2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid: Is It The Ideal Modern Family Car?

Follow Nikki

If you’re a parent, the chances are you’ve had to make the painful choice between everyday practicality and gas mileage when looking at new cars. 

In fact, if your family consists of the archetypal two kids, two adults, a dog, and a whole lot of luggage, the chances are you’ve longed for a minivan or crossover SUV-sized car with Toyota Prius gas mileage.

The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is neither, nor does its gas mileage quite equal that of the 2012 Toyota Prius liftback, but is it the first real family-friendly hatchback hybrid?

We think so, and here’s why.

More room

When compared to the 2012 Toyota Prius Liftback, the 2013 Ford C-Max has much more room for both passengers and luggage. 

When it comes to passengers, the high roof-line of the C-Max Hybrid offers 6 cubic feet more volume than the Prius liftback, while its luggage area is 2 feet larger than its Japanese rival. 

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

And while the Prius’ wagon variant--the 2012 Toyota Prius V--beats the Ford C-Max with 34 cubic feet of luggage space versus the C-Max’s 24 cubic feet, its higher sticker price and lower gas mileage makes it less exciting as a family car. 

More practical

Everything inside the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is designed with practicality in mind, from its larger load area to its higher roof line. 

For those with younger children, the higher roof line not only makes it easier to lift children in and out of the car, but it reduces the all-too common banged heads parents get after securing younger children in car seats. 

When it comes to juggling children, shopping and loading the car with shopping, an optional, automatic, handsfree tailgate gives the C-Max a real competitive edge against the Prius. 

More ‘normal'

Then there’s the way the C-Max is designed and built. 

Because the C-Max hybrid is based on a car which has already been on sale in Europe for years as a conventional gasoline car, the 2013 C-Max Hybrid doesn’t look like a hybrid. 

It looks, and behaves, like a regular gasoline car. 

The driving controls are conventional. The dashboard is conventional. 

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

Enlarge Photo

Simply put, the C-Max is built like any other gasoline car, a dramatic contrast to the Space Age plastic trim and geeky interior of the Prius liftback. 

A better all-round car

With good handling, high-specification interior, and a large helping of good, old-fashioned practicality, the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid may be the better vehicle of choice for a family with young kids wanting their first hybrid. 

Sure, it doesn’t get quite the same gas mileage rating as the Toyota Prius, but it’s a car you’ll feel far more comfortable making family trips and daily errands in. 

And, as any parent will tell you, a car that can help you stay calm is always a plus.

Do you agree? 


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Us

Comments (39)
  1. ford is behind Toyota, but, they appear to have made a very good guess on where the market will be

  2. Ford is behind in what? Better driving handling, better quality interior and more style exterior, fun to drive. So when so write behind, who is really behind? I think that Ford has nothing to envy Toyota!

  3. Yes. Reliability! One of the best vs. one of the worst, according to consumer's latest survey.

  4. Consumer report's latest survey.

  5. I would take it over a Prius based on the simple fact that it performs better than a Prius. Especially if you load it up with passenger and cargo, it won't be as slow as a Prius.

  6. prius is a better daily driver, unless you carpool...who cares about slow? i drive mine at 80 along with the rest of the speeders, so what if it takes me one more millisecond to get there, i get 50mpgs at 80.

  7. It is NOT just acceleration. It is also braking, handling and "fun" in driving are all taken out of Prius...

    Sure, get a Prius if MPG is the only thing you care about. If "daily driving" with high MPG Is what you care about, then get a Leaf then...

  8. Braking is acceptable after firmware update. Acceleration is embarrassing.

  9. Gee I guess 56 MPG is better than the stated 47 MPG that has been proven to REALLY BE nomore than 37-39 MPG....at LEAST Toyota is forthright and truthful that there marvel NOT SLOW AT ALL either Prius or Prius Plug in vehicles ALL OVER in True daily real performance gets over 51 .....I admit that the Prius is not a racing vehicle BUT lets be real about the TRUE HYBRID MARVEL that was created not for the comfort BUT for the GReen car it was carefully built around...the true GREENER vehicle is the PRIUS...but good try Ford....you will NEVER compare .....

  10. So, Toyota has managed to "lose 1 star" on its safety with the introduction of Prius Plugin. So far for "cutting edge" technolgy or "cutting the edge" on safety?

