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Drives, Ford, Hybrid/EV — June 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi SEL: First Look

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2013 Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in

Here’s a first look at the latest Ride of the Week, the 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi SEL.

The C-MAX is a five-passenger gasoline-electric vehicle with an emphasis on fuel efficiency and practicality. Two versions are available, both pairing a 2.0-liter gasoline engine with electric motors and lithium-ion battery packs. The C-MAX Hybrid is a more conventional hybrid, generating all of its electric power from the gasoline engine. The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. Like the Chevrolet Volt, the C-MAX Energi can be recharged at a charging station or using a wall outlet but also has a gasoline motor for when its electric-only range is depleted.

Why does that matter? Plug-ins have advantages and disadvantages compared with regular hybrids. The big advantage is operating cost. Electric vehicles are typically considerably cheaper to operate than gas-powered ones. The other is low tailpipe emissions. As long as you stay in electric-only mode, the vehicle produces emits no pollution.

But there are few disadvantages, too. The most obvious one in the C-MAX Energi is cargo spaced compromised by the plug-in’s additional batteries. The C-MAX Hybrid has about 25% more cargo space behind the rear seats. The other disadvantage is price. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,345 compared with $25,200 for the most affordable C-MAX Hybrid.

Of course, some of that will be offset by lower fuel costs. The EPA estimates fuel costs of $1,150 per year for the C-MAX Hybrid and $950 per year for the Energi, but that’s conservative. The savings will be greater than $200 per year for most drivers. Plus, the plug-in C-MAX qualifies for a $3,750 federal tax credit (and state tax credits in some states) that the more conventional C-MAX does not.

I’ve already clocked a few miles in the C-MAX Energi, driving around town and on the highway. It’s spacious for passengers and very economical in urban traffic, so it has already proven well suited to this city-dwelling dad. This weekend we’ll test in more demanding family-car duty when we take a short, weekend road trip. We’ll see if the Energi’s compromised cargo space can handle gear for four, or if the added space of the C-MAX Hybrid is a necessity for families.

Quick Specs: 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi SEL

body type5-door, 5-passenger hatchback/wagon
as-tested price$36,635
engine size/configuration2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4; electric motor
horsepower/torque (hp/lb-ft) (combined)188/129
transmissionCVT
fuelelectricity/regular unleaded
EPA combined fuel economy rating gasoline+electric (MPGe)100
EPA combined fuel economy rating gasoline only (mpg)43
optionsEquipment Group 303A ($3,080)