It’s been nearly a year since Ford first made the announcement, but as we approach the official North American launch of the 2012 C-Max, the company is finally ready to reveal more about its compact people mover.
Don’t let the C-Max name fool you: this isn’t quite the five-seat, four-door C-Max sold abroad. Instead, the C-Max name is being recycled for what Europeans refer to as a Grand C-Max. Both vehicle ride upon Ford’s global C-segment platform, but the Grand C-Max sports a longer 109.7-inch wheelbase, dual sliding doors, and additional interior flexibility.
U.S.-spec C-Max models are given what Ford Calls 5+2 seating — as the name suggests, that does allow the C-Max to hold up to seven passengers (one more than the competitive Mazda5), but space for those relegated to the third row is somewhat tight. Cargo volume is likewise restricted when the third row is deployed, but both seats do quickly fold and stow for extra cargo (buyers can also opt to forgo the third row altogether when placing their order).
Those regularly looking to access the C-Max’s cargo area will likely appreciate Ford’s new automatic lift gate system. Although power hatches aren’t anything new, Ford’s system is a little different. So long as the key fob is in your pocket, two waves of a foot beneath the rear bumper will open the rear hatch — perfect, for instance, if you’re approaching the C-Max with two arms full of groceries.
Unlike its Euro-spec sibling, which is available with an array of different engines, the North American C-Max is offered with only two powertrain choices. Ford’s 2.5-liter I-4 is standard, and is mated to the now semi-ubiquitous 6F35 six-speed automatic transaxle. Preliminary specifications indicate the 2.5-liter will crank out 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque in C-Max tune.
That’s commendable, but those lusting for more power can opt for yet another form of an EcoBoost four-cylinder. A new 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder can provide up to 180 horsepower when running on premium fuel, along with 173 pound-feet of torque. Finalized fuel economy figures are still a long ways off, but Derrek Kuzack, Ford’s group vice president for global product development, says the company is aiming for the EcoBoost C-Max to earn a highway rating around the 30 mpg mark.
Ford still isn’t ready to discuss market timing or pricing, but the Americanized C-Max is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2011 at the earliest, and will likely carry a base price just north of $20,000.