Ford C-MAX – Our Long Term Testing Ends


Taking delivery of the C-MAX at the Ford dealer.

Our time with the C-MAX has come to an end.  What insights has our one year/13,000 mile relationship brought us?  Mostly, that the C-MAX is a much maligned car.  It got bad press due to the EPA’s outdated testing procedures that resulted in the C-MAX getting unrealistic mileage ratings and a troublesome radio.  Aside from those issues it was an excellent, reliable vehicle.

A quick review of the problems areas is in order.  The mileage issue started when Consumer Reports reported that the C-MAX didn’t achieve the 47 miles per gallon in the city / highway as reported by the EPA.  The fact that virtually no hybrid achieves the EPA estimates seemed to been lost in the desire for a headline story.  If you are interested in the details see my post Consumer Reports versus Ford.

The other bad press for the C-MAX was the “worse than average” reliability rating based on one issue:  The electrical system.  Why is the electrical system rated so poorly?  Because the radio is considered part of the electrical system and, based on our experience with the C-MAX, the radio is indeed a problem.  But is it such a huge problem that the car should be considered worse than average?

Our experience with the radio was that it occasionally would reset itself back to factory settings.  This meant we had to reset the clock and re-program our stations.  We took it to the dealership several times in attempts to have the issue corrected, but it was never fully resolved and remained an annoyance.  Not a problem, just an annoyance.  At no time did the sound system stop functioning.  In my opinion an electrical problem is like the one my mother’s ’84 Rabbit had.  If you turned on the windshield wipers it would occasionally stall the engine.  This happened to me once while driving it on the interstate.  Now that’s an electrical problem.

Aside from the radio issues the C-MAX presented us with no problems, which matches the results of Consumer Reports.  They also found the 2013 C-MAX as “better than average” or “much better than average rating” in every  area except the electrical system.

While the C-MAX didn’t get the milage the EPA estimated it got the gas mileage we expected.  We expected gas mileage would go down in the winter because hybrid batteries are less efficient in cold weather and it did. Still, even during one of the coldest winters on record the C-MAX averaged just over 40 miles per gallon (about a 7 mile per gallon drop compared to summer driving).  In warmer weather the C-MAX had no problem averaging over 47 miles per gallon (the exact number was 47.4).  The only area where the gas mileage of the C-MAX disappointed us was highway driving, it averaged just under 40 miles per gallon, well below the 47 mile per gallon EPA rating – which was subsequently changed to 40 miles per gallon by the EPA.

Overall our C-MAX was an excellent vehicle.  It had good acceleration and solid handling.  The interior was quiet, comfortable and attractive.  Add to that the utility of a small station wagon and a relatively low price (for a hybrid) and you have a very good vehicle.


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