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Ford C-Max Energi first drive review

Ford has given its diesel and petrol models the hybrid treatment in a bid to cash in on the surge in energy conscious motorists. The results so far include the Focus Electric, the Fusion Hybrid, C-Max hybrid and the C-Max Energi. But are they any good, and how do they compare to their petrol-powered originals? We’ve driven them all and can give you the full low-down starting here with the C-Max Hybrid.

What is the C-Max Energi?

The Energi’s larger battery means it can travel for 21 miles on electric power alone and greatly improves the average fuel economy when driven on a mixture of electric and petrol power.The Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid is a medium-sized, five-seater family wagon that has much in common with the slightly more familiar C-Max Hybrid. It even uses the same 148bhp Atkinson-cycle 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and 118bhp electric motor, both of which run through Ford’s home-built HF35 eCVT powertrain.

However unlike the standard C-Max Hybrid, the Energi ditches the relatively paltry 1.8kWh lithium-ion battery in favour of a larger 7.6kWh unit. The bigger battery gives the car the ability to travel for 21 miles on electric power alone and greatly improves its average fuel economy when driven on a mixture of electric and petrol power.

So how fuel efficient is it?

We drove the C-Max Energi on a mixture of roads and it reported an impressive 75mpgWe piloted the C-Max Energi through a mixture of brisk dual-carriageways, stop-start traffic and city cruising, at the end of which it reported an impressive 75mpg. We started our drive in electric-only mode with the car’s battery charged to 80 per cent, switching to a more traditional hybrid mode when it ran low.

The 75mpg figure doesn’t come anywhere near Ford’s claimed 121mpg, but it’s a lot higher than the 53mpg imperial seen in the C-Max hybrid (this figure has now been reduced to 47mpg amid complaints from owners).

Can I increase that efficiency?

The C-Max Energi performed admirably, even with our lead-footed driving. With very careful motoring, plenty of anticipation and a fully charged battery we can see users achieving economy figures more in line with Ford’s. That said, those that begin a driving stint with a low battery will see figures more in line with, or perhaps worse, than the C-Max Hybrid’s.

those that begin a driving stint with a low battery will see figures more in line with the C-Max Hybrid’s.The C-Max Energi encourages you to drive more efficiently by relaying plenty of eco-oriented driving information via a hybrid display located in the instrument panel in front of the steering wheel. It’s quite easy to become obsessive here, as the car shows you just how much juice its ancillary systems are consuming; everything from the air-conditioning to the stereo is monitored.

It also shows how gentle (or vigorous) you’re being with the accelerator, and whether you’re asking the car to run on electric power (good) or petrol (bad). Drive like a nanny and the car will award you with virtual leaves as an incentive to continue in the same vein.

Tell me about the driving modes

The C-Max Energi has three driving modes; Auto, EV-only and EV-later. The first switches between petrol and battery power seamlessly as required. EV-only runs on battery power at speeds of up to 85mph until the battery is depleted, at which point it switches back to auto. EV-later will save whatever power is left in the battery, letting you decide when to use the car as an electric vehicle.

What’s the driving range?

Ford reckons you can go 620 miles with a fully charged battery and a tank of fuel, which we can just about believe. You could, in theory, drive the thing indefinitely without consuming any petrol, provided you stick to electric only mode and recharge it every time the battery runs. An overnight recharge takes xx hours.

How practical is the C-Max Energi?

The C-Max Energi is ostensibly the same MPV as the standard C-MAX, so it provides plenty of headroom for all passengers. Leg room could be better in the back, though. Six-footers have just about enough room, but anyone taller might have a running battle with passengers in the front about how far back they’ve pushed their seat.

Fitting five passengers inside should be faily easy unless your family plays NBA basketball.Ultimately, fitting five passengers inside should be easy unless your family plays NBA basketball, but you may want to consider a roof rack or trailer for all the luggage. Much of the car’s boot space given away to housing the electric battery pack, so it’s pretty inadequate unless you ditch the family, fold the rear seats and through your gear in the back.

Some brownie points are clawed back by the big door pockets in the front, roomy glove compartment and two cup-holders that could accommodate the biggest McDonalds beverage. The cup holders are actually illuminated by LEDs, a neat touch that lets you slot your drink in more accurately you to guide your drink in at night, making spillages less likely. It’s the simple things.

There’s towing potential, too. The engine provides plenty of oomph even when running in full-electric mode so we doubt there’s a caravan out there that can unsettle the C-Max Energi. Torque, naturally for this type of vehicle, is more than adequate.

What’s the C-Max Energi like to drive?

Despite its general bulk, the C-Max Energi is a pleasure to drive around tight city streets. This is partly due to the incredible visibility afforded by the gigantic windscreen which, combined with the panoramic glass roof and large side windows, makes you feel like you are driving a mobile fish tank.

Bumps and potholes are soaked up with aplomb, yet the ride is far from soggy. The C-Max Energi feels composed, agile and dependable even at speed. The engine is noisy under load, but drops to a more bearable level when cruising.Bumps and potholes are soaked up with aplomb, yet the ride is far from soggy. The C-Max Energi feels composed, agile and dependable even at speed. The engine is noisy under load, but drops to a more bearable level when cruising.

It’s no slouch around the city, either. You rarely need to plant your foot hard to get all that weight moving ─ we were able to leave the lights with surprising speed, much to the bemusement of fellow road users.

Steering response is sharp and the car maintains a constant, predictable line even when blasting through sweeping turns. The kids and the dog might not appreciate the hoonery potential this provides, but anyone that kicks them to the curb will enjoy driving the C-Max Energi.

It stops well, too. You’ll need to be gentle as the regenerative braking scrubs off a fair bit of speed before you even push the pedal. Apply the pedal willy nilly, particularly if you’re wearing boots or any other inappropriate footwear, and you might suffer a form of mild whiplash. Still, at least it inspires confidence when you have the fruit of your loins in the back seat.

What’s it like on the inside?

There’s plenty of plastic around the cabin but a mixture of matt and gloss surfaces and some angular lines around the centre console and dashboard make the C-Max Energi feel anything but fuddy-duddy.

Things are fairly bland in the rear but the interior lights were neatly designed, breaking up otherwise large swathes of grey on grey, and the blue LED illumination in the front and rear footwells are a nice touch.

How much will the C-Max Energi cost?

A UK price is yet to be confirmed. In fact, the release date is still in the air, but we do know the C-Max Energi costs US$32,950 ─ a fair bit more than the US$25,500 Hybrid SE. We think a £30,000 price tag seems likely, excluding the government’s plug-in car grant of £5,000. That might make the C-Max Energi a little pricey on paper, but if you drive a lot then it could start paying for itself in the long run.

Outlook

The Ford C-Max Energi left a positive impression on us. It might not be a car anyone aspires to own (not only is it an MPV, it’s also a plug-in hybrid for goodness sake) but it fulfils its brief well. Boot space is rather poor for a vehicle of this type but if that’s not a deal breaker then we think you’ll enjoy its myriad other talents. 

Key Specs

Model tested: Ford C-Max Energi
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel + electric motor
Power: 141bhp + 47bhp
Economy: 121mpg
Emissions: 49g/km CO2
Price: est £35,000 
Score:

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