Ford C-Max Is Awesome

 A Guest Blog by Dave Johnson blogging at seeingtheforest.com.  Editor’s Note: Please send blog recommendations to info@cmaxchat.com.

I bought a C-Max Hybrid in May. I have had it for a few months and I love this car, so I’m writing this review about it.

I had a 2000 Honda Accord and it was losing its reliability. I spent a lot of time researching cars. (My wife was finally saying “Jeeze, just buy a car already, I don’t care anymore, just buy any car and get it over.”)

Before trying the C-Max I researched and drove (and rented when I could) Ford Focus & Fusion, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius and Toyota Camry. My favorite of those was the Volt but it was more expensive and my wife wasn’t as enthusiastic. I also liked the Accord.

The Fusion was nice but oddly my wife could barely see out of the passenger window and there were no options for raising the seat. (She is not short.) After driving the Fusion the salesperson suggested trying a C-Max — otherwise I would not have thought of it and hadn’t really even heard of it. This is when I discovered the C-Max, and both my wife and I loved it.

Gas Mileage

Even though I liked the Accord, I finally decided to buy either a hybrid like the Prius or a plug-in like the Volt or Ford’s Energi. (Notes: 1- I vastly prefer the C-Max now that I have driven it. 2- Honda’s Accord Hybrid and plug-in Hybrid weren’t readily available yet and more expensive than I think they should be.) I’m just sick of being so dependent on the oil companies, shelling out huge amounts of dollars every time I fill up and filling up so often. I didn’t want a pure EV like the Leaf because of range. I want the freedom to take longer trips without renting a car. But the plug-in Energi didn’t work for me for a few reasons. (I am starting to regret the decision to just go hybrid.)

Also, by the way, hybrids and especially plug-in hybrids are not using the gas engine as often so the future maintenance costs will be lower (think water cooler, etc.) The recommended oil change interval on the C-Max is 10,000 miles.

In the C-Max hybrid, I’m getting right around 40.5 miles per gallon now. This is mostly city driving but I get the same mileage on the highway – maybe even a bit more. I know this is the opposite of what to expect, but I just do. Also the mileage is improving as the car breaks in and as I get used to better driving habits, so I think this mileage will go up but we’ll see.

I am careful about braking ahead of time and the “braking coach” helps with this. The displays for mpg, etc. also help. I try to cruise at a consistent speed. I could probably be getting a bit over 41 mpg with a bit of work. I do accelerate more than the “green” guidelines once in a while — and this car can accelerate.

Performance

The C-Max might be a little overpowered. 188 HP in a smaller(?) car is a lot of power and you really feel it when you step on the accelerator. This car just kicks ass when you need it. But it’s also great when it is working in electric mode. The transition is seamless – you rarely notice that the engine has come on or turned off.

The handling is also very, very good. The steering is responsive, the “road feel” is great. As I said I tried a number of cars, the C-Max was just about the best.

In fact the performance and handling were the major reasons for choosing C-Max over a Prius. I was at the Ford dealer, they were jerking me around about price, lease, terms, interest and everything else and I got fed up and left. That was when I finally went to a Prius dealer and drove a Prius to see if I could stand it. I couldn’t after driving the C-Max. The Ford dealer sent a text with a very good price on a 2013 C-Max they still had so I went over and bought it.

Did I mention how easy to park this car is? It’s really easy to park. It’s actually smaller than it seems so you have many more options and with the back-up sensor I just don’t have to worry. The excellent handling helps as well.

Size

This is weird. We can’t seem to figure out how big this car is. It (usually) doesn’t look that big. But it’s like the Tardis: Inside it’s bigger than it is outside. Seriously. Inside there is a lot of room, and you can fit three in the back. But outside it’s not really that big. It’s like a tall Focus. But it’s also like an SUV. Parked next to some cars it’s small, others it seems big. The color seems to differ too. Anyway go see for yourself.

The car is tall. You can fit a very, very tall person in front or back, no trouble, plenty of room. Plenty of leg room. It is almost surprisingly big inside.

The back seats fold down separately, giving you a flat space to the rear door. This gives you plenty of room for bicycles, big things from Ikea, etc. (In the plug-in Energi version the extra battery takes up some of the space so it is not flat.)

