Ford C-Max Energi


The Ford C-Max is a small and tall wagon-like compact car. Five-passenger upright cars that squeeze maximum utility from a small footprint are popular in Europe, but until recently have not been available to American car buyers. Ford started selling the C-Max in Europe in 2002 but only began offering it in the U.S. in 2012.

You might think of the C-Max as a bulked-up Focus, with a more commanding view of the road. The two cars share the same 104-inch platform. The C-Max uses the stylistic elements found in other Ford models, most notably an open Aston-like grille, long flowing headlights, raked windshield and sloping roofline.

The space-maximizing proportions of the C-Max are pleasant enough, even if they don’t stir emotions. What the C-Max lacks in visual excitement, it makes up in practicality and efficiency. It is only available as a conventional gas-electric hybrid or as the Energi plug-in hybrid. Both are among the most efficient cars on the road.

Ford C-Max Energi


When stacked against conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius, the C-Max is considered a much more capable and enjoyable ride. Acceleration is brisk and handling is compliant.

The Ford C-Max no-plug Hybrid’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and 118-horsepower electric motor combine to provide a healthy dose of 188 ponies. Total output for the Energi plug-in version rises to 195 horsepower because of the larger battery pack’s greater ability to deliver electricity to the motor.

If you are mostly staying within the C-Max Energi’s 20-mile real-world all-electric range, and use the car’s “EV Now” mode, you can avoid burning any gasoline and enjoy the telltale driving characteristics of an EV. “When you go into EV Now mode, you are literally locking out the engine pull-up, and driving on battery performance,” John Davis, the chief engineer for the C-Max in North America, told “Even if you go to fast acceleration, almost a wide-open throttle situation, you will get full battery capability, and we will prevent the engine from coming on.”

That means smooth, quick, and quiet acceleration. However, when driving purely on battery and electric motor, with no assistance from the gas engine, the total power to the wheels is noticeably reduced by 70 horsepower.

There are a few conditions when you will reach the limits of the EV Now mode: when zooming down the highway above 85 miles per hour; when the state-of-charge of the 7.6-kWh battery pack gets low enough to begin transition from charge-depletion to charge-sustaining; or for the “very rare event” of high battery temperature.

Fortunately, Ford engineers have perfected the art of hybrid smoothness so that it’s barely perceptible if the gas engine is actually on or not.

C-Max Energi drivers can also use the “EV Later” button, similar to the Volt’s Mountain Mode, to save grid-supplied energy for later use—or keep the vehicle in “EV Auto” mode, in which the vehicle operates more like the conventional C-Max hybrid. Regardless of the mode, performance strikes a good balance of power, refinement, and efficiency.


The EPA mileage rating for the C-Max Energi, when using a combination of gas and electricity, is 95 MPGe (or miles per gallon equivalent). After the EV battery is depleted and the C-Max reverts into a conventional hybrid, the combined city/highway gas mileage is 39 miles per gallon.

There’s a big difference between 95 MPGe (while driving using electricity) and the 39 mpg granted when the C-Max is working like a regular ol’ hybrid. So questions about individual real-world C-Max Energi efficiency come down to all-electric driving range.

The C-Max Energi has a respectable 20 miles of all-electric range. That's way behind the Volt's 53 miles and lags behind the Prius Prime's 25 miles, the two most popular plug-in hybrids. It's essentially in the middle of the pack because several automakers, especially producers of luxury models, offer models with only 10 to 15 miles of electric range. The 20 miles of EV range from Ford is modest but adequate.

Of course, it all depends on how far you travel on a typical day. If your commutes are modest, and you have the ability to charge throughout the day, you can still get great value from a plug-in hybrid with 20 miles of all-electric range. After all, the EPA rates the overall efficiency of the C-Max Energi at 95 MPGe. That's remarkable for such a nimble and functional vehicle.

The Ford C-Max Energi provides a new variation on the plug-in hybrid theme—somewhere between a “super hybrid” blended approach and the “extended-range electric vehicle” strategy of the Chevrolet Volt. It’s a plug-in hybrid, capable of working like a pure electric car for drivers with a round-trip commute of 20 miles or less, and beyond that like one of the most fuel-efficient hybrids on the road.

Ford C-Max Energi


The Ford C-Max Energi’s battery pack is relatively small at 7.6 kilowatt-hours. A smaller battery means lower driving range, but at the same time, there's less charging time required to fill up.

In other words, charging equipment in a plug-in hybrid like the C-Max Energi is really not that critical. Even with the relatively slow charging speed of the C-Max Energi’s 3.3 kW onboard charger, coming from a 240-volt home charger, the battery can go from empty to full in less than three hours—thereby restoring 20 miles of all-electric range.

