• 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid
  • 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid
  • 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Venerable but Viable

The hybrid vehicle segment is now old enough that some models have been around for quite a while. Toyota’s Prius–the name many associate with the word “hybrid”–is nearly 20 years old, and is currently in its fourth generation. The 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid is getting long-in-the-tooth (it was introduced in 2012), but it is practically unchanged.

2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

The old and the new together

There’s a lot to like with the C-Max. Originally a European minivan (which they style as an MPV or multi-purpose vehicle), the hybrid models have been built in Wayne, Michigan. It’s is a bit more compact than an American-size van, and has satisfying ride and handling, despite a rather large turning radius. You feel in control, sitting up high and perusing traffic through an expansive windshield.

I’ve tested three C-Maxes in the past—the first one nearly five years ago. The 2017 models are nearly identical, with just some minor grille and taillamp tweaking. This year, the new Titanium series replaces the SEL; it includes 17-inch machined aluminum wheels, leather-trimmed seats and a 10-way power passenger seat with lumbar support.

Two Choices of C-Max

As it has been since 2012, you can choose the Hybrid or the Energi (plug-in hybrid) version.  My tester, in this case, was the Hybrid, so all its electricity came from regenerative braking stored in the 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery. Simply press the brake—or roll downhill—and the car charges its battery.

2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Room inside like an SUV

That means you can drive in pure EV mode part of the time during commutes or short trips in town, but the car normally shifts automatically between the 2.0-liter engine and the electric motor, depending on driving conditions. The Energi model comes with a plug and a larger lithium-ion battery, so it acts like a pure EV more often, supplying that smooth, silent propulsion so welcome in EVs.

2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Not afraid to load up the top

The engine/motor combination is good for 188 combined horsepower and 129 lb.-ft. of torque, so the car moves along OK, but you won’t win any green light grand prix against other all-electric vehicles.

Fuel Economy Boost

Hybrids help the gas engine work a lot less, so you get much better fuel economy. There is no gasoline-only C-Max in the U.S. to compare it to, but the same drivetrain is used in the Ford Fusion. Comparing Fusions, the gas-only model earns 21 city/31 highway/25 combined while the hybrid gets 43/41/42 respectively. That’s a significant difference.

My Ruby Red Tinted Clearcoat tester’s official scores were 42 city/38 highway/40 combined. Emitting 222 grams of CO2 per mile, essentially half a typical car, and gets a commendable 8 for Smog and 9 for Greenhouse Gas from the EPA.

2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

An upscale, if old dash

Years of experience can be a good thing. The bugs are worked out, some updates have been applied, and everything’s familiar. The 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid, in the lower SE level trim, though, seems a little old now. It came with a metal key, which I had to take out of my pocket, insert into the ignition, and turn to start the car. That felt like grabbing a vinyl LP and dropping the needle down for some music. The center dash screen, although it has the latest (and much improved) Ford Sync interface, is very tiny, so what are usually four tabs on the touch screen are rendered as separate strips below the screen. Of course, there’s no keyless access from outside, so you need to take out the fob and press a button.

Old (Design) Language Still Spoken Here

Ford has moved its interior design language forward, but the C-Max has the look of a 10-year-old model inside, with edgy, aggressive shapes that have been banished from newer models.

2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Put me in the game, coach

You still get the tools you need to drive efficiently. The instrument panel lets you view your fuel use history, and provides three horizontal bars that tell you how well you’ve been driving for Acceleration, Braking, and Cruising. You can also elect to view the Efficiency Leaves, which grow lush when you’re motoring cautiously and wither away when you press too hard on the accelerator.

The left panel gives you choices of how you view the interplay between the engine and the motor, as well as a way of seeing whether your behavior is charging or discharging the battery. There’s also a Brake Coach, so you can learn how well you’re regenerating power. I scored 100% sometimes, which gave me some satisfaction. This data helps you learn to drive more efficiently, but you can apply the techniques in any car.

Thanks to its efficient package, the C-Max flaunts a 540-mile driving range, a welcome benefit for long trips. Prices for the 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid SE start at $24,175; the Titanium model begins at $27,175.

The 2017 Ford C-Max still provides an alternative to other hybrids, but there’s lots of competition now, including the stylish and trendy Kia Niro, among others like the Nissan Rogue Hybrid and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. With a slew of fresh product on the way, Ford will be in great shape in this segment in the future. For now, The C-Max is a golden oldie.

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Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid (John’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid (Steve’s view)

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: Steve Schaefer

Steve Schaefer has written a weekly automotive column for 25 years, testing more than 1,100 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve now has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Read his EV/hybrid blog at stevegoesgreen.com.

3 thoughts on “Road Test: 2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid

  1. Morley Ford Servicing
    August 22, 2017 at 7:15 am

    Certainly looks to be a very good family car. I looks safe, reliable and looks to be plenty of room for bikes, bags and children! For the longer trips with the car jam packed, you need as much room as possible and this car looks like it would be pretty good for those situations.

    • August 24, 2017 at 9:19 am

      @@MorleyFordServicing,
      It is a great-size vehicle. You do lose some critical storage space in the plug-in version, but it still works. It’s shame the model’s going away in the U.S. market. –ed.

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