Quiet And Comfort

One of my main requirements for a car was a comfortable and quiet ride. The C-Max starts up with no engine noise because a hybrid is in electric mode until it needs the engine running. You turn the key, nothing, and you have to get used to that. (These days when I get in a regular gas car I turn the key but don’t wait for it to start, and then wonder why it won’t go.)

So the first part of quiet is when the engine isn’t making noise. You start moving – no noise. You stop at a light – no noise. Much of the time the car is operating in the city – no noise.

When the engine does come on the car is still quiet. As I said, this feels like a rather high-end car. And you don’t even really notice the transition to gas-engine mode. (Later you’ll start getting sensitive to when you are using gas, and then you’ll watch for the engine to come on.)

On the highway the car is quiet, but don’t open the rear windows without opening a front window also. The aerodynamics cause an intolerable thumping noise. It’s not as bad as the Volt, which sounds like you are in a helicopter if you open a rear window on the highway, but it’s the same effect.

Seats are comfortable, steering wheel telescopes and goes up and down. There is a huge windshield and visibility is great all-around.

The car I bought also has the glass roof. I hadn’t thought I cared about that but the car with the price had it, and now I love it and wouldn’t get a car without it.

This car also has ambient lighting and I have to admit it is really cool. And the powered rear hatch door is a big bonus. I don’t have the option where you wave your foot under the car to open the tailgate but I can see how that would come in very handy!

The cup holders are great. However, the storage space in the front is … weird. There is a center console that is really just a deep hole. You put something in it and you have to dig, and it is lost down there with all the other things that fell down the hole. The “glove” box is good, and even has a pen holder. But there really isn’t much else. The door pockets are non-functional, there is a cup holder in each but no cup is going to go in there. They are too deep and too narrow to put much in… There is a little place to put a few quarters… Nowhere to put CDs or anything else. The sunglasses holder above is good.

It would be great if there was an aftermarket center console organizer available.

Electronics: Phone, Map, Music, Climate Control, Etc.

Cars have changed and improved a lot in the last few years. I just love using the touch-screen to handle many of the car’s functions.

The navigation works. This is a big deal because car navigation didn’t used to work very well. It is accurate, it is designed to get you there, it beeps at the right times, etc. It recalculates instantly when you go off the route. But the map is mostly useful for directions and not as a way to see what is nearby. I still use the phone map to see what is nearby, get a bigger picture of the area, search for things, etc.

I do have to say the voice commands are pretty much useless. You might think that Siri on the iPhone can never understand what you are saying, but don’t even bother with the Ford system. I have not been able to use voice to set a destination on the navigation system. It does recognize when I say “destination home” but for some reason it forgets my settings for home every few weeks and I have to put them in again every couple of weeks. So get used to using the touch screen to enter your destination. You have to do this before you start driving, or pull over – for safety it won’t let you do this if the car is moving.

The radio and Sirius XM are great. The sound quality is very, very good. But again, I don’t bother to try to use the voice commands. The car hooks up to your phone or tablet through Bluetooth or through the media hub, USB, etc. and you can play your music, Pandora, etc. You can also charge your phone with the USB. There’s a 12-volt port on the console, a 110 volt outlet in the back and another 12-volt in the storage space behind the rear seats.

The car hooks up to your phone through Bluetooth. The calling and call-receiving controls are great and work well.  I used to be able to get it to read texts from my iPhone and now I can’t – what’s up with that?  I am able to use voice to call people in my phone book.  That works fine.

The climate control is great and you can have different temperatures for the passenger and driver. I haven’t even tried to use the voice control for that.

I have the back-up sensors and they are great. They have already kept me from bumping into other cars and things in parking lots. But I ended up with no back-up camera. I do wish I had that. I also think I would get the self-parking system next time if only just to get front sensors as well.

One more thing – the automatic headlights are great. You don’t have to turn the headlights on or off, they just come on when they need to and turn off when they aren’t needed. Of course you can manually turn the headlights on, such as when the road requires daytime headlights.

Feels High-End

Interestingly the C-Max fells like a higher-end car instead of a regular family or mid-size car. It feels solid, drives very nicely and responsively and has a nice interior (I love the ambient lighting.)

