Hybrid Heat: Peppy engine, sharp looks, safety extras energize initial 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

The new 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid fronts a lake at Wescott Plantation in North Charleston. Summerville Ford received the fully-equipped new car this month (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/18/2012).


The Post and Courier

A notable quote in the movie “Horrible Bosses” involved Jason Bateman’s character Nick Hendricks being interrogated after a traffic smash-up.

“You wanna explain why you were speeding?” the detective asked.

“I was drag racing,” driver Hendricks explained.

Detective: “In a Prius?”

“I don’t win a lot,” Bateman’s character deadpanned.

Maybe he should drive a Ford C-Max. The brand-new model for 2013 boasts a combination gas-electric powertrain that churns out 188 net horsepower, about 25 percent beefier than Toyota’s ubiquitous hybrid.

Meanwhile, the C-Max can travel up to 62 mph on its lithium-ion battery alone.

“In Charleston, with a 45-50 mph average (speed), it really comes in handy,” said Quinton J. Brown, sales consultant with Summerville Ford in Dorchester County.

Ford considers the Prius a competitor. The carmaker even compares the C-Max side-by-side with Toyota, for instance noting in a promotional guide that the third-generation Prius and Prius V don’t include in-floor storage bins found in the new Ford hybrid.

“One of the largest differences of C-Max is that of technology,” Brown said. For instance, the powertain elicits 47 mpg city, highway and overall. According to Ford, the vehicle can travel more than 550 miles on a single tank of gas and battery charge.

“They are awesome vehicles,” Brown said.

Summerville Ford obtained its first C-Max hatchbacks about a month ago. They will be joined by a sister model, the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in later this year, according to general manager Louis Abidi.

The hybrid is available in the SE style with a starting price of $24,500 and the SEL at $27,000. A loaded-up SEL at the dealership last week listed at $31,855.

The moderate-sized vehicle, which seats five, has ample legroom and towering headroom front and back. A high-tech button sets the height of the electronic hatch, making it easier for extra-tall or extra-short people to reach the cargo door.

A sliding flap covers up a sizable share of the decent-sized cargo hold, which can come in handy for storing holiday presents, he said.

Features of the SEL include push button start and stop and an “intelligent” key that unlocks the driver’s side door when the key fob is proximate. The higher trim level also sports a backup camera, a built-in garage door opener and 110-volt power plugs for laptops and other electronic devices. The C-Max comes standard with climate control and seven air bags.

Ford is taking an ecological bent while promoting safety inside. Recycled products including rubber were included in designing the dashboard to give it a somewhat spongy quality and more protection in case of a crash.

Side windows provide ample glass between the pillars. “That cuts out a lot of blind spots,” he said. Another feature is Lane Assist where sensors give off a warning tone if the car is drifting into another lane.

High-end perks areheadlined by a navigation-communications system launched with either voice-activated Sync technology, dashboard knobs or steering-wheel mounted controls. The “colorful” LCD screen is operated by touch on the SEL. Moisture-sensing windshield wipers automatically turn on when it starts to rain or snow. Front seats and side mirrors are heated.

Looks-wise, the C-Max showcases the manufacturer’s European style grille found on its smaller models including the Fiesta and Focus.

The hybrid would be popular with a variety of groups, Brown said. “It could be an awesome family vehicle,” he said, although the family would have to be fairly small such as parents and a child. Meanwhile, the C-Max would be practical for taking lengthy trips, he said.

On one shorter afternoon journey, the new hybrid offered plenty to praise. Noticable right off is the sound — or lack thereof — when the car starts and battery power kicks in.

The C-Max accelerated steadily, if not exactly sport-like, and kept up with interstate traffic. Brakes were good, although perhaps a bit too quick on the touch. Solid handling made for a relaxing drive.

The sedan provided plenty of legroom and all kinds of headroom. The cargo space is adequate, and can be configured a number of ways with the back seats folded down.

A fine feature was the touch-screen monitor, although commands weren’t always user-friendly. The backup camera was a nice surprise on a compact car.

One thing to remember about the C-Max is it’s a newcomer. The vehicle was a little noisy at higher speeds, and a few of the fixtures were plastic-looking.

Yet the flip side to being a brand new car is being a trendsetter. The C-Max definitely steps out, providing a new rival to Prius and showcasing innovative technological features.

Most promising, however, is how the C-Max melded together hybrid fuel efficiency, better-than-average performance, ample interior and trendy looks, all at reasonable value.

To learn more about the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, visit your local Ford dealer.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.