Hybrid Ad Wars: Ford C-Max Vs. Toyota Prius V

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For the past decade, Toyota has unquestionably been the champion of the hybrid electric car, thanks to its Prius family of hybrids. 

But with a tough new ad campaign about to launch for the all-new 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Detroit’s blue oval wants to steal that hybrid crown. 

The gloves are off. But who will win?

In its new ad campaign, Ford has nominated to directly compare itself with the established Prius, using a series of comically-drawn shorts.

As USA Today reports, one of the first C-Max Hybrid ads to air shows Mr. Linea, a classic, Italian line-drawn character from the 1970s, getting frustrated with the lack of power of his 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon.

The cartoonist’s hand--a standard feature in every Mr.Linea cartoon--then draws a 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. 

Mr. Linea, grateful of the new car, gets in, speeding past the very cars which had overtaken him while he was driving his Prius V.

Ford’s message isn’t hard to spot: It wants the C-Max Hybrid to be seen as faster, more fun, and better to drive than a Toyota Prius; wagon or otherwise.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

Interestingly, Ford isn’t comparing the C-Max Hybrid with the 2012 Toyota Prius Liftback. Instead, it wants to compare its first hybrid hatch with the larger Prius V.

That’s possibly because the Prius Liftback, while smaller in cargo volume than the C-Max, beats the C-Max Hybrid’s 47mpg all-round EPA rating with 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway and 50 mpg gas mileage figures. 

Its base model 2012 Prius Two, while less equipped than the C-Max Hybrid, is cheaper too.

Meanwhile, the more expensive, larger Prius V, which starts at $27,280, is closer to the C-Max Hybrid in terms of passenger volume, gas mileage and load-carrying ability. 

“It’s a direct comparison,” Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president in charge of global marketing. “Toyota has done such a good job with hybrids. So it makes sense for us to compare C-Max to Prius.”

On paper, the 1.8-liter Prius V isn’t as powerful as the 2.0-liter C-Max Hybrid. Despite a slightly large load-carrying capability, it also more expensive, and lacks some of the standard tech features found in the Ford. 

2012 Toyota Prius V

2012 Toyota Prius V

Enlarge Photo

These include Ford’s well-known MyFord Touch, and a fully automatic, handsfree tailgate.

Those facts might give Ford an edge on paper, but with ten years of experience making Hybrids, Toyota is a tough act to follow. 

There’s another problem too: the C-Max doesn’t directly compete with either the Prius Liftback or the Prius V. It sits somewhere in between the two models. 

And while the C-Max itself provides a nicer driving experience and has a more conventional interior than either Prius model, the resale value of the C-Max remains an unknown. 

Toyota’s hold on the hybrid marketplace is strong--200,000 Prius Liftbacks and 60,000 Prius V wagons are expected to be sold in the U.S. during 2012--but the cheaper, more user-friendly C-Max may win it fans among regular American car buyers who want a normal car that gets great gas mileage. 

Who will win? It’s time to let the buyers decide.


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Comments (6)
  1. I got to sit in a C-Max Hybrid recently and I have to say it is a nicer car than the Prius. Also, the C-Max Energi looks more impressive than the PiP in terms of range, although you have to give up significant load space to the battery.

    Bring it on Ford. The competition is great.

  2. I think everyone here are waiting to see the Energi models. Both the Fusion and C-Max Energi models are highly anticipated by the GCR readers. Yet, Ford has been keeping their specs as a secret. There aren't even much "testing" of the prototypes by varies car magzines...

    I am suspecting that there are lots of "last minute" tweaking with the energi models so it can beat the established players such as Volt and Pip.

    It will be interesting.

    I think GCR should do a big "comparison" test between all the plugin models...

  3. We waited long and finally drove the new 2013 Ford C-max with top trim last week. The foot activated tailgate is a cool feature. To me it drives better and has more power than the Prius V but is less smooth. It's great that Ford is making this and other hybrids. However, I think the V is more comfortable, more legroom, wider cushier seats, better cup holders, Larger cargo capacity, and easier to use Entune Tech system. The real MPG of both cars is about 41 overall. Don't trust MPG estimates by US brands, sorry.
    The answer is hybrid, solar, Natural Gas, not dirty coal based plug in electrics. If you had a house with Solar and used that power to charge your Plug in that would be great, but right now I don't see the value vs cost of Plug ins.

  4. @Joe: Nice comparison of the two cars, thanks for posting your take on their tradeoffs.

    Re/the myth of "dirty coal based plug in electrics": In at least half the states, driving a mile on power from the grid produces less wells-to-wheels carbon & airborne emissions than a 50-mpg Prius. That list of states includes California, which will buy more plug-ins than the next five states combined.

    Yes, in states with the filthiest grids (WV & ND, if I recall), you're better off to drive the Prius. If you drive a 25-mpg car, however, the plug-in is still a lower emitter (W2W).

    Remember also that individual grids will get cleaner over time, so plug-in cars will too. Can't say that for gas cars!

  5. The C-Max is great and has a much roomier back seat than the Prius and Prius V - but still both lack the 7 seat option. We'd take 6 seats like the Mazda 5. What we really still want (current Prius 2008 owner) is a smaller MPV sized Mini-Van so we can take friends and family with us - we typically have 5 people and the Prius is just tight and also pick up friends to go to movies - day trips and that means 7 people. When we vacation (family of 4) right now we use a top box on the Prius and the C-Max though larger than the standard Prius isn't larger enough and the Prius V - it's still just a 5 seater and the back seat is the same size as our Prius (trust me - tried our family out in it - same size). Where's our hybrid mini-van or Mazda 5 ?

  6. According to EIA, US electricity generation based on coal has fallen to the lowest percentage in 40 yrs at 36% (from 46%) due to the low price of Natural Gas and tighter regulation of coal plants. Of course, some states are higher and some states are lower.

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