I recently visited a cousin who has a Cadillac SUV, and the C-Max has pretty much every feature the Cadillac had, except I bought one that doesn’t have electric seat adjustment. And I get 40 mpg. HA!

Price

Buy or lease? After doing research I think a lease is a good deal depending on how many miles you will be driving, especially if you are getting a new car every few years. It’s a big deal that you don’t pay the full sales tax if you lease — only the tax on each payment.  [C-MaxChat: This is correct in most states.  Some states charge sales tax on the entire cost of the car with a lease.]  If you buy a car and then sell it to get a new one in a few years you pay the full sales tax each time. On the other hand if you are driving a lot the miles will eat you up.

Ford dealers have some great incentives on the C-Max now so check it out. But watch out – they’re car dealers. Be ready to leave, especially if you are getting tired. Be sure what you want to spend, and look carefully at all the terms. I had a problem with the dealer pushing me too hard to try to close a sale involving a lease. It was so much it just freaked me out at one point — and I didn’t understand a lease well enough — so I just left (and went to a Prius dealer). As I said the dealer texted me with a special deal on a 2013 so I came back in and bought it. (Some of the incentives didn’t apply to a lease…)

Energi Plug-In vs. Hybrid?

If you commute to work it is a no-brainer, get the Energi plug-in version. Seriously. If your round-trip commute is less than around 20 miles — or 40 miles if you have somewhere to plug the car in at work — you aren’t paying for gas to get to and from work. You also aren’t using the gas engine and that saves on maintenance as time passes. Look at your monthly gas bill and thing about not paying that anymore! Plus there is a tax credit from the government, and an additional state tax credit in many states.

My electric company has a special deal for EV owners, where they charge very little if you set the timer to charge very late at night/early morning.

I bought the hybrid because 1) I don’t commute so I won’t have the huge savings on gas and 2) I wanted the extra space instead of battery behind the seats for suitcases because we will be using this car for longer trips where the plug-in won’t save all that much.

Conclusion

I like the C-Max better every day. Above I wrote about liking the Volt and Accord, but I am so happy with the C-Max that my next car almost certainly would be a C-Max as well. It’s just such a surprise. The need to work on the console and other front storage and nooks, and they really, really need to work on the voice controls and user-not-friendly nature of the commands, especially with the navigation. Fortunately I expect they will be updating the software so even my 2013 will improve on that.

Definitely get a C-Max! It’s an awesome car. It is not the Ford you might have expected. I’d get this over a Honda, Toyota, Chevy and many other cars. If someone reading this sends me a Tesla I’ll keep it, though.


Disclaimer — I am not writing this for any reason or for any compensation of any kind, except that I really like this car and I have a blog. I worked at Ford in the mid-late 1970s, working on the early computerized carburetors, but trust me that experience would not lead me to be biased toward recommending a Ford. Looks like maybe the company and the product has changed for the better.

Please leave a comment — especially if I have given some incorrect information here. Also, feel free to just start or add to a discussion.

The Ford C-Max Energi is in a New Viral Video

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Enjoying our 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

Last December I noted the Ford C-Max and Fusion Energi were in a YouTube video that was created by a videographer, Devin Graham, who has created many viral videos.  The video, the Bike Parkour – Streets of San Francisco, has more than 4 million views today.  A couple days ago, a new video was posted on YouTube, Upside: Anything is Possible.  The video features Pashon Murray, co-founder of Detroit Dirt, which recycles waste food, zoo manure and other organic material into compost used to create community gardens in Detroit.  The video was the idea of Ford’s PR agency, Team Detroit, but published on a new YouTube channel called Upside.  The new short’s script and videography parallels the Cadillac ELR commercial: “Poolside” (the ELR is the rebadged Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid) with more than one million views on YouTube published February 7th, 2014.  The Ford C-Max Energi video is stirring opinions at Green Car Reports, the Detroit Free Press, various other websites, and at Twitter with the hash tag #Upside.  The C-Max Energi short has almost 400,000 views on YouTube – that’s about a hundred thousand more than when I started writing this blog a few hours ago.  I like the “Anything is Possible” video and it’s definitely giving the Ford C-Max Energi some needed attention.  Whenever I’ve talked to anyone about our C-Max Energi, they didn’t realize Ford made a plug-in vehicle (actually, three plug-in vehicles) or that Ford sold more plug-in vehicles last month in the U.S. than anyone else.

