The reality of the market for hybrid cars in North America is that dedicated hybrid models tend to do significantly better than hybrids that share a body with a conventional version of the car. The idea of conspicuous conservation has been around for a long time, but in 2010 it was given the nickname “the Prius effect” in a paper by economists Sexton and Sexton. This is effectively saying that the Prius sells so well because it can’t be confused for a non-hybrid, and is therefore an effective way to communicate to those around you that you’re doing something good for the environment. This is why, when Ford wanted a hybrid to go up against the Prius, it wasn’t just a hybridized Focus, it was the dedicated hybrid C-Max.

The C-Max is actually a European model that is offered with gasoline and diesel options elsewhere in the world, but Ford wisely chose to keep it as a hybrid/plug-in model (the plug-in will get its own review, we’re focusing on the hybrid here) for North America. Since it is a primarily European car, the updates that just debuted for the car actually debuted about a year ago across the pond, so we already know them to be good.

Continue reading to learn more about the Ford C-Max Hybrid.

  • 2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    188 @ 6000
  • Torque @ RPM:
    129 @ 4000
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    115 mph
  • Price:
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • car fuel:
  • body style:


2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 645318
the C-Max's styling is generally regarded as one of the things holding it back from better sales

The C-Max is what is generally called a compact MPV in Europe. It’s a popular genre of vehicles over there, but it has never really caught on in the U.S. The car is built on the same platform as the Focus, but it’s bigger and very noticeably taller, by a full 8 inches. For Europeans, who see a lot of compact MPVs, this isn’t a big deal; but for Americans, it can look disproportionate, and the C-Max’s styling is generally regarded as one of the things holding it back from better sales. Styling might not be where the C-Max’s competitors shine either, but there is a big difference between looking plain and looking weird.

If you can get past the height, the C-Max is a well executed design, especially after the update. The front fascia has been revised, giving it the Aston Martin grille and skinnier headlights that the rest of the Ford lineup has been switching to, and it is as much of an improvement here as it is elsewhere. The taillights have also been revised, but these don’t by themselves change the whole look of the back of the car.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (in.) 104.3
Length (in.) 173.6
Height (in.) 63.8
Width - Excluding mirrors (in.) 72
Width - Including mirrors (in.) 82.1
Width - Mirrors Folded (in.) 75.6
Front Track (in.) 60.5
Rear Track (in.) 60.4


2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid High Resolution Interior
- image 645307

Ford has rolled out a number of new color and material options for the C-Max, but the interior does overall suffer from a lack of trim options. While Ford’s other small hatchbacks, the Fiesta and the Focus, offer three trims (excluding sport versions), there are only two for the C-Max, leaving out the top Titanium trim level.

This might not matter to a lot of buyers, but the C-Max interior will always seem lacking when compared to the Focus Titanium. But the upside is that it is bigger, certainly offering much more in the way of headroom, but also just more space to stretch out in general.


2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
- image 645311

There are no changes for the C-Max drivetrain, which it shares with the Fusion Hybrid, for the refresh. This isn’t great news, since Ford did have to revise the fuel economy numbers for this and several other hybrid models after the EPA said the figures had been inflated. That means that the 42 city and 37 highway aren’t as good as the original figures. Not only that, they’re a fair deal lower than those of the Prius. What Ford is quick to point out, and rightly so, is that the C-Max is also quite a bit more powerful than the Prius. The drivetrain does have to power the bigger Fusion Hybrid, after all, and the 188 horsepower on tap is well above the Prius’s 134.

the C-Max is much more fun to drive than the other cars in its segment

This is all part of how Ford is marketing the C-Max, especially since the fuel economy figures have had to be revised. Since the C-Max is built on the Focus platform and actually offers decent power, the C-Max is much more fun to drive than the other cars in its segment. It’s true that making a car that is more fun to drive than a Prius is hurdling a very low bar, but the C-Max deserves to be considered alongside much more entertaining car. Ford has been doing a good job lately with hatchbacks that are fun to drive, and this shows in the C-Max.

Drivetrain Specifications

Gas Engine Specifications
Drive Type Front-Wheel Drive
Engine type 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid Engine
Transmission type Electronic Continuously Variable (e-CVT)
Exhaust Single Chrome-Tipped with Catalytic Converter
Horsepower 188 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 129 LB-FT @ 4,000 RPM
Compression ratio 12.3:1
Electric Engine Specifications
Motor type Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor
Battery 1.4kWh Lithium-ion (Li-ion)
Battery Peak Power - Charge Sustain Mode 35 kW
Electric Mode Top Speed 62 mph
Vehicle Top Speed 115 mph


2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
- image 645313

In Europe, the C-Max has a 5-star safety rating, although the more strict U.S. regulations have knocked this down to a 4-star rating. But this is normal for the segment, and the same rating that all of the C-Max’s major competitors have gotten. This is also not a segment where big and impressive suites of driver’s aides are likely to turn up, and the C-Max isn’t an exception. All told, that sums up the C-Max in the area of safety: not an exception, pretty much the same as everything else.


The C-Max also isn’t particularly exceptional when it comes to price. As you might expect, it is priced very closely to the Prius in base form. Where things start getting different is up around the top end of the price, without a Titanium trim, the C-Max price doesn’t go up quite as high as that of the Prius, and certainly isn’t anywhere near the Prius’s luxury sibling, the Lexus CT. This, again, won’t be too big a problem for most buyers, but there are reasons to want a hybrid beyond cheapness and it would be nice if Ford had something more to offer those customers willing to spend a bit more.

Model Price
Ford C-MAX Hybrid SE $24,545
Ford C-MAX Hybrid SEL $27,545


Toyota Prius

2016 Toyota Prius High Resolution Exterior
- image 645146

The most obvious competitor, the Prius utterly dominates this segment. No other hybrid comes close to having this kind of name recognition, and the evidence of this can be seen in any Whole Foods parking lot in the country. There is even a Lexus version, the CT, although you lose the name recognition when you opt for the extra luxury. It really is one of the better cars for fuel economy too, although it is massively dull to drive.

Read more about Toyota Prius here.

Honda CR-Z

2014 - 2015 Honda CR-Z High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 527525

Since one of the big reasons to consider the C-Max is that it’s fun to drive, the CR-Z should probably also be considered. It’s true that all of the comparisons to the CR-X that Honda invited when the CR-Z first debuted did result in a lot of disappointment, but when you consider the driving dynamics of a lot of other hybrids, the CR-Z really is an improvement. It’s better looking than other hybrids in this segment too.

Read more about Honda CR-Z here.


2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
- image 645312

The C-Max is an odd sort of a vehicle, a European people hauler rebranded as a dedicated hybrid for the North American market. It’s at first very confusing that Ford would pick a vehicle type that historically hasn’t done so well in the U.S. to be its only dedicated hybrid model, but this isn’t quite the whole story. The C-Max is actually just a stopgap, a way for Ford to offer something in this segment until the debut of a new global dedicated hybrid model in 2019. But that doesn’t mean the C-Max isn’t a good car. It’s roomy, fun to drive and doesn’t look like everything else on the road.

  • Leave it
    • * Strange proportions
    • * Fuel economy numbers aren’t great for a hybrid
    • * No Titanium Edition
What do you think?
Car Finder: