2013 Ford C-Max Energi SEL

Patrick M Hoey

If you're keeping score at home, the price difference between the C-Max Energi and the regular Ford C-Max is exactly $4550. What does the extra money get you? A big surprise when you pop the C-Max Energi's optional power liftgate: 5.3 cubic feet of the cargo area is filled with a 7.8 kWh battery pack, charged exclusively by the plug located just beneath the A-pillar window insert. It's enough to power the C-Max, gas-free, for up to 21 miles.

If you're still with me, this is where the C-Max's numbers game goes from difficult to near-impossible to understand. While the regular C-Max hybrid is rated at 47 mpg combined, the C-Max Energi is capable of 100 MPGe combined, which takes into account the amount of energy used both in gas and electric forms.

Did I get 100 MPGe over my two nights and two days with the car? It's nearly impossible to tell, as the C-Max's eco guide and calculators don't show MPGe, just miles per gallon of gasoline. For the record, I achieved an indicated 43 mpg that included two full battery charges, one half charge. That's an objectively good number, but it's difficult to say if it's worth the extra cost: when the plug-in battery is depleted and the Energi runs in hybrid mode, it averages 4 fewer mpg than the Hybrid, due to its 259-pound weight penalty.

If you set the numbers aside for a second, the C-Max Energi drives very well. The handoff from pure-electric power to hybrid mode is almost completely seamless (except when you mat the throttle, at which point it just feels like an automatic transmission kickdown), the brakes are easy to modulate, and the steering/ride/handling is good for any car, hybrid or conventional. Just be prepared to crunch a lot of numbers -- and spend nearly $38,000, before any tax incentives -- for the privilege of owning one.

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

I'm glad Ben Timmins clarified what the C-Max Energi is all about, because I was completely confused. I expected it to be like the Chevy Volt, which runs on electric power solely for about 40 miles, then switches to the gasoline engine until you recharge the battery pack. Instead, I spent a weekend confused by the readouts on the dash and wondering why the gasoline engine kicked in so soon after I drove away from the office with a fully charged battery pack. At the end of my 217.6-mile weekend, the readout on the dash said: 32.8 mpg. 6.61 gallons. 4.7 KwH, 51.3 EV-only miles, and a braking efficiency score of 86 percent. The most important numbers, though, are the ones that Ben already outlined: This version of the C-Max costs far more than the conventional hybrid model, and I don't think it's worth it.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

The sidebar to Ben and Joe's entries is that regardless of which C-Max you choose -- regular or Energi -- you get a surprisingly roomy interior, excellent outward visibility, and relatively crisp steering in a tidy, easy to maneuver package. On the negative side, MyFord Touch continues to be a bear to use and taints any experience with a Ford vehicle. And in the C-Max it's even more problematic due to the fact that the central console is sharply angled away from the driver making the touch-display and the controls below difficult to reach.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

The biggest difference between this Energi and a standard Ford C-Max Hybrid is the laughably tiny cargo area. Because the Energi's larger battery pack takes up so much space, the effective liftover height is almost up to my elbows. It feels like you must perch any cargo atop a shelf that is higher up than the roofline of a Subaru BRZ, and that makes this family hatchback considerably less useful.

That said, the larger battery allows you to drive for longer distances with the gasoline engine turned off. Pushing the tiny "EV" forces the car to drive only on the battery, so long as you don't blast the heater. I managed about 12 miles on electricity alone before the C-Max reverted to normal hybrid operation, returning an indicated 44.1 mpg overall. That's very impressive, but it comes at a significant cost in the form of a higher sticker price. As everyone else noted, it's hard to justify paying so much extra for the minimal efficiency improvement from this C-Max Energi compared to the non-plug-in version.

Fortunately the Ford C-Max is a very good vehicle overall, with satisfying steering, firm handling, and a high-quality interior that the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid can only dream of. The C-Max Energi feels like a real, normal car, yet still manages a decent amount of EV-only driving and respectable fuel economy. However, the standard C-Max Hybrid provides almost all those benefits (I averaged 31 mpg when we tested one in December), and I think it's a better buy than the more expensive Energi.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

This was my first time driving a Ford C-Max. If it were offered with a stick shift and a sub-$30,000 price tag, a C-Max would almost certainly be in line to replace my wife's Ford Focus hatchback when the lease comes up. Because of the C-Max's hybrid-only powertrain, though, neither of my requirements is met. Heck, cargo space in this larger vehicle is less than in the Focus. People who prefer an automatic, are willing to spend more money, and prioritize excellent fuel economy would do well to consider a C-Max, especially as an alternative to a minivan for families of four or fewer. Even though cargo space is compromised by the battery pack, rear-seat leg- and headroom are excellent. The Energi doesn't hesitate to run in EV mode. I drove 90.5 miles, which included 44.1 EV-only miles, for an indicated average of 39.4 mpg; I plugged in twice, charging from zero to 100 percent.

Too bad I can't import a British-spec C-Max with a diesel and a six-speed manual. Now that would be a good fit for my family.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

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I considered an Energi and ended up purchasing a Plugin Prius. Despite a significantly smaller battery I am averaging over 160 mpg in my Plugin Prius. The Energi relatively low fuel efficiency compared to the PIP results the relatively low fuel efficiency of its engine and poorer aerodynamics. Once you are using the Energi's engine to move the car down the highway the fuel efficiency drops significantly.
This is what you get for a vehicle that isn't designed from the ground up to hold a large battery pack.  A worthless cargo area.  The regular C-Max & now the Energi both have pathetic MPG numbers.  I'd like to see Toyota take these two apart and find out where Ford screwed up.  MyFord Stink gets ragged on again, really no surprise.  Make the display section have a release that can be swiveled left & right.  I liked the C-Max, has enough performance, decent room for 4 but the price & the MPG numbers are laughable.
A Jetta TDI wagon is a better choice with 6 speed manual, better mileage, much longer range between fill-ups, and the option of an enormous sliding sunroof.  And with all those things a price of around $28.000.  Of course, if you want a FWD Ford similar to the C-Max, just buy a Focus hatch.  There is, on the lot of my closest Ford dealer, a (new) Focus hatch with five speed manual and sunroof for $17,240 (after dealer's discount and rebates for everyone)  I hope this doesn't sound like I am a Ford salesman, because I am not. 

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