Just going by size and shape, Ford's new C-Max would seem to have the potential to do well these days. Big on the inside, but fairly compact on the outside, nd a wide hatch to access a roomy cargo area. And there's a little added bonus: It's a hybrid.
"It's not only a hybrid, but it's a great car. It's really a product as a small utility that slots between our current Focus and the brand new Escape," said Ford engineer John Davis.
The C-Max is already popular in Europe, and when Ford was making plans to bring it to the U.S., the decision was made to offer it solely as a hybrid.
"Customers are so focused on fuel economy by say 6 or 10 to 1, that's the most important purchase reason," said Davis.
The official estimate is an overall MPG rating of 47. Since Ford's now been in the hybrid game for a while, they put all their "eco" tricks into it, including a new lithium-ion hybrid battery for extra efficiency.
When driving, you can track your fuel-saving progress via several dashboard displays. When you drive efficiently, you earn "leaves" on an animated vine.
Ford says the C-Max's closest competitor, the Toyota Prius V, doesn't do quite as well in terms of mileage, and it costs more.
Then again, the Prius V has the advantage of being a Prius. To many hybrid shoppers, that's an automatic plus, no matter what the spec sheets say.
The EPA fuel-economy rating of 47 city or highway is pretty good. Most people would be quite happy to have that. Pretty soon if you want even better mileage there will be another version of this car.
The upcoming Engergi C-Max will be a plug-in hybrid, able to go 20 miles on electricity alone.
"Now we know it's not as long as a full electric vehicle, but it's a great compromise for those customers who have moderate travel distances, want to drive on electric mode, but also need greater total range," said Davis.
The regular C-Max does pretty well as it is, considering it casts a small-car shadow but has mid-size interior room. Its fuel-efficiency is very good, even by compact car standards.
With many American drivers now wary of fluctuating gas prices, this new Ford could really be a winner.