  11. I'm in the market for a new car (my volvo s70 is 13 years old) and I was really looking forward to the hype of 47/47/47 mpg rating, was willing to sacrifice a few mpg's compared to the prius. I've test drove the c-max twice so far and been reading all the real world feedback on what folks are getting for mileage and it's not living up to it's epa rating :( mid-30's mpg seems to be what it gets. I'm not sure I want the prius either though due to smaller size so will wait at least another year and hope ford can make some tweaks (like an "eco" mode to help folks get even close to the epa rating) for the next model year.

  12. YMMV. It all depends on how you drive. Prius drivers tend to drive more "efficiently". But that also mean slower speed, slower acceleration and less grip on the tires...

    I was kind of doubting the Ford C-Max MPG since it is about 500 lbs heavier than the Prius and with more grippy tires. But I would expect it to stay around 40mpg if driven reasonablely. When I had my hands on the Prius, I could only get around 38-42mpg (instead of the typical 50mpg). But I drive fast and aggressively.

    If you don't need the space and extra passenger space, I would recommend the Volt. It actually pretty consistently matching the EPA rating. With my aggresive driving, I easily get between 38-42 miles in electric range and 35-42 MPG in extended mode.

  13. i never buy first year anything, especially with fords weak warranty of 3 year 36k...

  14. We traded in our Volvo 850 for Fusion hybrid 3 years ago Long term economy is low 40s with my wife driving. I knocked a couple of 100 plus mile trip at 52 last month with AC. Overall the Fusion made the 850 feel like a turd. It is faster, handles better, smoother,... Given the new redesign for 2013 and an optional pluggable EV model, that would be my choice.

  15. There are more comments in this thread
  16. I agree. It is the first family-friendly car. For those that don't need as much cargo space and have access to a garage, the C-Max Energi may be an even better choice. In the US, after the tax credit, the price is only about $1000 more than the hybrid. For short trips, the 21-mile 7.6kWh battery will help to reduce gas costs significantly. I ordered the Energi and have been blogging about it at: http://cmaxchat.com

  17. Does the C-max energi use the entire 7.6KWh battery or does it "hold" the battery to about 75% like other plugins? @5.7KWh (75%) and 3.8miles/KWh, it is still reasonable to get about 21 miles electric range...

  18. I just drove it and IF Ford can match the Prius' stellar reliability record and get close to its MPG capability, Ford will sell a ton of these. It has a very pleasant interior, quiet ride, and peppy performance, but the downside is fewer MPG's. They should install an "eco" button for the gas miser in us all. Ford: include a locking gas cap, and give us a diesel/hybrid alternative that gets 60 MPG. Keep up the good work.

  19. i head the turning radius sucks on the ford.....look for many other bugs in the future, its fords trademark...

  20. Good thought BUT the Ford was NOT thinking only about GREEN....BIG MISTAKE to TRY taking over the PRIUS .....the Ford is Too HEAVY and too powerful to match the Prius line....it is 800 lbs heavier...3,787 vs. the Prius 3,100....big differance....the Prius materials are thought out including the type materials they used in the ENTIRE Car creation...GREENER is what Toyota was aiming towards....the Plug in is also much Lighter than Fords CMAX ENERGI...same thing it will NOT GET 100 plus at that weight over 3,900 compared to 3,160 PHEV Plug IN....Ford GOOFED.....an ECO mode will not solve the differance...its not that simple....

  21. So you believe the Toyota's "green wash"?

    What do you think about those Gas Guzzler made by Toyota such as FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Tundra, 4Runners?

  22. The Ford C-Max is most definitely not the idea family car.

    Potential purchasers should take a tape measure and examine the width of the back seat. The rear seats are barely adequate to hold two people, uncomfortably.

    Also there are widespread reports of issues with fuel economy on the highway. Very few C-Max owners are hitting 47 mpg in highway driving.

    The C-Max is a step in the right direction, but the C-Max will not displace the Prius as king of the hill in the hybrid space.

  23. When family cars of the last decade being vehicles like SUVs, mini-vans and large wagons such as Volvo V70's - this is too small to fit the bill for many families.

    I can't wait until we finally see larger EREV vehicles based on three-row seating. The C-Max isn't that big, actually. Felt smaller in a test drive than my Volt. The one thing going for it is the 5th "mini" seat in the back. It's not a great size for 3 teenagers, I don't think.

  24. Forgot to add - Made in Mexico, so it's still an import, like the Prius.

  25. @John McVicker: Sorry, but that's incorrect. The Ford C-Max for the North American market will be built in the same Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant where the Focus is built. The two cars share the same underlying architecture.

    You may be thinking of the 2013 Fusion which, as was its predecessor, is being built in Mexico. Ford is adding U.S. capacity to build larger numbers of that vehicle, however, in the Flat Rock, Michigan, plant that now builds the Mustang. Ford took the plant over entirely from the previous joint venture with Mazda that had owned it.

