Friday, July 06, 2012

Ford C-Max Targets Prius-V 
But is that the best comparison?

Ford is issuing press releases touting the fuel economy of its new hybrid, the C-Max, by saying the bulbous compact gets better fuel economy than Toyota's Prius-V. The V is the larger sibling of the traditional Prius. At 47 MPG, the C-Max beats the Prius-V by 4 MPG. The problem is, looking at the specs, the C-Max is really squarely sized in between the regular Prius and the Prius V.  At 173.6 inches long, the C-Max is three inches shorter than the standard Prius, and is 8 inches shorter than the Prius V.  In fact, the C-Max is only 2 inches longer than the hatchback version of the Ford Focus. The C-Max shares an assembly line with the Focus in Wayne, Michigan.  What about cargo space? Here again, the C-Max is closer to the regular Prius than the Prius-V. The C-Max has 24.5 cu.ft. in cargo space with the rear seat up.  That's just a bit more than the regular Prius's 23.8, and it's a lot lower than the Prius-V's 34.3 cu.ft. The C-Max barely exceeds the cargo space of the regular Focus, which has 21.6 cu.ft.

This is not to say that the C-Max doesn't have some advantages over the Prius V. The C-Max has an inch or two over the Prius V in virtually every measure inside the passenger cabin. The C-Max has a substantial edge over both Prii in total system horsepower. Ford is quoting a combined gas-electric rating of 188 horsepower. Both Prii have only 134 horses. Per Edmunds, the C-Max weighs 3,674 lbs, significantly beefier than either the Prius V or the base Prius. Even so, that's 19.5 lbs/hp. That's a better power to weight ratio than the regular prius (22.7 lbs/hp) and the Prius V (24.4 lbs/hp).  Based on the numbers and the performance of the lower-powered 2008-2012 Ford Fusion hybrid, it is likely that the C-Max will be able to go from 0-60 in the 8.5-9.0 second range, compared to high 9's for the standard Prius and mid-10s for the Prius-V. 

The bottom line is that the C-Max really isn't an extended family wagon like the Prius-V. Ford makes and sells in other markets a slightly longer version of the C-Max called the Grand C-Max. The Grand C-Max would have been a closer match to the V. The C-Max is really just a somewhat taller version of the Focus Hatchback, a car much closer in size to the standard Prius.  It's likely that comparably equipped, the C-Max will be available for a somewhat lower transaction price than even the regular Prius, because Toyota dealers still seem to have a problem selling the Prius without a bunch of dealer-added gunk.  The fuel economy difference between the two is essentially trivial. For the typical car buyer the decision will come down to which one you like better and which dealer gives you a better sales and service experience.

The C-Max covers the hybrid field in one respect. It's union-made in the USA. The C-Max seems to be a good blend of fuel economy, practicality and performance, and the hybrid premium is relatively low, much lower than the discontinued Ford Escape Hybrid. The C-Max is therefore on my short list for new car shopping this fall.

Here's the link to the comparison that I used to look at these cars. Feel free to play around with it at your leisure 

Image credit: I got the image from, but it appears to be a Ford press image.  


  1. The C-Max has an inch or two over the Prius V in virtually every measure inside the passenger cabin. That is good.

    1. Hey Indy Hyundai, one of my long term projects is to write a comparative review of the Sonata Hybrid (or Kia Optima Hybrid), Toyota Camry Hybrid, 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and (if it shows up) 2013 Honda Accord Hybrid. If you let me borrow one over a Sunday, I'll give you props in the review. - Hof

  2. The C-Max has an inch or two over the Prius V in virtually every measure inside the passenger cabin. That is good.


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