Toyota Prius Vs. Ford C-Max Hybrid: Pros And Cons

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2013 Toyota Prius

2013 Toyota Prius

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For several years, Toyota had the hybrid market pretty much sewn up with its Prius.

Okay, so it never reached the heady economy highs of the original Honda Insight, but it was far more practical and electric running made it the hybrid of choice in city driving.

That's until the Ford C-Max Hybrid appeared, at any rate. If you're in the market for one of the cars, the chances are you're also in the market for the other--so we've pulled together the pros and cons of each to help you decide on your next hybrid family car.

Toyota Prius

We'll start with the incumbent challenger. Loved and loathed in equal measure, few cars split opinion like the Prius--but it has earned its gas-sipping reputation on merit, and remains one of the most economical non-plugins on the road.

The current Prius largely treads the same ground as the car that first hit the market wearing the now-famous badge.

That means an Atkinson cycle gasoline engine (once 1.5 liters, now 1.8 liters) paired with a hybrid system via an epicyclic gearbox. The benefit of this is a system that can choose between gasoline or electricity depending on road conditions--sometimes both, and if sitting in traffic, sometimes neither.

2010 Toyota Prius

2010 Toyota Prius

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The use of electric drive at lower speeds means fuel consumption is low in city driving. On electricity alone, it'll only go just over a mile, but in practice many drivers find the engine cutting out quite frequently in traffic. Transition between gas and electric is more or less seamless.

Of course, these are all traits shared with the Ford. So what are the Prius's pros and cons?


  • It does get slightly better on-paper fuel economy than the Ford, at 50 mpg to 47 mpg combined
  • It's also better in the real world. On the EPA's site, 2013 Prius drivers are averaging around 46 mpg (11 vehicles), and C-Max Hybrid drivers only 39 mpg, based on over 100 cars.
  • The Prius has a slightly lower base price--$24,200 plays $25,200.
  • Reputation: The Prius is a well-established fuel-sipper. The Ford has to earn that reputation.


  • The Prius attracts an unusual degree of loathing from other drivers--few cars make such a statement about their driver, and some may be uncomfortable with this
  • Styling both inside and out is starting to age
  • No longer features cutting-edge tech, either beneath the surface or in the cabin--the Prius's interior is a little archaic these days
  • Less than spectacular to drive

Head to page 2 to find out the pros and cons of running a Ford C-Max--and you can discover more on the Prius by reading our complete guide.

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Comments (20)
  1. There are many other pros and cons not mentioned in this article. As a current hybrid owner and now in the market again for a new car; I spent a lot of time looking at all the hybrids out there. Unfortunately, the C-Max doesn't come with a spare tire! It is a show stopper requirement for me. An inflation kit only helps in a subset of tire failure problems. I personally require a spare tire.

  2. We own a C-Max. This car has a break-in period during which fuel economy steadily improves. now shows average C-Max fuel economy at 40.2 MPG; ours now averages about 43 MPG.

    The article also fails to point out that the Ford is a substantially bigger car than the base PRIUS in terms of passenger room and cargo space.

  3. Maybe this was added after your comment, but interior and cargo space differences are mentioned actually.
    They seem relatively minor though, at just 6% and 8% less respectively...

  4. Nope, it was added before Andy's comment...

  5. The Prius is purpose-built for best MPG - it's 600 pounds lighter than the Ford so it would be a shock if the Toyota didn't get somewhat better mileage, right? However the C-Max gets very good mileage -- if you look at the 40.2 Fuelly average, a big chunk of those reports were filed during cold weather late 2012-early 2013. Most C-Max owners I hear from are getting mid-40s now. Both are good cars.

  6. P.S: The C-Max also comes with free roadside assistance/towing if you have a blowout that can't be fixed with the repair kit.

  7. I don't know that the C-Max is particularly good looking. I don't think I would buy either vehicle based on the looks, but the layout of both is very practical.

    The interior of the C-Max is definitely nicer, But I don't have much problem with the Prius interior except for the flying buttress center column, which will hopefully go away in a year or two.

    But as for people's reaction to the cars, let me say this. In the well heeled suburb that I live in, full of Mercedes, Audis, and BMWs, the Prius passes as a reasonable choice. People are like, ah, I see, doing the eco thing. I don't think that will ever be the case for the Ford.

  8. Why is America so backward,when it comes to automobiles. The Toyota Auris,available in Europe,but not America, is twice as desirable as the Prius.Who are these A-holes that decide what Americans should have?

  9. @Larry: Errrrr, those would be the U.S. car buyers who spent 30 years largely ignoring compact hatchbacks in favor of sedans. Look at the data.

  10. In the US, small cars have not received the public's attention because relative to Europe, our gas prices have been very low for very long and rising slowly over time (boiling frog effect). It is now changing because people are finally starting to realize the water is boiling.

  11. I have a 2013 Jetta Hybrid and unfortunately I have the Lousy Gas Mileage blues also......Last tank was 29.8 it hates hot and Humid........Lifetime average after 10,000 miles is only 37.7.....:( It definitely looks better than a Priapism though!!

  12. You have failed to mention the difference between the C-Max and the Prius with respect to their range in all electric mode. Why?

  13. Think he is talking about the Hybrid versions more than the Plug-in Versions.

    But for the Plug-ins, Prius 6-mile range, C-Max Energi 20 mile range.

  14. Finally! This is the first time I've seen the C-Max compared with the Prius Hatchback, and NOT the V. Ford marketed it as competing with the V, probably so it would seem like it gets better gas mileage, but the size is much more comparable to the hatchback.

  15. I have to say that Ford's interior is much nicer.

    I don't know what is going with Toyota (who used to known for quality interiors), the recent new car interior have been questionable. The so called cheap and hard plastics are everywhere in the Prius. (Even the 2013 new Corolla is full of them. They add "texture" to it to make it look better but if you feel them, they are cheap and hard plastic).

    Oh, Toyota is offering 0% 60month deal on Prius right now in California. Ford doesn't NOT.

  16. Toyota's been resting on their laurels. Maybe with all the new competition they'll be forced to address the quality of their interiors.

  17. Ford is hardly new to hybrids. Of course the smaller and slower Prius is more efficient. Instead of MPG, gallons per mile (or annual fuel cost) is a better yardstick. It makes the law of diminishing returns clear.

    I drive my 27MPG (actual) car 9000 miles per year = 333 gallons = $1200 per year. A vehicle with infinite MPG can therefore save me $1200 max annually.

    A 39 MPG CMax (8MPG under its rating) would use 231 gallons = $854 per year, saving me $346.

    A 46MPG Prius (6MPG under its rating, not worlds different than the CMax's shortcoming) would use 196 gallons = $724, saving me $476 per year.

    The Prius would save me an additional $476-$346 = $130 annually. Cmax is a newer, nicer, larger, & faster car however.

  18. I used 0.26 gallons in June and 0.9 gallons in July for out of sight MPG. I usually put 1000mi/month on a 20MPG Luxury Sedan, burning 50 g x 3.79 saving about $1200/yr.
    Get a VOLT. Nice looks, nice interior and great performance. I never have to floorboard it.

  19. Good point Eric; people don't realize that annual fuel cost difference between a car getting 40 MPG and a 46 MPG competitor is scarcely worth mentioning.

  20. For an extra 10 bucks a month I'll take the nicer vehicle.

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