I’ll admit that prior to being offered to test drive the Ford C-MAX Energi for a week, I had never heard of the car, but when it came time to drop it off I was sad to do so. The 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi is a fuel efficient plug-in hybrid car that gives the driver the power of choice: the car can run on the battery alone, on the engine alone or run on both. According to Ford, the North American made C-MAX Energi delivers better electric-mode fuel economy and overall driving range than the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid.
Choosing the C-MAX Energi mode while driving was surprisingly easy with the EV button located on the centre of the instrument panel. The driver can choose to drive in electric-on for city driving (EV Now), save plug-in power for later (EV Later) or let the system automatically adjust the power mode to suit the driving conditions (EV Auto). I used the EV Now mode when driving in the city or for errands nearby. The car was so quiet in this mode that quite often I had to double check to see if the car was even on. Luckily the dash displays a “car is ready to drive” message. I switched to the EV Later mode for highway driving. The car was still very quiet on the gasoline-hybrid power mode. In fact, regardless of what Energi mode the car was in, the C-MAX Energi was always quiet and smooth riding.
Driving a hybrid is a perfect way to kick-start a “green” Christmas – the environmentally friendly kind of green. With “green” in mind I drove my Ford C-MAX Energi car around Ottawa to do some eco-friendly shopping. First stop was Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) in Westboro to look for a new bike for my daughter. Did you know MEC has hybrid charging stations and reserved parking spots for plug-in hybrids? So convenient! And MEC isn’t the only location; when I went downtown to buy a spa gift certificate I parked at City Hall and used the charging station available there, and when I went to Loblaws College Square to shop for some organic delights for an upcoming Christmas party, I parked at Algonquin College because they too have a charging station. Another valuable location that offers a charging station is Place D’Orleans. I met a friend there for lunch one day and not only was she impressed by the stylishness of the C-MAX Energi, but she was wowed by the fact that it plugged in.
Plugging the car in wasn’t difficult either. I know nothing about cars, but despite the fact that this car is pretty high-tech, it is very user-friendly. The high-voltage lithium ion battery system that comes with the Ford C-MAX Energi doesn’t require regular service maintenance either. In fact, the C-MAX Energi comes with a 120-volt convenience cord that allows you to charge the battery using a standard 110-volt, grounded, three-pronged household outlet. Charging the car was so easy that I let me daughter plug it in every night, with supervision, of course.
Because I am not an expert when it comes to cars, I asked my husband what he truly thought of the Ford C-MAX Energi. He enjoyed the car’s unique features including the brake coach, which appears on the dash after the vehicle has come to a complete stop. It coaches drivers to brake in such a way that will maximize the amount of energy returned through the regenerative braking system. The competitive side of me liked this feature too because I was constantly trying to get the percentage of energy captured to as close to 100% as possible. The only downside to all this is that the information on the dash could be distracting for some drivers.
The other competitive side of me liked the efficiency leaves that display in the right vehicle information display once the car is turned off. The leaves grow as driving habits and efficiency improve. I found myself constantly checking those leaves to see if the vine had grown. Driving a hybrid definitely makes you drive in a more efficient manner because you find yourself trying to maximize how far you can go on battery power alone.
Another feature of the Ford C-MAX Energi that I could not get enough of was the hands-free lift gate. With the Intelligent Access key in my pocket I was able to open the trunk with a simple kicking motion under the rear bumper – perfect for when hands are full from Christmas and Boxing Day shopping!
The C-MAX Energi is loaded with features including push-button start, seven airbags, including driver’s knee airbag, HD Radio, and AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control). Drivers can not only rest assured that they are driving a car equipped with the latest in powersplit technology allowing operation in electric mode at higher speeds than any other hybrid, but that they are doing so in style and comfort. The C-MAX Energi I drove had comfortable heated leather seats and included the customized SYNC with MYFord Touch feature that allowed me to sync my iPhone in a matter of minutes – contacts and all.
The car also had Active Park Assist. This feature made me nervous, so I had my husband try it out. One weekday we headed to the Glebe for more Christmas shopping and drove slowly near a spot where we had to parallel park. He activated the Active Park Assist, which automatically located the parking spot. The sensors measure the distance to the curb and between parked cars. When it determines that a spot is big enough, drivers get a message on the centre information dash to stop and accept assistance. With hands off the steering wheel, drivers simply follow the instructions to shift gears, brake and accelerate when told. Even though my eyes were closed, the car miraculously parked itself. I will never get over the coolness of that feature.
If I were to have one complaint about this car it would be that driving on the battery alone (or on EV Now mode) doesn’t last long enough. Perhaps it was because I had the car out in very cold temperatures, but the most I got was 15 km on a fully charged battery. Make no mistake, the car doesn’t turn off when the battery runs out, it simply transfers power over to gasoline with such smoothness you don’t even know it’s happening. My husband, who had recently driven a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid as a rental car, was very impressed by the smooth transition from electric to gas in the C-MAX Energi because the Hyundai had a noticeable lag when the car switched between the two.
I have had a few people ask if I would buy this car. The car is an ideal size for my family, the seats are comfortable and there is plenty of leg room in the back seat for kids and adults a like, and of course, it’s great on gas, but I have to admit I am tossed up between the C-MAX Hybrid and the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. One thing is for sure, I was very impressed by the stylishness, comfort and many additional features available with this car, and driving an eco-friendly car made me feel good because I knew I was doing something that was not only helping to save the environment, but was saving money on gas too. Driving the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid is a great way to kick off anyone’s “green” Christmas!
Other than getting to drive the Ford C-MAX ENERGI around for the week, I did not receive compensation for this review and the opinions are 100% my own.