Currency in the world of dedicated hybrids—so, gas-electric vehicles sold without a nonelectrified equivalent—is measured in mpg. Despite today’s low gasoline prices, this efficiency figure matters more than ever as a marketing beacon to actually move such metal. After all, why pay extra for a fuel-sipping hybrid if it isn’t mind-blowingly efficient compared with a regular, gas-powered car of similar size? Subjected to this reality, the Ford C-Max’s appeal fades.
Although the C-Max is refreshed alongside its plug-in-hybrid counterpart for 2017 with slightly sharper headlights and taillights, its mechanicals are the same as they’ve been since 2013. That means the Ford’s fuel economy is, by and large, the same as it’s always been. (The EPA estimates have been adjusted a bit, lowered for 2014 before inching up by 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway, to 42 mpg city and 38 mpg highway this year.)
We recorded 35 mpg over the course of this test—and a less encouraging 33 mpg on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test loop. That average fuel-economy number is better than that of the last C-Max we tested, a 2013 model that scored 32 mpg, yet still middling enough to raise the “why buy?” question.
The flesh-colored C-Max we tested started at $25,050, while a $1600 package with heated leather seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and heated door mirrors with puddle lamps brought the total to $26,650. On paper, it is thoroughly out-hybrided by the similarly priced Prius and Ioniq, while Kia’s comparable Niro can be had for just $23,785 and has a more comfortable back seat, fresher in-car tech options, and similar pseudo-crossover cred. Come to think of it, the Ford’s so-so fuel economy might not be its biggest problem. Its own age and the freshness of its competition loom larger.