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The C-Max has not yet been crash-tested. Standard safety features include seven airbags, plus the required antilock brakes and electronic stability system. Ford's standard MyKey system allows parents to limit vehicle speed, stereo volume and other features when their teens drive. Click herefor a full list of safety features or herefor our evaluation of child-safety seat accommodations.
Is It Worth the Money?
The marginal benefit of 10-20 real-world miles off electricity makes us doubt that the Energi model is worth its $7,750 premium over the basic C-Max. The Energi starts at $33,745, and our fully loaded tester came to $36,635, including a $795 destination charge. It comes in just one trim level: SEL, which includes a power driver's seat, heated leather upholstery, MyFord Touch and keyless access with push-button start. A power liftgate with a foot-activated sensor, a backup camera, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parking feature, Sony audio and a navigation system are available in an optional popular equipment package. A moonroof is a stand-alone option on the Energi.
What's This Car's Competition?
Even maxed out, the Energi is still $3,300 less than an entry-level Chevrolet Volt, but comparing those two cars is, frankly, difficult to do. The Volt qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, while the Energi's tax credit tops out at $3,750. This knocks the Volt's price down to $32,495, which is still more than the Energi's credit-adjusted price of $29,995, but there are caveats to these credits. They're not rebates, but they are income tax deductions, so how much you get depends on your income level. (If you lease instead of buy, the leasing company gets this benefit, which translates to lower monthly payments.)
From a feature standpoint, each car has its own benefits. The C-Max seats five to the Volt's four, has far better outward visibility and greater overall range, and is less expensive with more standard equipment. It's also more sprightly and entertaining to drive and runs on regular gasoline. The Volt requires premium, but has a big edge when it comes to electric operating range and cargo room, and it frankly just feels like it was designed to be an electric car from the start. The C-Max Energi's electric drive feels less sorted out.
While Ford has consistently made its pitch for the C-Max against the similarly sized Toyota Prius v wagon (see the review), the Energi's function more logically puts it up against the Prius Plug-in hatchback (see the review). The Prius Plug-in and the Energi function similarly, but the Prius has a few disadvantages: Its battery is smaller than the Energi's at only 4.4 kwh, and its electric range is just 15 miles, according to Toyota (11 miles according to the EPA). The Prius' overall system output is just 134 horsepower, compared with the C-Max Energi's 195 hp, giving the C-Max a considerable edge in both drivability and speed. Realistically, the Ford can go farther on electric power before using its gas engine, but once both models are on gasoline power, the Prius is more fuel-efficient: It gets an EPA-estimated 51/49/50 mpg city/highway/combined versus the Energi's 44/41/43 mpg.
The Ford drives better than any car in the Prius lineup; the Prius Plug-in is pokey in EV mode, whereas the C-Max Energi is sprightly and quick. In just about every measurable aspect, the C-Max is a better vehicle — with the exception of price: The Prius Plug-in starts at $32,795, including destination. That's nearly $1,000 less than the C-Max Energi (before tax credits) and includes features like a standard navigation system. When tax credits are considered, the Prius Plug-in's $2,500 credit drops it to just $30,295, giving the C-Max just a few hundred dollars' edge once its credit is factored in. The Toyota can be optioned up rather heavily, however, topping $40,000 with items simply not available on the C-Max, like a head-up display, radar-based cruise control and adaptive headlamps.
A basic C-Max provides a realistic, well-executed competitor to Toyota's Prius models, but the Energi variant just doesn't seem worth the price.