Douglas Adams fans might already know that the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything is 42, but Ford enthusiasts might think the answer is 47.

That's the city, highway and combined mileage of the all-new 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid: 47, 47, 47.

The five-passenger runabout, which arrives at dealerships this fall, does an impressive job of playing multiple roles for discerning customers. It will easily get the kids to school, a wife to work and, with a total range of 570 miles, take the entire family to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and back.

Ready for battle

Like any Adams story, really, there's nothing that original in the parts that make up the C-Max, but it's the way they are combined that creates the magic.

The C-Max comes from Europe, where it has roamed Autobahns as a gas or diesel powered five-passenger and seven-passenger family hauler. Built on the Ford Focus platform, the C-Max keeps that European styling with a high roofline, narrow body and lots of windows (known as greenhouse in automotive parlance).

But for America, the C-Max will be known as only an energy-efficient hybrid ready to battle the Toyota Prius.

The Howl of Efficiency

The C-Max appears ready for the monumental task. Its powertrain combines a 2-liter gas-powered engine, a torque-filled electric motor and continuously variable transmission to create a powerful and efficient powertrain. This is the next generation hybrid powertrain that will soon be feature on the 2013 Ford Fusion when it arrives later this year. It's also a significant upgrade over the outgoing version.

It produces 188 net horsepower and can pull the C-Max along at 62 mph on electric power only. It out muscles the bigger Prius v by more than 50 ponies under the hood. Arthur Dent couldn't ask for more.

During a test drive around Malibu, Calif., the C-Max never wanted for power. Its off –the-line power was noticeably pleasant with quick acceleration. Along the highway, the C-Max cruised along quietly at 80 mph without a problem.

The only noticeable quirk was when the C-Max needed an energy boost going up a hill or sudden acceleration. Because the engine is tuned to run on the Atkinson cycle and has a CVT, it tended to while at a set rpm. There's simple logic to this, as the engine immediately hits its most efficient rpm setting to provide the most power. Unlike regular engines that need to rev up and down, this engine moves directly to its most efficient point. Think of the engine whine as the howl of efficiency. There was never a power lag, or lull, just a whine that may take some adjusting to for some owners.

Smart technology

But they'll be rewarded with the C-Max's overall performance. Based on the Ford Focus platform (one of 10 vehicles Ford builds on that platform), the C-Max handles like a sporty sedan, not a hybrid. Even with its tall roof, the C-Max held crisp lines through the quick curves in the Malibu canyons. The electric power steering is crisp and with an excellent return to center.

More over, the C-Max rides quietly when it's supposed to and toughens up when it needs to. It's a hybrid full of surprises.

One pleasant surprise was the way Ford uses technology to cover up some of its blemishes. To make the engine more efficient, Ford tuned it to run on an extremely low idle. Running this way can create uncomfortable audible pops. However, Ford uses active noise cancelation in the cabin to digitally mask those sounds.

It's that kind of smart technology that the C-Max outpaces any other hybrids offered today. Of course, Ford added all of its current pieces of g-whiz gadgetry to the C-Max to provide it with lots of consumer friendly features.

The C-Max includes the foot-activated liftgate, that allows someone to walk up to the vehicle with her hands full, wave a foot under the bumper and have the hatch open automatically. There's also the active-park assist, that lets a driver quickly parallel park on the street without the stress of trying to squeeze into space manually. Even the fictitious Heart of Gold didn't possess this feature.

Real High Mileage

Ford touts 15 class exclusive features ranging from voice operated Sync and MyFord Touch to the SmartGauge with Eco Guide. Some of Ford's boasting is as silly as an infinite probability drive. Of course no one else offers Ford's infotainment system or voice activated SYNC, that would be illegal. But the C-Max does have some special features.

The SmartGauge is the C-Max's key instrument and uses two small LCD screens bookending an analogue speedometer. The programmable gauges help the driver to eek out as much mileage as possible and monitor his progress.

During one segment of my drive, I was able to achieve 52.5 mpg driving through Los Angeles. The gauges helped change my driving habits to press lighter on the brake and gently touch the accelerator to achieve better scores on the instant readouts. While I've never been keen on hypermiling, the C-Max tricked me into doing just that.

Comfortable and Complete Interior

Inside the cabin, the C-Max provides lots of practical space. Behind the second row there's 24.5 cubic feet of storage space, and if you need more, the pull of one lever quickly folds up the second row and provides 52.6 cubic feet of space.

There are also unexpected amenities that seem to abound inside the cabin such as lots of nooks to store things, a deep center console and 110 volt receptacle in the second row.

With the high roofline, there's plenty of headroom and the well-laid out interior provides more than 40 inches of legroom in the front row and 36.5 inches of legroom in the second row. All of this space means that adults would be comfortable in any seat.

