Many owners of the C-Max Hybrid have reported lower than the EPA mpg for the C-Max Hybrid, a story I first wrote about in November. The ConsumerReports tests brought it to the attention of the media in December. McCuneWright LLP, the same law firm that filed a mpg lawsuit against Hyundai, filed a class-action lawsuit against Ford incorrectly stating Hyundai sold the Ford C-Max rather than Ford. I’ve also written a blog on understanding the EPA MPG measurement method. There are many interesting developments since these blogs were published.
If you’re a C-Max Hybrid owner, you play a significant role in determining your fuel economy. I’ve given suggestions on how to improve your fuel efficiency. However, I’m concerned that many experienced hybrid drivers on internet forums that bought the C-Max Hybrid are having troubling achieving 47 mpg. One person goes by “Paymaster” on CleanMPG.com and has a 2006 Civic Hybrid and a 2013 C-Max Hybrid. Paymaster said “I still like the C-MAX. I just wish the mileage was better, and still say with software changes it can be.”
There are many other forum users that are much more upset. An owner going by “CmaxVsPrius” on CleanMPG.com and Twitter, has a 2010 Prius Liftback and a 2013 C-Max Hybrid. CmaxVsPrius has been actively posting on his poor mpg for the Ford C-Max. He has other reasons to be disappointed with the car. His C-Max Hybrid has been in for repairs twice, most recently when the LCD screen on the dash went blank and he lost navigation, back-up camera and other touch controls. Despite his disappointment with the mpg, CMaxVsPrius likes a lot about the C-Max. As he said on January 16th, “What I want is the C-Max ride with the Prius mpg.”
On December 14th, Raj Nair, group vice president global product development said, “There have been some questions raised about fuel economy, so it is important to note that we have designed our hybrids to drive exactly the same as all our other vehicles, with the global Ford DNA. A key part of that DNA is ‘fun-to-drive’. We could have detuned the vehicles to maximize fuel economy like some of our competitors have done, but it would have been at the expense of a fun driving experience. And this would have meant that you would not be [able] to take advantage of the 54 more horsepower that the C-Max provides over the Prius.”
Although Nair states the poor C-Max Hybrid fuel economy experienced by owners is due to the horsepower of the hybrid, I’m inclined to think it is something more than this. It doesn’t make sense that there would be so many experienced hybrid owners on internet forums that are disappointed with their mpg. As of January 23rd, ten Ford C-Max owners have filed complaints on ConsumerWatchdog.org about their low mpg.
On December 27th, Larry P. Vellequette of Automotive News wrote a blog about the Ford C-Max Hybrid he bought last October. He drives it on a daily 120-mile round-trip commute. His driving also included a 660-mile holiday trip to Ohio. After driving it 5,200 miles, he reported an average of 35.5 mpg.
On January 3rd, Neal Pollack of Motoramic wrote a blog about driving the C-Max Hybrid more than 2,000 miles in the south. He’s a Prius owner. In the post, he drove the C-Max for two weeks on freeways, country roads and in cities. The trips included short errands and a long trip to visit family during the holidays. He reported an average of 33.5 mpg. He really didn’t report much detail, including highway speeds during the long holiday road trip.
Wayne Gerdes of CleanMPG.com has been discussing the mpg issue for the Ford C-Max and 2013 Fusion Hybrids since October. On CleanMPG.com, he said he spoke with Ford in November about a “backlash far worse than anything they have experienced with SYNC to date.” Mr. Gerdes, with two other drivers, traveled 365 miles from San Diego to Phoenix to test the mpg for the C-Max, Prius and Prius V. The drive consisted of 99% highway miles with an average speed of 66 mph. They measured the gasoline used, rotated drivers between the three vehicles, and drove together at the same speed. They drove the vehicles with cruise and without any attempt to improve mpg with hypermiling methods. Gerdes reported the C-Max Hybrid averaged 35.5 (37.2 displayed) mpg, Prius V averaged 40.8 (43.6 displayed) mpg, and Prius Liftback averaged 43.3 (47.1 displayed) mpg. Of these three vehicles, only the Prius V averaged better than the EPA mpg, at 40.8 over the EPA of 40, a 1.9% improvement.
Another interesting test of Mr. Gerdes was the steady state Prius V, Liftback, and C-Max tests. With these tests, the three vehicles were driven at 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 mph. The tests were conducted near the same time but were corrected for different temperatures. The results are shown in the chart below. It’s interesting that the Prius V exceeds the 40 mpg highway rating at every steady-state mph. The Ford C-Max drops significantly from the 47 mpg highway rating at 70 mph to just 38.1 mpg.
Gerdes also reported a 22.8 mile all-city San Diego route with a 200 ft elevation drop. Both the Prius V (55.8 mpg) and C-Max (52 mpg) exceed the EPA city mpg, but the Prius V exceeded it by a much larger margin.
It’s important to keep the fuel savings in perspective when comparison shopping. According to Fuelly.com on January 23rd, 2013, the average mpg that Prius V owners get is 42 mpg and C-Max Hybrid owners get 38 mpg. If you assumed that you paid $4 per gallon over the next year and drove 20,000 miles per year, you would save $200 over the year driving the Prius V. It may well be that you prefer a variety of features of the Ford C-Max features over other cars you’re considering. Mr. Gerdes and the two other drivers assisting in the mpg tests had interesting comments on the three vehicles. It’s possible that two of the drivers would have picked the Ford C-Max over the Prius models based on other factors.
The Ford C-Max Energi has the potential for much lower fuel costs than either Prius or the C-Max Hybrid. If most of your drives are short, the plug-in C-Max Energi is an exceptional choice while the tax credits are available. It promises exceptional fuel economy because you can drive about 20 miles with a full charge for less than one dollar. The 20 miles could even be free if you “fill up” at a public charger. Eighty-five percent of the public chargers are free.