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It’s a Great Time to Buy a C-Max Energi; Here’s How to Get a Bargain

Last month, I wrote an article on deals for the C-Max Energi in California.  Those were based on government incentives in California.  How can the rest of us get a deal on a Ford C-Max Energi.  My son’s interested in buying a Ford C-Max Energi.  I’m searching for a deal for him.  I decided to write a blog that might be helpful to others.

If you follow all of this advice, you can get an exceptional discount on the Ford C-Max Energi, $14,000 or more off MSRP and additional tax credits and incentives depending on your state and city.

I enjoy finding bargains.  This is a good time to shop for a 2013 Energi.  The 2014 and 2013 models are the same, but Ford and dealers need to clear out old inventory.  Many 2013 models have been sitting on dealer lots for a long time.  The weather in much of the country didn’t encourage car shopping lately either.  It’s a great time for a car buyer.

There are two metrics that determine how desperate manufacturers and dealers are to sell their vehicles.  One is how much inventory is available for sale.  A 60 to 70 day supply (assembly line to sale) is considered normal.  The other is days to turn, or the time it takes to sell a car from the day it is delivered to the dealer.  Right now, it is 64.9 days according to TrueCar, which is quite long and up 23% from one year ago.

Here’s another metric, related to those above, to indicate regions where dealers should be most competitive.  For some time, I’ve kept track of dealer inventory in different metropolitan regions.  Using Edmunds.com, one can get the inventory of 2013 and 2014 vehicles within 50 miles of a zip code.  The ratio of 2013 inventory to total inventory is the metric I’m using.  In other words, what is the percent of unsold vehicles that are the 2013 model year.  It’s also important that inventory is high.  In other words, if there was only one 2013 Energi in the region that normally has 15, it wouldn’t be an area to get the best price – inventory is too low in the region.  Regions with a large percent of unsold 2013’s will be our best markets to get a deal.

Some metro areas stand out for bargain shopping for the Ford C-Max Energi.  Raleigh-Durham (zip code 27713) inventory is at 104% of the next highest month of inventory, on February 3rd, 69% of the inventory was 2013’s and on March 9th, 79% of the inventory was 2013’s.  Washington D.C. (zip code 20011) inventory is at 74% of the highest month of inventory (August 2013), on February 3rd, 87% of the inventory was 2013’s and on March 9th, 76% of the inventory was 2013’s.   Atlanta (zip code 30301) inventory is at 83% of the highest month of inventory (August 2013), on February 3rd, 94% of the inventory was 2013’s and on March 9th, 62% of the inventory was 2013’s. Austin (zip code 73301) inventory is at 73% of the highest month of inventory (November 2013), on February 3rd, 50% of the inventory was 2013’s and on March 9th, 50% of the inventory was 2013’s.  Even though my son and I live in Utah, we’re considering a trip to one of these areas where the price on a new Energi is far below invoice.

Here’s another suggestion: examine the days to turn for the vehicles that you’re interested in buying.  Use Ford.com to find dealers in the market of interest.  Search each dealer’s website for 2013 Energis.  If you find one of interest, display the window sticker.  It’s normally available at the dealer’s website.  Examine the top edge of the window sticker. You’ll see a section on the top edge that looks like the image below.  This car was built on March 19th, 2013.  The format is Year – Month – Date.  It’s on the left side of the image.

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Although the dealer didn’t receive the car on this date, it gives you a good idea of how long it’s been sitting on the lot.  In this case, a very long time.

Finally, there may be incentives (tax credits, free parking, HOV lane access, etc.) in your state, region or city.  These will be available where the vehicle is registered, not where it’s purchased.  State and local incentives can be found at the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.  There is also a tax credit of $4007 from the Federal Government.

In addition, Ford has several incentives that may depend on the region where the Energi is purchased.  In most cases, you can get a rebate of $3,000 plus 0% for up to 72 months on the loan this month.  Finally, this can be combined with a competitive lease offer of $1000.  If you lease a vehicle now (or its ended very recently), ask the dealer if your vehicle qualifies for the additional $1000 rebate from Ford.

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