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2017 Ford C-MAX Energi: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2017

The 2017 Ford C-MAX Energi brings plug-in hybrid technology to a mainstream compact family-car format. Let's start with the basics. As a plug-in hybrid, the C-MAX Energi has both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. Like the Chevrolet Volt, it features a true electric vehicle (EV) mode that keeps the gas engine off, even when the accelerator is floored. The beauty of this dual-mode system is that if the battery runs down, the gas engine automatically starts up and turns the Energi into a regular car.

The C-MAX Energi is good for 570 miles of range between fill-ups, and its all-electric mode is tuned for real-world driving, so there's plenty of power and a top speed of 85 mph. Throw in an elevated driving position, family-friendly seating for five and a compact-car footprint and here is one of the most well-rounded hybrid vehicles on the market.

Buyers of mainstream cars might be put off by the notion of a plug-in hybrid, thinking it's perhaps too involved for a family when there are a million other things to think about. But this is a Ford, so it's as mainstream as it could possibly be.

However, the Energi may not be for everyone. For example, if someone wants to commute in EV mode only, the Volt is a better choice, as it offers 53 miles of electric range to the Energi's 20 miles. And although the Energi's tall wagon body style appears practical, take a look at the battery pack in the trunk and see if there's still enough cargo space for your needs.

That said, the C-MAX Energi combines Volt-like engineering with real-world usefulness, and that should be enough to put it on the radar of green-car shoppers and everyday car shoppers alike.

What's New for 2017?

Instead of being a one-trim model, the C-MAX Energi now comes in SE and Titanium trims, with a consequent restructuring of equipment availability. It's also received a mild facelift.

What We Like

Drives like a tall Focus (that's a good thing); 570-mile driving range; quiet cabin; five seats; usable EV mode in real-world driving

What We Don't

Electric range limited to 20 miles; compromised cargo capacity; not a great value; noisy gasoline engine

How Much?

$27,995-$30,995

Fuel Economy

The C-MAX Energi is propelled by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) connects these sources to drive the front wheels. Total system output is a respectable 188 horsepower.

A full charge using a 240-volt charging station takes about 2.5 hours. Double that time with a regular 120-volt outlet.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a methodology for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to calculate the distance traveled per unit of energy consumed. It's called "miles per gallon equivalent," or MPGe, and the C-MAX Energi averages out at 95 MPGe (104 MPGe in the city, 87 MPGe on the highway).

For comparison, the 2017 Chevrolet Volt achieves 106 MPGe, and the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid manages 133 MPGe. Using standard hybrid power, the Energi gets 39 mpg combined, close to the Volt's 42 mpg combined but falling short of the 54 combined mpg obtained by the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Ford C-MAX Energi is offered in SE and Titanium trim levels.

The SE ($27,995) has 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic headlights, keyless entry/start, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-telescopic/leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera, an external 120-volt/240-volt plug with LED perimeter illumination, a 110-volt power outlet, Energi-specific EV displays, two USB ports, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker audio system and compatibility with a smartphone app that displays the Energi's vital signs remotely.

The optional SE Comfort package brings leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, 10-way power adjustment for the front passenger seat and heated side mirrors that incorporate puddle lamps. An SE Driver Assist package has rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system with an 8-in touchscreen.

The Titanium ($30,995) has all the above as standard, then adds rain-sensing wipers, fog lights, ambient cabin lighting, push-button start/remote start, a self-dimming rearview mirror, HD Radio, and an upgraded 9-speaker Sony audio system.

The Driver Assist bundle for the Titanium trim features blind spot monitoring, a self-parking system for parallel spaces, front parking sensors and a hands-free powered tailgate (a sensor detects foot movement providing the key is also within range).

Other options include a fixed panoramic sunroof, door-lock touchpads and navigation.

Cargo space is something of an issue due to the lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk. The official cargo area is 19.2 cu ft. behind the back seats and 42.8 cu ft. when they're folded down. In this configuration, there's a big drop-off from the battery shelf down to the seatbacks.

Safety

Standard safety features include stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver-knee and full-length side-curtain).

In government crash tests, the C-MAX Energi scored an overall four stars out of five, four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the car its highest score of Good in most categories except for the tricky small-overlap front crash test, where the Energi still managed to achieve the second-best score of Acceptable.

Behind the Wheel

The C-MAX Energi drives almost exactly like a regular car. The one big clue that this is something extraordinary comes in full EV mode, when the only sound is a gentle rush of the wind. There really isn't much noise at highway speeds. The ride quality is also comfortable and confident, giving the surprisingly athletic Volt some competition.

Even in full EV mode, the Energi has adequate power, but the gasoline engine adds a welcome push for passing maneuvers. The one objection here is the intrusive drone of the engine during these moments.

Front seat comfort is satisfactory, with plenty of height adjustability for the driver's seat. The rear section isn't exactly spacious, but two adults can fit fairly well, and the middle seat makes the Energi a more viable option for growing families.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Chevrolet Volt -- A must-drive for anyone considering a plug-in hybrid, the Volt still offers the best EV range in this category.

2017 Ford C-MAX Hybrid -- It doesn't plug in or offer a pure EV mode, but the regular C-MAX Hybrid is otherwise similar, and it's more affordable.

2017 Nissan Leaf -- The all-electric Leaf could be ideal as second car for commuting, as its 107-mile range doubles that of the Volt.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime -- The new generation of this Prius plug-in hybrid variant has an EV-only range of 25 miles and achieves a phenomenal 133 MPGe.

Autotrader's Advice

Working on the assumption that saving gas is all part of a bigger push to save money, the SE model with its particular Driver Assist package seems like the right balance of equipment and expenditure.

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2017 Ford C-MAX Energi: New Car Review - Autotrader