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It's A Gas... Now and Then

The 2013 Ford C-MAX

Looking back over decades of automotive trends, all sorts of inane ideas pop up: tail fins, two- and-three-toned (or more) paint jobs, vinyl tops, crushed-velour seats, red-line tires… the list goes on and on.

Lately, there are two major trends on my radar, he first and most annoying being styling. I was talking to a guy on the street the other day who said just what I’ve been thinking for years: From a block away most cars look very much alike. I think everybody went to the same design school, and there’s just not much innovation anymore.

The second trend is probably not so much a trend, but a portent of how it’s going to be from here on: alternative power plants. Hybrids, diesels, plug-ins—the only thing that seems to be missing from the picture is turbine power. (Okay, and nuclear-powered flying cars.) But this trend at least has some actual value to it.

One of the latest to join the group of hybrid offerings is Ford’s new C-MAX. Actually, the C-MAX is new only to North America, as it’s been on offer in Europe for a number of years now. The C-MAX is a small SUV-type vehicle, based on Ford’s Fusion platform. It is a gas/electric hybrid, also available with a larger capacity battery in a model called C-MAX Energi. If you were at this year’s Buffalo Auto Show, you saw one of each at the Ford display.

Both are five-passenger small wagons, with what I’d have to describe as limited cargo capacity with the rear seat in the upright position. Not only is there a short floor space behind the seat, it’s very shallow due to the placement of the battery pack (even more so in the Energi). But most buyers of these vehicles will probably be more concerned with fuel usage and driving range. Ford tells us the Energi has a range of 620 miles with a full tank of gas and a fully charged battery. To put that in perspective, it’s about a 400-mile drive from Buffalo to New York City. That would make for a pretty inexpensive trip. Using the government’s somewhat confusion miles-per-gallon formula for hybrids (I mean, how can they figure miles per gallon for an electric motor that uses zero gallons of anything?), we find that the C-MAX Energi is rated at 108 MPGe city (the “e” stands for equivalent) and 92 MPGe highway. You can also drive, according to Ford, up to 21 miles in electric-only mode. For many that’s enough for the daily trip to-and-from work, which would yield an infinite MPG for such a user. That’s not too shabby. The regular C-MAX Hybrid is rated 47/47 miles per gallon city/highway.

The front-wheel-drive power-train in both C-MAX models is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, gasoline-powered engine, along with a 118-horsepower electric motor, hooked up to a CVT (continuously variable transmission).

The C-MAX shares the available hands-free rear liftgate opening feature of the Escape, which consists of a sensor under the rear bumper that you wave your foot past to raise the door. Very handy when your hands are full. And you’ll find heated front seats, 60/40 folding rear seat, ambient lighting, climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, AM/FM/CD/MP3 six-speaker audio system, and much more on every C-MAX.

Pricing for the base Hybrid starts at $25,995, while the C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745—both prices listed are for a cash purchase.

Owning a Hybrid may be the first trend you’ve jumped on. Take comfort in knowing it’ll probably be in fashion far longer than the tail fin.

More info at

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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