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Nowadays, there are plenty of Ford vehicles with hybrid variants. The Fusion hybrid is a perfect mix of efficiency and fun handling, while the Escape hybrid offers more passenger space. The upcoming 2021 F-150 pickup truck will also have a hybrid engine as optional equipment. 

However, not everyone is familiar with Ford’s very first hybrid vehicle, the C-Max wagon. The C-Max was only on the market for five years before it was discontinued. However, just because it was phased out so early doesn’t mean it’s not a great car.

The history of the Ford C-Max

The C-Max hybrid, as well as the plug-in Energi version, were first released stateside for the 2013 model year. According to Ford, the C-Max was the most affordable hybrid of its time, with a starting price of just $24,000. Both C-Max models also had notoriously low ownership costs.

Initial sales numbers were high, but the C-Max was also the subject of a major controversy. Both Consumer Reports and MotorTrend reported that the car’s fuel economy ratings differed greatly from EPA ratings. It turned out that the better fuel economy ratings were actually those of the Ford Fusion.

Applying the same fuel economy numbers to similar types of cars is permitted by the EPA. Still, Ford released more accurate information for the C-Max in light of the complaints. However, the C-Max’s updated gas mileage failed to compete with its rivals at the time. The vehicle was eventually discontinued.

A very reliable hybrid

A Ford C-Max on display at an auto show
A Ford C-Max on display | STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

The Ford C-Max is one of the best cars you can buy on the used market. According to Consumer Reports, the last two model years got a perfect score in terms of reliability. Owner satisfaction is also fairly high, with 77% of owners expressing that they would purchase the 2017 C-Max again.

The Ford C-Max also got good marks on its road test conducted by Consumer Reports. Testers were impressed by the ride quality and all the features that were included in the price. However, they weren’t fans of the regenerative brakes, which struggled on wet surfaces and were a bit grabby.

Perks of owning a C-Max

While the C-Max can’t compete with other 2020 hybrids, its gas mileage isn’t terrible. In real-world testing, Consumer Reports found that it gets 37 mpg overall, plus its estimated yearly fuel cost is only $800. The C-Max has excellent acceleration, which isn’t common on hybrid wagons.

The C-Max has a decent range for a hybrid, up to 20 miles of all-electric power. Consumer Reports also noted that the car is fun to drive, with little cabin noise and sporty handling. There’s also plenty of passenger space inside the Ford C-Max.

The C-Max’s flaws

The Ford C-Max has a smaller cargo area than what you would expect on a wagon. Some critics also didn’t like the aging interior present in later models. Most of the interior materials are of excellent quality, but the standard cloth seats feel cheap.

While it does have good crash test scores, the C-Max also has very few standard safety features. The base model only comes with Ford MyKey and the mandated backup camera. However, it has a good selection of available features, including parallel parking assistance and blind-spot monitors.

Is the Ford C-Max right for you?

If you’re looking for the most efficient hybrid, there are much better alternatives than the Ford C-Max. Still, the C-Max has impressive gas mileage for a hybrid of its price. You can buy a used 2018 C-Max for around $17,000. Considering its impeccable reliability and low ownership costs, we think the Ford C-Max is a great value.


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