Ford and Toyota both released new hybrids in 2013. The Ford C-MAX and the Toyota Prius v. Both fall into the “station wagon” category – they have room for five passengers with a decent amount of cargo space. Both vehicles are hybrids so they get very good gas mileage. They are close in price and have the utility you would expect of station wagons. The question is, which one is more deserving of your hard earned dollars.
Based on the lowest possible purchase price the Ford C-MAX is the cheaper of the two vehicles starting at $25,995 including the destination fee; The Prius v starts at $27,460 including the destination fee. The good news is even the base models of both cars are very well equipped.
Standard features for the C-MAX include dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 17-inch alloy wheels, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio with 6 speakers and a USB port. Even an overhead console for storing your sunglasses is included as standard.
Standard features for the Prius v include automatic climate control (single zone), AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, an auxiliary audio jack, and a USB port with iPod® connectivity and control.
The big difference between the C-MAX and the Prius v in terms of standard equipment is Toyota includes their Smart key system and a 6.1-in. touch-screen with integrated backup camera display. One of the things I like the most about the Smart key is it allows for push button starting (no searching for the ignition slot in the dark).
Recently the EPA revised its fuel economy for the C-MAX from 47 city/47 highway to a more realistic 45 city, 40 highway. However, even with the revised numbers the C-MAX still has slightly better EPA numbers than the Prius v (44 city, 40 highway).
Driving and handling is where the C-MAX shines. The C-MAX, to put it bluntly, blows the doors off the Prius v. The C-MAX has better acceleration, better handling, better visibility, more comfortable seating and a better dashboard layout. The Prius v does have slightly more passenger and cargo volume, but most people will never notice it. What they will notice is the Prius v is uncommonly slow and ponderous in its handling.
Both cars have well designed interiors with comfortable seating. Of course any judgment of interior appeal is subject to personal taste, but I believe most people will like the soft-touch plastics and the leather steering wheel of the C-MAX. The Prius v has a stark, utilitarian appearance when compared to the C-MAX; its not unappealing, just different. The Prius v uses more recycled materials in its interior than the C-MAX which may explain the lack of soft-touch plastics and non-leather steering wheel.
In addition to a more attractive interior, the C-MAX has a better dashboard display than the C-MAX. The Prius v uses the same somewhat confusing dashboard display as the Prius and has the same third petal parking brake. If you are used to driving a Prius the transition to the Prius v will be a no-brainer, for everyone else, the C-MAX has an advantage due to its more traditional layout.
Safety and Reliability
Since both models are new for 2013 there isn’t much data yet regarding their reliability, but because the Prius v uses largely the same components for its hybrid system as the Prius, I would expect it to have the same excellent reliability.
The NHTSA has given the Prius v 5 stars as an overall crash test rating, four stars for frontal crashes, 5 stars for side crashes and 4 stars for rollovers. The C-MAX has a 4 star overall rating, but has an identical ratings for frontal impacts, side impacts and rollovers as the Prius v. I was unable to find an explanation regarding why the overall rating for the Prius v is higher than that of the C-MAX considering the frontal, side and rollover ratings are identical for the two vehicles.
Comparison - Ford C-MAX vs. Toyota Prius v
|2013 Ford C-MAX SE||2013 Prius v Two|
|MSRP (destination fee not included)||$25,200||$26,550|
|MPG (city, highway, combined)||45/40/43||44/40/42|
|Cargo volume (cu. ft.)||52.6||67.3|
|Automatic dual zone climate control||Standard||Automatic single zone|
|Sound system||AM/FM/CD/MP3 6-speakers||AM/FM/CD/MP3 6-speakers|
|Signaling exterior mirrors||Standard||Not available|
|Smart key||Not available for the SE||Standard|
Overall the C-MAX is probably the vehicle most people will end up purchasing. It’s not so much that the C-MAX is cheaper and gets slightly better mileage; it’s that the C-MAX is fun to drive and pleasant to ride in, while in comparison the Prius v is boring. In addition, the C-MAX is the more user friendly car. The dashboard readouts are easy to understand and the parking brake is where you expect it, in between the driver and passenger seats.