By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
With 12 variations, the Ford Focus could almost be considered a brand all alone. From the variety of Focus sedans, hatchbacks, electrics, hybrids and even a performance version, there is nearly something for every driver application in the mid-size four-door configuration.
We recently spent a week in the Ford C-Max Energi, which is a plug-in hybrid variation of the Focus sub brand.
Inside, the Energi has distinctive seats, door panels, center stack plus a larger display screen than Focus models. In the cargo area, the battery pack eats up about four cubic feet of cargo space but still leaves 19.2 cubic feet and 42.8 cubic feet if the rear seatback is folded.
The Ford C-Max Energi is powered by a 141-hp 2.0-liter Atkinson four-cylinder gasoline engine which blends its power with two electric motor/generators. Combined the three produce 188-hp. The electric motors are powered by a 7.6kWh Lithium-ion battery pack, which is mounted beneath the cargo area floor. The battery is charged by an external charge port using a standard 120-volt outlet or an available 240-volt charging system. When the vehicle is moving, the batteries are partially re-charged by regenerative braking, which can recapture more than 95 percent of the braking energy.
The Energi drives the front wheels through a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) which we thought was the weak link in the drive system. The CVT is efficient and smooth but it always feels as if the car is trying to catch up to the engine producing a droning rather than stepping through fixed gears, or in some cases, shifting through simulated gears. It?s a matter of taste, but many owners would probably not even notice a difference.
Even with the CVT the C-Max has a has a somewhat spunky acceleration feel. The gasoline engine and electric motors work together as needed to produce maximum power or separately to produce the best efficiency. Buff magazine testing lists the C-Max Energi 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 8.2 seconds, which makes it about two second quicker than a Toyota Prius V.
The battery and hybrid equipment boost the Energi?s curb weight to a hefty 3,900 pounds, which is nearly 1,000 pounds more than a gasoline powered Focus hatchback and about 250 pounds more than the C-Max Hybrid.
Operating on the gasoline engine only, the Energi is rated at 39 MPG, or when operating on electricity and gasoline the EPA rates the Energi at 104 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) city and 87 MPGe highway. In the electric-only mode, the car has an estimated range of 20 miles at speeds up to 85 mph. Ford also has Active Grille Shutters that close enhancing vehicle aerodynamics when extra cooling is not needed.
Designed for everyday driving and road trips the C-Max isn?t going to get raves reviews for handling. However, the extra weight gives it a relatively soft but well planted feel. There is some sway and lean on the corners, but it?s acceptable for a car with this mission.
Other than the powertrain technologies, the C-Max has a few nice available features including Active Park Assist (a great option for someone who dreads parallel parking), rain-sensor wipers (a must have for owners living in a wet climate) and the MyKey? which enables the owner to restrict some vehicle capabilities to ?encourage good driving habits.?
It also has some helpful features like storage compartments under the second-row floor, heated seats, mirrors and a Foot-Activated Liftgate which can be helpful if you can balance yourself on one foot with your hands full, while waving your other foot under the rear bumper.? The C-Max connectivity is good with its Android Auto, Apple Car Play, SYNC?3 infotainment interface, navigation, Sirius Traffic, Travel Link?, FordPass App and Bluetooth.
The Ford C-Max is available as a C-Max Hybrid, or the model we tested, the C-Max Energi. The Energi comes in two trim levels, the SE and the top of the line Energi Titanium. The SE has a base price of $27,995, including the destination charge. The Titanium is $3,000 more as it adds 17-inch machined aluminum wheels, 10-way power adjustable passenger seat, leather seating, Sony? audio with HD radio, SYNC?3, heated seats, engine block heater, Home Link, push-button start, remote engine start plus a few more features.
The Ford C-Max Energi is another good choice for someone that wants an alternative to the Toyota Prius.