Larry P. Vellequette
Larry P. Vellequette
Chrysler Group reporter

Many C-Max owners -- including me -- knew the mpg estimate was askew

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I don't want to say I told you so, but … wait; that's not entirely true.

I do want to say I told you so.

Back in mid-October, about two weeks after I bought my 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid SEL, I wrote a column explaining that I couldn't come close to its promised 47 city/47 highway/47 combined mpg.

I went so far as to meet with the C-Max's chief engineer, asking him what I was doing wrong and how I could amend my driving habits to get what was promised.

And I wasn't alone. In the weeks and months since I first wrote about my C-Max's less-than-promised fuel economy, I heard from scores of fellow C-Maxians, some agreeing with my assessment, others having a better experience.

Now the EPA has finally tested the C-Max and found its fuel economy sticker was off-target. I'm not sure yet where that leaves me in terms of my relationship with Ford, but here are some things I do know.

I am now 10 months and 17,000 miles from my purchase last Oct. 8 of a 2013 Ford C-Max SEL. My C-Max has been recalled three times so far, including once for a software update on the finicky MyFord Touch system (the clock keeps resetting to odd times for no reason). I also got two recall letters this month, one to put additional padding in the headliner, and another to -- surprise -- reprogram the computer that decides what my fuel economy will be.

Look, being an owner doesn't necessarily make me an expert on the Ford C-Max, but here are some things I've learned about what was supposed to be my 47-mpg money saver:

• Like my wife, it hates winter. Even after getting one-on-one coaching, my fuel economy dropped with the temperatures here in the Midwest, falling to an accumulated average of 34.5 at the 10,000-mile mark toward the end of February. Other C-Max owners around the country that wrote to me seemed to have better luck in warmer climates and worse in frigid areas. In retrospect, perhaps launching a temperature-sensitive hybrid in mid-autumn might not have been the best idea the Blue Oval ever had.

• Fuel economy returned in the spring. Similarly, my average fuel economy began climbing again as warmer weather returned. I have a 6-mile drive that I make once a week down a relatively open city street. In colder weather, I have recorded as low as 29 mpg on the onboard monitor, and in warmer weather, with the air-conditioner off, as high as 52 mpg. The 52-mpg mark, by the way, is my own personal best for any trip that used both the gasoline and electric energy sources.

• As I said before, the C-Max is a great Focus: The packaging and utility of the C-Max has grown on me with time. It is a comfortable ride with a configurable cabin that allows me to carry people and stuff with relative ease. I like the headroom, the visibility and almost all of the controls.

In fact, I have been amazed at how well its resale value has held up since my purchase. According to KBB.com, even with 17,000 miles, my C-Max has a private party value that is within about $1,000 of what I paid for it last fall. Of course, this little revelation might change that.

I don't yet know what Ford will do -- if anything -- for C-Max owners who bit down hard on the promise of a comfortable hatchback that offered 47 mpg all the time.

All I know is that I feel vindicated that my failure to achieve those lofty fuel efficiency claims wasn't completely my fault.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.

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