Sure, the Focus-based 2018 Ford C-Max Hybrid is growing a little old, but it’s been a car ahead of its time. Instead of being merely a compact hatchback with a hybrid drivetrain, the C-Max adopts a higher ride height and a taller body. So owners get to enjoy a somewhat elevated driving position, while passengers in the back can relish in the generous headroom. Only now are rivals like the Kia Niro Hybrid springing up.
Because of that Focus foundation, the C-Max handles better than most competitors. The only thing is that the Focus is due for renewal come the 2019 model year, so we’ll have to wait and see what Ford does with this variant.
An unavoidable compromise is the location of the battery pack in the cargo area, which naturally has an impact on carrying capacity. And bear in mind that newer rivals have better fuel consumption. But overall, the C-Max continues to be a strong choice for family duty.
What’s New for 2018?
There are no changes for this model year.
What We Like
Small on the outside; roomy on the inside; quiet and composed ride
What We Don’t
Tall Euro-wagon styling won’t win any beauty contests; braking ability less than ideal
The 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) sends this system’s combined 188 horsepower to the front wheels.
Fuel economy is estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 42 miles per gallon city, 38 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Ford C-Max Hybrid comes in SE and Titanium trim levels.
SE ($24,995) has a 60/40 fold-down rear seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped tilt-telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, rearview camera, Sync voice command, Bluetooth, plus a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input and a USB port.
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.
Titanium ($28,150) 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, 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).
Among the other options are a fixed panoramic sunroof, door-unlocking keypads and navigation.
The C-Max has 52.6 cu ft. of cargo space behind the front seats, or 24.5 cu ft. behind the second row. That first figure is good; the second figure is less impressive. Handy features include underfloor storage compartments and a 110-volt power outlet.
The 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. Anti-lock disc brakes and seven airbags are also standard.
In government crash tests, the C-Max Hybrid received four stars out of five overall; four stars for front impacts, five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) scores the C-Max as Good (the highest rating) in every category except the small-overlap front offset test, where it was judged Acceptable (second highest).
Behind the Wheel
The C-Max Hybrid has a tall, SUV-like seating position that enables a commanding view of the road, while the slightly curved roofline provides ample headroom.
Press the accelerator gently, and the C-Max pulls away in silent 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 energetic progress. It’s surprisingly punchy given the fuel economy ratings. Incidentally, it’s easy to click the shifter inadvertently into L, which sharpens acceleration and charges the battery more intensely through brake regeneration.
One of the C-Max Hybrid’s strongest suits is a nimble driving character. When pushed, it handles tight corners skillfully, feeling more like the Focus hatchback it’s based on than the tall wagon it actually is. On the highway, the cabin remains pleasantly quiet. Not many hybrids can match these qualities.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Toyota Prius — The car everyone thinks of when they hear the word "hybrid." Rated at 52 mpg combined.
2018 Kia Niro Hybrid — Spacious for a small car. Rides well. Averages 50 mpg.
2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid — A compact hatchback. Keenly priced and well-equipped. Good for 55 mpg combined.
Used Lexus CT 200h — A compact hatchback with a more luxurious vibe, the CT 200h has been discontinued for 2018. Look for a certified pre-owned (CPO) version.
An SE version with the relevant Driver Assist package is a good starting point, then see how the budget goes from there.