Two of Detroit's newest hybrid vehicles face allegations that their real-world performance doesn't match the fuel economy predicted by EPA test numbers. Both Consumer Reports and Green Car Reports allege that the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid fail to meet their 47/47/47 mpg (city/highway/combined) fuel-economy ratings.
The 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Ford C-Max hybrids use the same powertrain, which consists of a 2.0-liter inline-four gasoline engine and an electric motor/generator that produce a combined 188 hp. With electricity stored in a lithium-ion battery pack and a continuously variable transmission transmitting power to the front wheels, both of the hybrids scored 47/47/47 mpg on the EPA's test cycle.
In the real world, however, the cars are reportedly struggling to meet those figures. Consumer Reports says that its 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid averages between 33 and 39 mpg, while its 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid test car has only managed 40 mpg. Those are still impressive figures, but down significantly from the window-sticker estimate. Green Car Reports sounded the alarm last month after averaging 37 to 40 mpg in a C-Max Hybrid over nearly 300 miles of driving.
Although modern ratings are much more accurate, the EPA's fuel economy website still cautions drivers that its ratings "may not accurately predict the average MPG you will get." Even so, Green Car Reports says that drivers who scrupulously followed the advice of Ford engineers still couldn't meet the much-touted 47-mpg mark.
Ford electrified vehicles communications manager Wes Sherwood didn't directly respond to the criticisms, but said that C-Max Hybrid customers like their vehicles and often report exceeding the 47-mpg window sticker. He said many buyers are treating the C-Max Hybrid just like any other car, which can affect its consumption figures. Sherwood said the graphical displays in both hybrid cars, which include a guide to using the regenerative brakes and green leaves that flourish if the car is driven efficiently, can encourage owners to drive in a more fuel-efficient manner.
"No matter how you want to drive, the car is capable of doing it," Sherwood told us. "If you're out to maximize fuel economy, we have the technology to help. If you want to drive [the C-Max Hybrid] like a normal car, the vehicle has the performance to help."
Automakers and consumers are paying extra-close attention to EPA fuel-economy numbers after several high-profile cases in which real-world consumption didn't match the government's estimate. Hyundai and Kia will reimburse customers after adjusting the companies' fuel-economy figures down -- in some cases by as much as six mpg -- and may face a class-action lawsuit over the issue. In California, a long-running court case involved a Honda Civic hybrid owner who sued when she couldn't achieve the car's rated fuel-economy figure.