many hybrids makes for an awkward drive, especially when it prompts your passenger to ask you if your car just “stalled” the first time the motor abruptly stops in a traffic jam or at a red light.  None of that with the C-MAX.

The C-MAX feels and drives more like a luxury vehicle.  It feels solid, you don’t notice the engine or the electric motor doing its thing, and you don’t feel like you are trying to navigate through a slew of monster trucks (AKA soccer moms in Suburbans) in a golf cart while navigating the streets of Los Angeles.  In fact, quite the contrary.  Driving the C-MAX felt more like driving a nimble SUV than a compact car.  The driving position is extremely comfortable and you have great visibility.  The acceleration and braking is very responsive.  The suspension feels comfortable, yet firm.


Tech Stuff

I’m a tech geek and I LOVE information while I drive.  The C-MAX rocks in the tech department.  The SmartGauge® with EcoGuide has LCD screens that you can scroll through to see a variety of information.  My two favorites on the SmartGauge were the fuel/battery level displays and the Brake Coach.



The fuel economy display encourages the driver to maximize fuel efficiency by showing instant miles per gallon as well as displaying when both the engine and battery pack are providing power.  The Brake Coach helps drivers optimize their use of the braking system so that driving range can be enhanced through proper braking techniques.  With the C-MAX’s regenerative braking, brake energy that would otherwise be wasted is used to replenish the hybrid battery.  After each stop, the Brake Coach displays the percentage of power that was transferred from the vehicles’ regenerative brakes back to the battery.  My first stop at a red light earned 100% – an A+.  My next, more abrupt stop, earned only 67%.  As your driving becomes more efficient, you are rewarded with growing leaves and vines on the LCD to right of the analog speedometer.


Back at the Lot – Parallel Parking and Loading Groceries

Testing out Ford’s Active Park Assist feature was a blast.  The Active Park Assist technology uses ultrasonic sensors to identify a spot long enough for your vehicle to fit into and then steers you into that spot with the driver operating the brakes and gas pedal only.  The C-MAX steers itself (completely hands-free – watch the video below) into the parking spot while the forward and reverse sensing systems beep as you get closer to whatever is in front of or behind your vehicle.  The rear-view camera display on the center dash screen offers a visual of what is behind you.  It was amazing to throw up my hands and let the C-MAX park itself in a spot not much longer than the car.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid Video


We also had the opportunity to load up a C-MAX (and a Prius for comparison’s sake) with a car load of groceries.  With the hands-free liftgate, just place your foot under the bumper and the power liftgate opens automatically.  No need to get out your keys – it’s truly hands-free.  And once the car is loaded, just place your foot under the bumper again and the liftgate closes.  The spacious cargo area is equal to or better than the Prius, Nissan Rogue SL and Honda Insight.  And no hands-free liftgate on those vehicles either.


My Thoughts

I love the C-MAX.  I currently drive an older SUV that gets mileage akin to a minivan.  Yuck.  I hope to replace it with something far more fuel efficient when the time comes.  But I like the roominess of an SUV and I like sitting up higher.  Before the C-MAX there wasn’t a hybrid that got over 40 MPG that could actually fit a load of stuff from farmers market, hockey gear AND a stroller in the cargo area plus seat 5.  And there wasn’t a hybrid that had the feel of a luxury vehicle with an affordable sticker price.  Enter C-MAX.  I’d love to drive the C-MAX around Los Angeles for a week or two and see how it measures up in the day to day life of a busy mom with all the errands and sports gear that entails (hint, hint Ford :-)).  Not to mention the fuel savings!

The C-MAX is definitely at the top of my short-list of vehicles for the eco-conscious driver who is looking for efficiency and affordability without sacrificing the luxury driving experience.

Starting at $25,995 ($1300 less than Prius V), with 47 MPG city and highway (7 MPG better than Prius V on the highway) and 188 HP (50 more horsepower than Prius V), the C-MAX Hybrid has earned the nickname “Prius Fighter”.

