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The C-Max Hybrid is more of a hatchback than a minivan: The second-row doors open conventionally, rather than slide open. Competitors to the C-Max Hybrid include the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight.
A plug-in version of the C-Max Hybrid can be recharged overnight to increase the electric motor's ability to move the car gas-free. Dubbed the C-Max Energi, it offers more than 500 miles of driving range on a tank of gas and a full electric charge, Ford says.
The C-Max Hybrid carries upper and lower grille openings. The lower grille has six stacked bars, which, combined with its trapezoidal shape, gives it a similar look to the grilles on Aston Martin's supercars.
The C-Max Hybrid offers active park assist, enabling the car to - in essence - parallel park itself. Multispoke wheels carry low-rolling-resistance tires. Ford's leaf-and-road emblem, which graces its current range of hybrids, sits on the tailgate and behind the front fenders.
Up front, the five-seat C-Max Hybrid's interior has various displays that offer additional eco-friendly information, including fuel-efficient navigation routing, battery charge and gas mileage. Drivers can even see electrical demands from vehicle accessories - the radio, headlamps and air conditioning - that influence battery charge. Both the C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi get Ford's new hands-free power liftgate, which lets you simply wave your foot underneath the rear bumper to automatically close or open the liftgate. Available features include Ford's Sync system, MyFord Touch multimedia system, Sony audio and navigation.
Though both fuel-efficient models offer the same interior passenger room, cargo capacity is a bit different. The C-Max Hybrid has 52.6 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front seats and 24.5 behind the second row. The plug-in C-Max Energi has a bit less cargo volume because of its larger battery pack: 42.8 cubic feet behind the front seats and 19.2 behind the second row.
Like the Fusion Hybrid, the C-Max Hybrid will employ SmartGauge with EcoGuide, a leaf-vine animation, in which efficient driving enables more leaves to grow.
Combining an electric motor with a four-cylinder gasoline engine that runs on a more-efficient Atkinson cycle, the C-Max Hybrid will achieve better capabilities than Ford's existing Fusion Hybrid, Ford says, meaning more than 41 mpg in the city and the ability to drive on electric power alone at speeds higher than 47 mph. Power for the electric motor comes from a lithium-ion battery. Total output for the C-Max Hybrid is 188 horsepower.
Like most hybrids, the C-Max has regenerative braking, wherein the battery recharges when you press the brakes. Up to a certain threshold, the friction brought on by recharging slows the car, with minimal usage of the actual brakes. (Beyond that threshold - panic stops, for instance - the brakes take on the job.) Ford's Brake Coach feature helps drivers decelerate as much as they can within the battery-charge threshold, thus accruing the most recharging with the least wear on braking hardware.
The C-Max Hybrid features a standard electronic stability system and antilock brakes, along with seven airbags including one for the driver's knees. Other safety features include Ford's programmable MyKey system and Sync 911, which pairs with your cellphone to automatically dial 911 in the event of a crash in which an airbag deploys.
Aside from modified transmission oil and a new cooling circuit, the C-Max Energi's drivetrain differs little from the C-Max Hybrid; Ford says both cars should offer similar maximum acceleration. The principle difference is the Energi's plug-in capability. Plug it in - Ford says the Energi can get a full charge overnight on a household 120-volt outlet - and the C-Max Energi can putter around on electric power alone for substantially longer than a C-Max Hybrid. Encounter a highway on-ramp or merging situation, and the engine will likely fire up to lend a hand. (That illustrates a key difference between a plug-in hybrid and an extended-range electric vehicle, like the Chevrolet Volt. The latter's EV range allows for full acceleration with minimal engine usage.)
As the C-Max Energi's battery depletes its charge, the threshold of electric operation decreases. Once the battery is depleted, the Energi swaps between electric and gasoline power, or a combination of the two, much like the C-Max Hybrid. With a smartphone application Ford plans to offer, drivers can program charging times to take advantage of lower overnight electric rates. They can also program the time they expect to get back behind the wheel, so the C-Max Energi can heat or cool the cabin using grid electricity rather than battery power.