Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Our weeklong test drive of the Ford C-MAX

20130627_192443Josh and I are slowly readjusting to our 2005 Honda CR-V after spending a week behind the wheel of a brand-new Ford C-MAX. Frankly, going back to an older, unsexy, non-hybrid car is hard. I'm suffering from withdrawal.

A little background on the C-MAX. It's basically Ford's answer to the Toyota Prius. Unlike the Hyundai Sonata or the Honda Civic, you don't get to choose between hybrid and traditional gas engines (paying a premium for the former). The C-MAX is all-hybrid (regular hybrid or plug-in hybrid). It's heavier and roomier and way more fun to drive than a Prius, but both Josh and I were disappointed we never quite reached the lofty 47/47 mpg promised.

In fact, driving like a cautious old lady — easing out from a full stop, gliding slowly to a halt, and generally adhering to the speed limit, with few exceptions —  Josh was once able to average around 40 or so mpg, and that factored in 10 minutes of circling around O’Hare, waiting for me to get off my flight from San Diego. Driving like a normal human, we got closer to 30mpg, which is not bad, but not great, given that is around what the much bigger and more powerful Toyota Highlander hybrid supposedly gets.

Boo: 29.1 MPG, Yay: 3/4 tank after 1 week of driving
That said, there’s something noble about a car that rewards better driving habits with better mileage. Sure, that holds true for conventional engines as well, but our CR-V would never get close to 30 or 35 mpg no matter how carefully we drove. Dashboard graphics make getting better mileage into something close to a game, and a fun one at that.

The environmental appeal of hybrids is very attractive, at least as far as emissions go (materials/battery production/disposal is another matter). But there are other positive environmental considerations as well, such as the quiet driving and idling, which cuts down on ambient street noise. We've also heard stories of hybrid drivers getting 500k to the car, which is incredible. (I believe the premium pays for itself once you make it to 75k, or somewhere between 5 and 10 years.)

Josh had read horror stories about the operation of the hands-free trunk opener, but it not only worked for us, it frequently came in handy. I loved walking up to the car with the key fob in my bag and having the doors unlock. Then, a quick kick under the rear bumper and the liftgate would swing open (or closed). Very handy for a parent carrying a child or an armload of groceries.

The backseat was spacious for two children in booster seats and quite comfortable for the two adult friends I put back there for the 30 minute drive to and from King Spa.

I miss navigating the car's large touchscreen to control the climate, browse through satellite radio and access the built-in navigation system. My next car will definitely need to have Sirius, push-button keyless start, voice command, and Bluetooth connectivity with my phone. (I should mention here than as much as Josh also enjoyed exploring satellite radio, he thought the stereo was "boomy and boxy.")

I would also like my next car to have the responsive handling and fun-to-drive pep of the Ford C-MAX. It reminded me a bit of the VW Jetta and Beetle.

But here's the rub: our next car really should be a 6 or 7 seater. With two elementary-aged girls, we're right in the thick of car pools and play dates and as nice as it would be to enjoy the C-MAX's bells and whistles...It is actually a bit smaller than our current ride. We ought to go bigger. And the pool of hybrid vehicles from which to choose is really small. It's basically the Highlander. Which is nice and all, but a whopping $20k more than the C-MAX and not nearly as fun to drive.

I guess it's a good thing we won't be making a car purchase until we close on our new home. If we wait long enough, we may end up seeing some new car options come onto the market.