LOS ANGELES -- The basic idea behind the marketing plan for the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid is pretty simple: Ford Motor Co. wants customers to believe that a hybrid can be practical and fun, and that they can afford it. With this new entry, Ford is taking dead aim at the undisputed ruler of the hybrid realm, the Toyota Prius.
Ford introduced the C-Max Hybrid to journalists late last month in Los Angeles.
The basics: C-Max is not a new name. Ford introduced the C-Max brand in Europe in 2003 as its entry in Europe's compact minivan segment. But the European C-Max has been powered by conventional diesel and gasoline engines.
For the United States, the C-Max will be Ford's hybrid-only brand sold only in two versions: the C-Max Hybrid, a gasoline-electric hybrid coming late this month, and the C-Max Energi, a plug-in hybrid due in late November or early December.
The C-Max Hybrid, built on the same platform as the Focus, is a compact hatchback with a tall roof and an entry price of $25,995, including shipping.
It shares many features with the 2013 Escape. The instrument panel is virtually identical. Ford was so confident in the C-Max's capabilities that it dropped the Escape Hybrid for 2013.
The C-Max Hybrid is powered by a four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine and an electric traction motor. It is EPA-certified at 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway. The matching numbers are unusual for hybrids, which tend to get better mileage in city driving. The C-Max Hybrid can hit 62 mph in electric-only mode, made possible by a new lithium ion battery developed by Ford and made in Detroit. The C-Max Hybrid can go 570 miles between fuel stops.
Ford worked to bring the same driving characteristics to the C-Max that it built into the Focus and the Escape.
"We spent a lot on the suspension, trying to get low rolling resistance but with great ride and handling," says Julie Roehner, vehicle engineering manager. The car comes with Michelin Energy Saver A/S low rolling resistance tires on 17-inch wheels. The C-Max Hybrid has an independent rear suspension, Roll Stability Control, Curve Control and electric-power assisted steering -- some of the same systems Ford has used to make its nonhybrid cars more fun to drive. The C-Max Hybrid comes in two trim levels: SE and SEL.
Ford is positioning the C-Max between the Toyota Prius and the Prius V hatchback in price and fuel economy.