  26. ill take japan over mexico anyday....duhhhhhh!

  27. Initial reports on fuelly.com have the C-Max Hybrid averaging 39-40 mpg, other than a hypermiller who is achieving 55 mpg. http://www.fuelly.com/car/ford/c-max/2013/hybrid%20l4

  28. i get 50mpgs not even trying in my prius, i tried last night and got 68 mpgs on a 50 mile trip.

  29. Well, I get only 38-42mpg in Prius without trying. I guess we really drive differently...

  30. How many MPG are you getting with your Volt? By that, I mean gas miles divided by gas gallon.

    Do NOT include electric miles and divide by gas gallon.

  31. Worst Volt MPG is 34.7mpg and Best Volt MPG is 46.2mpg...

    And Worst EV range for me EVER in the Volt was 37.8 miles and best was 49.8 miles (driving like a Prius driver no faster than 60mph).

    Sure, those miles do NOT include heat usage (beside heated seat) yet.

  32. I believe that. My best record is 70.5mpg on 46 miles trip. It is very easy to get 50+mpg. My total average after 147k miles is about 57mpg. Prius can be driven fast while maintaining quite satisfactory fuel economy.

  33. Test drove the C-Max, and I disagree that it would make a good family car in general. The only circumstance I see it working well is as a city roundabout for a small family with kids past the car-seat phase. (Door openings and back seat seem too small for serious car seat duty.) And, even then, they'd want something bigger for road trips. The Prius v makes better sense space-wise (though haven't driven it).

    C-Max PROS:
    - good power
    - great headroom (though I didn't test it with the sunroof)
    - plug outlet and air vents in backseat area
    - nifty gauges
    - parking sensors and other cool Ford tricks
    - good looks IMO, esp. in Ruby Red

    Continued in next post...

  34. C-Max CONS:
    - Heavy for its size. Made my Honda Odyssey feel light afterwards. Why does the C-Max weigh about the same as the Fusion Hybrid? It should be lighter.

    - Zero storage/cubbies for the driver (beyond the basic door pocket and under armrest), just like in the Focus and Escape. Shallow little cubbies under the backseat floor are nice, I guess, but I can't reach them while driving!

    - Intrusive center console: my right leg was cramped against the console, and I'm only average height.

    - Poor touchscreen placement: the screen is recessed, so the plastic surrounds get in the way of touching the bottom portion. Plus, not cool to put the gear shifter in the way of the AC... Ford needs a lesson in ergonomics.

    Continued in next post...

  35. C-Max cons continued:

    - Small trunk: don't be fooled by its nearly 25 cu. ft. rating. Most compact sedans have equal or better useable space.

    - Questionable fuel economy. Did not meet EPA ratings. (When I started, the car's lifetime MPG was 30, and I grew a bunch of leaves and improved that to over 31 when I was done.) If these cars improve to easily match EPA after break-in, Ford needs to make that clear.
    - Brakes were harsh, but, admittedly, one might get used to them after driving for a while and be able to do smooth stops.

    To sum up, I like the C-Max, making Ford's foibles all the more frustrating. I see the C-Max more as a good commuter or grocery getter than anything else.

  36. "I see the C-Max more as a good commuter or grocery getter than anything else."

    If that is the case, wouldn't a Prius C (which I don't like) be a better choice just for those situations?

  37. While I haven't driven the Prius C, the C-Max offers a more solid, powerful ride, is more premium and has more toys (prius c doesn't even offer a backup camera, and C-Max has that trick tailgate for when you're unloading groceries). And extra space is still nice in a commuter, especially since the C-Max is still not as long as a compact sedan.

    That's all assuming someone isn't just in it for the MPG and doesn't mind spending more.

    Prius C sounds a bit scary for a freeway commute. Regular Prius is C-Max's true competitor, size-wise. Maybe that would be a better comp.

  38. I actually purchased a C-Max in January. I am a larger person and felt really cramped in test driving the Prius, even the larger Prius V. The C-Max is great for space on the interior. I often take my 5 year old grandson so space for the booster seat is great. The design of the C-Max feels like driving the Rav 4 that I turned in off lease when I purchased this. I consistently get 40 mpg in city driving. I am very pleased with this vehicle.

  39. I only have 3 complaints with this C-Max. First the turning radius is terrible, second the sun visors are in the wrong place and third but most important is that you can not use the heater or air conditioner without running the gas engine.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.