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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid Draws Controversy Over Fuel Efficiency Claims

But This Crossover Hybrid Has More to Offer Than Fuel Economy

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2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid's 47 mpg EPA fuel economy numbers have been disputed.

Photo: Ford Motor Corporation

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid eases sticker shock with a price tag below the $30,000 mark, combining a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery with the 2.0L Atkinson-cycle I-4 gas engine.

The C-MAX Hybrid will operate on electric-only power up to an impressive 62 mph, with the gas combustion engine serving as the main source of power and kicking in during situations requiring a boost of power. The 2013 C-MAX Hybrid features Ford's customizable dual-LCD next-generation SmartGauge with EcoGuide, providing real-time information to help the driver make the most of the vehicle's energy efficiency. Like other Ford Hybrid information displays, the display will grow leaves as the driver becomes more energy efficient, but will drop leaves if efficiency goes south.

When introduced, Ford announced plans to make the C-Max a “hybrid only” brand in America as it seeks to improve its position in the hybrid vehicle market and many thought the C-Max could be Ford's avenue to greater prominence in a hybrid market long-dominated by Toyota. And as the fastest selling hybrid in history, those expectations seemed well-placed.

But the shine has gone off the prize for Ford amid accusations by respected publications like Consumer Reports that identified the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid as the vehicle with the largest discrepancy between posted fuel efficiency and actual reality. Touted as getting 47 miles to the gallon, C-Max Hybrid owners have found that they are more likely to get about 35 to 37 miles to the gallon. That's a full 20 percent off the posted numbers, making a huge headache for Ford and raising the expectation of compensation much like that made previously by Honda and Hyundai over similar, though not as severe, fuel efficiency discrepancies. It's important to remember that EPA numbers are lab-generated, however.

Luckily, the 2013 Ford Fusion C-Max Hybrid has even more to offer than what seemed to be a too-good-to-be-true fuel economy of 47 across the board. The C-Max offers a sleek and roomy family vehicle, looking much like a stylish minivan but few these days want to be associated with that staple mode of 1990s family transportation, so crossover it is. The style no doubt comes from the fact that it is based on the same architecture as Ford's Focus, which was considerably revamped in 2012.

The C-Max Hybrid comes in two trims, the SE and SL, as well as a third plug-in version, the C-Max Energi. All three feature a 2.0L hybrid electric power train with electronically controlled continuously variable transmission and electric power assisted steering. Both offer room for up to five passengers. The main difference between the C-MAX Hybrid and the C-MAX Energi is the plug-in capability of the latter. The C-MAX Energi has an external charge port and a larger state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery than the C-MAX Hybrid, providing the option of an electric-only driving experience. The Energi can fully charge overnight using a standard 120V outlet or in fewer than three hours with a 240V charging station outlet. Both the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi sport a new 2.0L hybrid I-4 powertrain that is combined with the electric motor to generate a projected 188 total system horsepower, delivering more than enough power for most driving situations.

Unlike models offered in Europe, where Ford offers the C-Max in two sizes and with a range of gasoline and diesel engines, the U.S. market will see only one size option. The C-Max's base price is higher than the Prius and Insight, but less than the Jetta hybrid and Prius v.

MSRP: $25,995

EPA Fuel Economy: 47 city/47 hwy

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