The Surprising Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid

Ford C-Max Energi Hybrid

Ford C-Max Energi HybridIn a family with one fashion-conscious teenager, one too-cool-for-words college boy, one muscle-car-loving dad and one public-transit-loving mom, it’s tough to find a car that everyone will like, much less love.

The Ford C-Max Energi is that car. Yeah. Surprised me too.

We had the plug-in hybrid for a week, but it only took one day for all of us to fall in love. This really could be our next car–the one we get to buy after both kids are finished with college so there is no more need for a Dodge Durango SUV that seats seven and holds enough boxes of Costco supplies to keep our teenagers and their friends fed for a week.


C-Max Energi: Built Small, Feels Big

The 2013 C-Max Energi is small (for those us used to driving a truck-sized SUV) on the outside, but large on the inside. In fact, the kids pronounced the back seat to be roomier than the SUV. They stretched out for our road trip and never complained. Not even once.

Also generously sized in the C-Max Energi are the windows. There was plenty of visibility out the huge front window, lots of sun streaming in the huge sun roof (a $1,195 upgrade on the model we drove) and great sight lines thanks to the large side windows. If that wasn’t enough, a rear camera (past of the $3,080 Equipment Group 303A upgrade) offered added reassurance I wasn’t about the back into anything and beeps warned me when a fender was coming a little too close for comfort.

That’s not the only way this car was smarter than me. It also beeped to get my attention when I started walking away with the car still running. It’s easy to do with a hybrid. Without the rumble and sound of a gas engine, or the need to take the key out of an ignition, it can be tough to remember to actually turn the darn thing off when you’re done driving it.

Charging a Ford C-Max Energi Hybrid

Never having owned (or driven) anything other than a gas-powered vehicle, I was a little worried about the idea of an electric-powered car, especially since we planned to take it on a 280-mile road trip to see our son at college. Turns out there was no need to worry.

We didn’t even need a charge–the battery gets charged from the gas engine when it’s running and it captures the energy from the brakes (after you come to a full stop, the display tells you how much energy has been returned). Since we mostly did gas-powered highway driving, the car didn’t need a charge in the week we tested it.

If it had, it would have been easy because it uses a standard three-pronged 110-volt plug–no different from the one we use to power our electric lawn mower. (If you plan to drive it a lot and want a quick charge, you have the option of installing a 240-volt charging station.) It’s so energy efficient that you can even plug in the charger when you get home from work at 6pm, but set it to begin charging late at night, once the electric rates drop to nighttime levels.

Not Such Great Gas Mileage

Because most of the driving we did during the week we had the C-Max Energi hybrid was gas-powered highway driving, we didn’t get the great gas mileage I had expected from a hybrid (Ford is giving a refund to owners since the gas mileage is not what was advertised). True, it beat the mileage in our gas guzzling Durango by 15 mpg, but I did expect to get more than 38 miles to the gallon from this small car. I suspect that if we had stayed home and spent the week driving it around the city, we would have scored something closer to the 43 miles per gallon Ford promises.

What We Loved:

Value Charge that allows you to charge overnight when electric rates are lower

Universal programmable garage door opener

Regenerative braking that captures the energy and uses it to recharge the battery

Design–for a small car, it offered great visibility with large windows and plenty of interior room

Easy standard 110-volt plug-in charging system

Great safety package includes airbags all around, back-up camera and warning bells that sound if you’re too close to something

4 stars out of 5 on government safety ratings. Side crash rating is 5-star for front and rear seat passengers, thanks to side airbags and first and second row curtain airbags.

What You Need to Know:

Base price: $32,950 (The model I drove included extras such as the beautiful blue candy metallic tint paint, panoramic sunroof, hands-free technology, power liftgate and more that brought the total sticker price to $38,215.)

Ford says the C-Max Energi Hybrid will get 43 mpg and save you $6,850 in fuel costs over 5 years

Seats 5 comfortably


Cindy Richards is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist who serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the TravelingMom LLC companies,,... More about Cindy Richards