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2016 Toyota Prius vs. 2016 Ford C-MAX: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2016

If you're looking for a fuel-efficient hatchback, you probably have the 2016 Ford C-MAX and the newly redesigned 2016 Toyota Prius on your shopping list. Both offer a lot of interior space for passengers and cargo, along with excellent gas mileage and reasonable pricing. But which one is better? We're taking a closer look at the Prius and the C-MAX to help you find out, but first let's see what's new with the two hatchbacks for the latest model year.

2016 Toyota Prius

The Prius is fully redesigned for 2016. Changes include totally new styling inside and out, along with revised suspension tuning for a sportier driving experience, better fuel economy and more technology than the outgoing model.

2016 Ford C-MAX

The C-MAX's biggest change for 2016 is the addition of Ford's new SYNC 3 infotainment system, which offers an improved user experience -- and enhanced voice control -- compared to the old system.

Reliability

Although the recently redesigned Prius is too new for reliability rankings, experts at Consumer Reports rate the C-MAX as slightly below average for reliability, though it's still within the firm's acceptable rating range. The outgoing Prius, which shares mechanical components with the new model, earned an above-average rating from Consumer Reports.

As for warranty coverage, the two models are the same: Both tout 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage. As a result, this category is a toss-up pending more accurate reliability ratings for the Prius -- though as things stand now, we suspect the Toyota will offer better dependability than the C-MAX.

Fuel Economy

Although a plug-in hybrid model is on the way, the latest Prius currently offers only one engine: a 1.8-liter hybrid 4-cylinder that boasts 121 horsepower and an impressive 54 miles per gallon in the city or 50 mpg on the highway in most models or 58 mpg city/53 mpg hwy in the Prius Eco.

Meanwhile, the C-MAX touts two engine options. Most models use a 188-hp 2.0-liter hybrid 4-cylinder, which returns 42 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. Drivers looking for a plug-in hybrid can choose the C-MAX Energi, which offers a plug-in version of the same engine that's capable of roughly identical fuel mileage in hybrid mode, plus around 20 miles of fully electric range.

If fuel economy is your thing, there's no doubt that the Prius easily beats out the C-MAX when it comes to gas mileage. It's worth noting, however, that the C-MAX offers far more hp and better acceleration while still retaining acceptable fuel economy figures.

Safety

Both the C-MAX and the Prius offer all the safety features you'll need, including side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, parking sensors and a backup camera. But the C-MAX is sorely lacking in the latest safety features, all of which the Prius offers -- including forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

As for safety ratings, the Prius is too new to have been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The C-MAX earned only Average scores, falling short of IIHS's Top Safety Pick+ rating after a Poor showing in the front small-overlap crash test and receiving four out of five stars in NHTSA's overall ratings.

Barring some unforeseen poor crash-test result in the future, the safety category easily goes to the Prius over its Ford rival, as the brand-new Toyota simply offers far more features than the increasingly outdated C-MAX.

Technology

As you may have guessed from reading our Safety section, the Prius easily beats out the C-MAX in terms of technology and gadgets. In addition to its advantage in terms of modern safety features, the Prius also offers a self-parking system, a JBL audio system, automatic high beams and a head-up display -- none of which you can get in the C-MAX.

While the C-MAX isn't exactly short on equipment or especially anachronistic (especially with its new SYNC 3 infotainment system), it's no match for a fully redesigned new model such as the Prius.

Value

If you've followed along so far, you've undoubtedly noticed that the Prius has beaten out the C-MAX in just about every category. Therefore, you might think that it's far more expensive than its Ford rival -- but that's not the case. In fact, both models start within $200 of each other at around $25,100 with shipping.

Although the C-MAX may offer a few benefits over the Prius -- more headroom and more power, for instance -- it simply can't compete with the more modern Toyota in terms of value. The Prius wins this category, too.

Autotrader's Advice

The outgoing Prius was one of the best hybrid cars on sale even after several years on the market, and the all-new 2016 Toyota Prius only strengthens its lead. The Prius isn't only better than the C-MAX -- it's better than every single one of its rivals, with improvements in handling and steering feel serving as the icing on the cake. While we like the C-MAX, we like the Prius a lot more -- and we'd only choose the Ford if we could get a truly amazing deal on it.

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Used 2016 Toyota Prius Two
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Toyota Prius vs. 2016 Ford C-MAX: Which Is Better? - Autotrader