• The C-Max Hybrid will start at $25,995 before destination
  • The hatchback's base price will undercut the Prius v by more than $500
  • Sales of the C-Max are expected to begin this fall

Ford's upcoming C-Max Hybrid will boast a base price of $25,995 before destination when it arrives in dealers later this year. The hatchback's base price undercuts several key rivals, most notably the Toyota Prius v, giving the C-Max an edge in the growing segment of environmentally friendly people movers.

Although Ford has not yet announced a destination charge for the C-Max, the hybrid hatchback's shipping costs are expected to total $795 like its Focus and Focus Electric stablemates. That would bring the C-Max's base price to $26,790, giving the hatchback a $520 advantage over the Prius v, which starts at $27,310 with shipping.

According to Ford, the C-Max will also offer higher horsepower and torque ratings and better fuel economy than its major Toyota rival. While Ford has yet to release specifics, the Prius v produces 134 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. The largest member of the Prius family also achieves 44 miles per gallon in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway for a combined total of 42 miles per gallon.

The C-Max also stacks up favorably against competition from other automakers. Another major rival, the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, starts at $26,360 when equipped with its available dual-clutch automatic transmission and achieves only 29 miles per gallon in city driving and 39 mpg on the highway. And while Volkswagen doesn't offer a station wagon version of its Passat in North America, diesel-powered versions of the midsize sedan start at $27,895 when equipped with an automatic transmission and offer combined fuel economy ratings of around 35 miles per gallon.

Although Ford has offered the C-Max globally since 2003, its US debut this fall will mark the hatchback's first appearance stateside since its original unveiling at last year's Detroit Auto Show. While the hybrid's impressive fuel economy will surely satisfy most buyers, Ford says a plug-in hybrid variant - dubbed the C-Max Energi - will be available in 2013. That model is expected to top 95 miles per gallon "equivalent," the government's fuel economy rating for electric vehicles.

What it means to you: The C-Max Hybrid appears to offer a remarkable value in a fast-growing segment.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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