The Ford C-MAX Hybrid will be available in Fall 2012.  A plug-in model, the C-MAX Energi, will be available in early 2013.  Want to know when the C-MAX is available at dealers?  Be sure to subscribe to our email list and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

2013 C-Max Hybrid

C-MAX vs. Prius Quiz

1.  Which features are available on the C-MAX Hybrid, but not on the Prius?
a) Active Park Assist
b) Rain Sensing Wipers
c) Forward and Reverse Sensing Systems
d) All of the above

2.  Which of the vehicles listed below has enough cargo capacity to carry TWO mountain bikes?
a) Prius
b) Chevrolet Volt
c) C-MAX

3.  The C-MAX Hybrid can go further on one tank than any other vehicle in its class which means from Los Angeles you could go where without stopping for fuel?
a) Los Angeles to Fresno and back
b) Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back
c) Los Angeles to Tijuana and back
d) All of the above

Answers to quiz:

1. d
2. c
3. d




  1. Definitely is much more impressive than my Prius!

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      You would love it! And to answer your earlier question about whether or not the C-MAX has heated seats? Yes, it does! Although I can’t figure out why that was your first question on a 90 degree day ;-).

  2. I’m considering trading in my Highlander for the C-MAX. Nice to finally see a U.S. review. Did it drive like your SUV or more like a compact car?

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      I think the CMAX drove more like a small SUV than a small car. Even though you aren’t sitting as high as an SUV, the high roof design and higher seat position result in a spacious feel and a more enjoyable drive (compared to the CMAX’s main competitor, Prius V). But the CMAX handles better than my SUV and has far more responsive acceleration and braking.

  3. SO COOL! Thanks for the awesome review!
    This would have been one that I would have loved to have test driven at Go Further With Ford.
    Send them to Portland! (Oregon, that is). =)

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      You would love it Gladys! Although… you got to drive some pretty cool vehicles yourself!

  4. Any chance you tested the rear seat vents at the back of the center console? All the documention I’ve seen describes them as rear seat heat vents. But it seems silly that Ford won’t make them for both heat and A/C air.

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      Let me see if I can find out. Someone jumped into the rear seats to escape the heat while I was testing the voice-activated navigation and said they were quite cool back there with the AC running. Unfortunately when I hopped into the back I was focused on checking out the legroom (good) and did not test the rear vents. I’ll post back when I have the answer.

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      Hi David! I have an answer to your question. Direct from Ford: The rear vents that are in the center console are for both heat and AC but the vents in the rear on the sides are for air flow to the hybrid battery.

    • Thank you for the answer! Also great review of the C-Max.

  5. Hi, Cathy, I am not sure how much you paid attention to noise, but was the car quiet when you drove it? My biggest concern when it comes to buying a new car is cabin noise. Thanks in advance.

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      Hi Jacob! The CMAX has a very quiet ride. I had driven in that morning in a borrowed Prius and the CMAX was much more quiet than the Prius. The outside noise filtering in was minimal and the CMAX itself is very quiet without any distracting rattles or noises. I thought the cabin noise (or lack of) was closer to a higher end vehicle than to other vehicles in its class.

    • Thanks for the kind reply, Cathy.

  6. Were you not allowed to take photo`s of the exterior and interior.
    Also did Ford not speak about the new feature in the C-Max called
    active noise cancellation. And if so can you share how this feature


    • Cathy Michalak says:

      We were allowed to take as many photos as we liked however I was so focused on the car that I take a single shot while I was there. If I am able to see the car again I will definitely take photos and a video. I don’t have any details on the engineering behind Ford’s active noise cancellation technology but I can tell you that it works – the ride was quiet.

  7. Great review!

    Does the panoramic sunroof open? Is there anywhere in the LA area that one can take a look at a C Max?


    • Cathy Michalak says:

      The C-MAX will start showing up at Ford dealers in Fall 2012, no firm date yet. I’ll see what I can find out about the sunroof.

  8. I live in Kansas and none of the dealers I have spoke with have any idea, exactly, when the C Max will be available. Do you have any firm dates and in which part of the country ?

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      C-MAX Hybrid will be available in Fall 2012 across the U.S. and C-MAX Energi Plug-in will be available in 1st quarter 2013 in major markets first, followed by other areas in the U.S. I don’t have specific dates yet but I will let you know as soon as I have additional info.

  9. Ford is already making them and they’re piling up around the Michigan Auto Plant. They’re just waiting for the Ford O.K. to release notice. Rumor seems to be they’ll hit show rooms by mid to late September.

  10. I have heard the C-Max may be produced in a 7 passenger version. Any comments?

    • Cathy Michalak says:

      Ford offers the gas-powered 7 passenger Grand C-Max in Europe but has decided, for now, not to bring that model to the U.S.

    • They had to drop the third row to make room for the battery pack. To make room for the third row you’d need the gas or diesel powered C-Max. Ford has specifically said they want to keep the C-Max hybrid only like the Prius line. That being said there is no reason they couldn’t stretch the C-Max to accommodate it but there are no currently announced plans for that.

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