The 2014 Ford C-MAX Hybrid is the sequel to a car that ended up making headlines for all the wrong reasons. We're talking about the 2013 C-MAX Hybrid, of course, which was touted for its overall fuel efficiency of 47 miles per gallon but has since been downgraded to 40 mpg. 

Here's the thing, though: 40 mpg is still pretty amazing for a family-friendly 4-door wagon. As Ford points out, it's only 2 mpg worse than the C-MAX Hybrid's main rival, the Toyota Prius v. And with a handful of tweaks for 2014, including gearing changes and minor aerodynamic improvements, the C-MAX Hybrid can only go up from here. 

Overall, the C-MAX Hybrid continues to be a strong all-around choice for family duty. It handles better than most hybrids, has plenty of room for four (or five in a pinch) and is priced right, too. If you're into the latest technology, check the box for the MyFord Touch system and you're all set. With the focus finally shifting to the C-MAX Hybrid's many strengths, this sequel's bound to be a lot better than the original. 

What's New for 2014?

The C-MAX gets a handful of small changes aimed at maximizing mpg. Otherwise, it's a carryover from last year. 

What We Like

Small on the outside; roomy on the inside; big mpg; quiet, composed ride 

What We Don't

MyFord Touch may challenge non-technophiles; tall Euro-wagon styling won't win any beauty contests 

How Much?

$25,995-$29,280 

Fuel Economy

The 2014 C-MAX Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a 35-kilowatt electric motor that has its own lithium-ion battery pack. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) puts this system's combined 188 horsepower to the pavement. 

Fuel economy for 2014 is revised down for a second time, now rated by the EPA at 42 miles per gallon city/37 mpg highway.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Ford C-MAX Hybrid is offered in two trim levels: SE and SEL.

The SE ($25,995) comes standard with a 60/40 fold-down rear seat, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and remote keyless entry. A power lift gate and a reverse sensing system can be added for $795, while satellite radio and the Sync/MyFord Touch interfaces can be bundled with those features for $1,995. Other options include a hands-free lift gate that requires a swipe of the leg for operation, a panoramic sunroof, heated seats, remote start and a backup camera.

The SEL ($28,365) comes standard with leather seating surfaces, the MyFord Touch multimedia interface and satellite radio.

On a practical note, the C-MAX offers copious storage capacity, with up to 52.6 cu ft of available volume behind the front seats (or 24.5 cu ft behind the second row). Nifty features include underfloor storage compartments and a built-in 110-volt power outlet.

Safety

The 2014 Ford C-MAX Hybrid features roll stability control, which senses yaw and roll movements, modulates engine output and applies brake pressure to stabilize the vehicle. Also standard are anti-lock disc brakes and seven airbags.

In government crash tests, the C-MAX Hybrid received four stars out of five overall, including four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts.

Behind the Wheel

The first thing you'll notice after climbing inside the C-MAX Hybrid is its tall, SUV-like seating position. This might not be a good thing if you're a fan of low-slung sports cars, but at least the elevated posture enables a commanding view of the road, while the curved roofline provides ample headroom. 

Ease into the accelerator pedal and the C-MAX pulls away quietly in electric-only mode, which is good for up to 62 miles per hour if the battery is sufficiently charged. When the 2.0-liter internal combustion engine kicks in, a relatively seamless transition enables more aggressive acceleration, which is surprisingly strong given the C-MAX's lofty fuel economy claims. Punch the pedal and this modest-looking hybrid will spin its tires off the line. Incidentally, it's easy to accidentally click the shifter into "L," which quickens acceleration and more aggressively charges the battery through brake regeneration. 

One of the C-MAX Hybrid's strongest suits is its nimble driving character. When pushed, the C-MAX handles tight corners skillfully, feeling more like the Focus hatchback it's based on than the tall hybrid wagon it actually is. On the highway, meanwhile, the cabin remains pleasantly quiet. Not many hybrids can match the C-MAX's behind-the-wheel bona fides. 

Other Cars to Consider

Toyota Prius v -- Toyota builds perhaps the only direct competitor to the C-MAX, and it commands a modest price premium relative to the Ford.

Mazda5 -- This non-hybrid alternative from Mazda is more affordable. And while it doesn't offer super-sized hybrid fuel economy figures, it does deliver a third-row seat and spacious cargo-hauling capacity.

Lexus CT200h -- Lexus' more upscale alternative breaks the $30,000 barrier but offers a more luxurious alternative with hatchback functionality. 

AutoTrader's Advice

Stick with the SE. For us, the C-MAX Hybrid is at its best when it offers the most value. The SEL is a tougher sell at $30,000.

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