In fact, there is a strong argument for simply using the cord set supplied with the vehicle, plugged into a common 120-volt home outlet, which can easily fill up the C-Max Energi’s battery pack overnight (in about 6 to 7 hours). This allows owners to avoid the expense and hassle of installing a home EV charger. See our Guide to Buying First Home EV Charger.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The Ford C-Max Hybrid, the basis for the plug-in Energi, has plenty of head- and legroom for four tall passengers. It has a high roof, and large windows providing excellent visibility. The cargo area, while generous for a sedan, is relatively small for a wagon.

Here's the problem: reduced cargo space. Ford’s current plug-ins are built around existing platforms, which means packaging the battery packs in spaces other than beneath the cabin. So where cars like the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF are designed, from the ground up, to keep their batteries discretely and unobtrusively hidden below their passengers, the Ford C-Max Energi sacrifices storage space for electric range. This creates an unattractive trade-off for already-more-expensive plug-in variants of existing models.

Where the C-Max Hybrid provides 24.5 cubic feet of storage behind the rear passenger seats, the Energi sacrifices more than 20 percent of that space to the battery pack, coming in at just 19.2 cubic feet of storage—less than the Prius sedan (the basis for the Prius Prime). With the rear seats folded down, the Energi loses almost 10 cubic feet of cargo space versus the hybrid, which carries 52.6 cubic feet of storage.

For buyers who have their hearts set on driving electric, these space trade-offs are just another consideration to weigh—in deciding among the limited plug-in options currently available on the market. But for customers who are on the fence about whether to take the plunge into plug-in ownership, the cargo compromise could represent a deal-breaker—pushing them to the no-plug hybrid version.


The C-Max Energi performed well on safety tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, receiving four stars overall. It earned five stars in the side crash tests, and four stars respectively in the front crash and rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the C-Max Energi ratings of “good” in its moderate overlap front, side impact, rear, and roof strength crash tests. The C-Max gets an “acceptable” rating in the IIHS’s new small overlap front test.

The long list of safety features includes: driver air bag; passenger airbag; rear head air bag; side airbag; four-wheel ABS; brake assist; electronic stability control; blind-spot monitoring; lane departure warning; child safety locks; integrated turn signal mirrors; auto-leveling headlights; and traction control.

Ford C-Max Energi


Good news. Ford priced the plug-in version of the C-Max so close to the conventional hybrid version that—after considering federal and state incentives, as well as trim packages—shoppers can drive away with the plug-in at virtually the same price as the conventional hybrid C-Max.

As usual, the devil is in the details. With three different add-on premium packages available for the C-Max Hybrid, shoppers with sharp pencils might make a different argument. But considering that a loaded C-Max Hybrid SEL tops out at $27,170, and the base price of the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid is $27,1000 (plus $875 in destination fees), there is no difference in the price of admission for the two vehicles.

When you subtract a federal tax credit of $4,007 for the Energi and a $1,500 cash rebate from California, you come out way ahead from Day One with the plug-in model. Every day after that, especially for drivers with commutes within the 20-mile EV range of the Energi, the cost of electric fuel is less than half the cost of gasoline.

There are trade-offs. Buyers would be forgoing some of those luxury features, like premium audio, and hands-free liftgate, in exchange for keeping the price of the plug-in to the same level as the hybrid. Also, as we indicated, the hatch cargo space in the plug-in drops from 52.6 cubic feet to 42.8 cubic feet.

Nonetheless, Ford shatters the EV price premium myth by showing that a plug-in with a relatively modest battery pack and decent all-electric range doesn’t necessarily have to cost more its gas-powered counterpart.

Comparisons of Similar Cars

The closest competitor to the C-Max Energi, in terms of price and overall functionality, is the Toyota Prius Prime, which sells for about $1,000 more. The Prime grants more electric range and it's hard to beat its combination of efficiency, creature comforts, reliability and utility in the form of generous passenger and cargo room. We strongly recommend back-to-back test drives.

The Chevy Volt, while offering a considerably more robust EV experience and a sportier drive, is a bump up in price. Also, the versatility of the Volt is diminished because it’s cramped rear middle seat means that it only comfortably seats four passengers.

A jump in price from the C-Max’s low-$30,000 to the $40,000 range brings the possibility of a full-size sedan plug-in hybrid, like the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In or Ford Fusion Energi. Those vehicles take the form of popular, stylish, and capable mainstream sedans, rather than the smaller yet utilitarian format of the wagon-like C-Max.

Ford C-Max Energi

Purchase Process

As stated above, this model was discontinued. Production ceased in September 2017. It might be difficult to find a new C-Max Energi, especially in mid- to late-2018. If you have your heart set on one, you might consider a used model.

Ford C-Max Energi specifications

Availability: Discntd.
Base MSRP: $27100
Est. tax credit: $4000
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Wagon/Van
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 20 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 8 kWh
Charging rate: 3.3 kW

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