Additionally, the unique ride height makes ingress and egress extremely easy. This is not like some cars that are so low you have to fall into to sit down or so high that you fall out of when you arrive somewhere. You just slide in and go.

Most importantly, the C-Max's interior uses top grade materials throughout the cabin. Everything feels well-crafted with high quality materials. Even the cloth seats in the base model are comfortable (and made of the environmentally friendly soy bean foam).

Final take

While Americans continue to clamor for fuel-efficient vehicles, it's unclear if they have completely fallen in love with gas-electric hybrids. Only the Prius has captured the public's imagination to the point of people buying them in bulk. The Prius continues to outsell all other hybrids combined.

But Ford's plan appears to create its own eco-friendly brand: The C-Max. First comes the hybrid model, and shortly after that, will arrive the C-Max Energi, a plug-in hybrid that will drive 20 miles on electric only power before converting to a regular gas-electric hybrid.

While the C-Max lacks the iconic look of the wedge-shaped Prius, it does arrive with it's European flavored exterior. But more to the point, it provides a better ride, a better interior and, in case of the larger Prius v, better mileage.

It's the pure utility hybrid that's fun to drive. Eco-centric buyers won't be the only people looking at this vehicle – at least they shouldn't be. This nameplate just might have the staying power Ford has always wanted and America has needed. And this is one time, that even in Douglas Adams' world where 47 is truly greater than 42.



Scott Burgess is the senior editor at AOL Autos. You can reach him at: scott.burgess@teamaol.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 78 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      We traded our 2002 Prius (lifetime 44.5 mpg) for a 2010. Currently at 16,000 mi and 50.5 mpg. Includes a recent vacation from Chicago, IL to Charleston, SC and back (2800 mi). Very hot so full time AC. Through the Mountains and back. 54.4 mpg. City driving is about 58.0 mpg. I'd be disappointed with the mileage projected for the C-Max.
        juststeve35
        • 2 Years Ago
        Prius rated at 49, Ford rated at 47... (Both City) What exactly are you talking about?
        str00ntz
        • 2 Years Ago
        Yeah, but the Prius hardly qualifies as a car. Took a road trip in a buddy's wife's Prius with two other guys; the longest, most punishing 2 hour trip I've ever taken. If the Prius had a PTO, I might use it to mow my lawn....
          TopGun
          • 2 Years Ago
          @str00ntz
          Yes, I test drove a Prius and it was awful. Terrible steering, lots of noise and little forward motion, awful interior materials. The driving reviews on the C-max do sound good! Good going Ford! I'll save enough fuel for a Boss302 :)
        grtsch6134
        • 2 Years Ago
        drive your prius home to japan, and let me know how it does under water......................
      • 2 Years Ago
      John obviously you are one of those hi tech engineers and have all the answers..Innovation is very seldom perfect first time around...But the good news is no one has to buy these innovations. By the way John did I not see you in your rocking chair without your seat belt on?.
      wavforce
      • 2 Years Ago
      The same stupid slant body design,the same of the others cars! No more thinking minds???
      sahpdm
      • 2 Years Ago
      Another move by a truely healthy American company FORD. Buy one!
      gunnarlarson23
      • 2 Years Ago
      Once again, Huff Post misleads folks. People are not demanding these cars. The total sales numbers of hybrids are small. They are building them because of the big government mandates from GW Bush and Barry Obama. In order to comply with the governments EPA cafe standards these tiny cars are going to have to get 90 mpg in order to continue building pick up trucks by 2025. I'm not criticizing Ford but understand that Ford is trying to survive, like all the other car companies, under the heavy hand of government.
        Norina
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gunnarlarson23
        You'll be first in line when gas is $10/gallon like it already is in Europe.
      RON COHEN
      • 2 Years Ago
      FUTURE 4 PASSENGER SEDAN After 6 years of engineering study the future car will be HI-TECH. It will have 3 key technologies – 1) hybrid, 2) sophisticated electronic system to prevent crashes and improve MPG, called “PRESENCE” and 3) All-Aluminum. Major Benefits: 1) Saves tens of thousands of lives and millions of injuries, yearly; 2) Fuel Economy will be about 80 MPG; 3) 10-Year Total Ownership Cost will be significantly lower than present model because of lower fuel and insurance premium costs; and 4) Improved Environmental impact by using recycled aluminum. This also significantly reduces fabrication energy.
        John
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RON COHEN
        Every one knows prices never go down with all that stuff it would raise the prices let alone the aluminum if the fuse goes out of the sophisticated electronic system and you crashed that car would look like a smashed coke can not saiing what the people in the car would look like it cut them up in sheads
      knowvne
      • 2 Years Ago
      Price is controlled by a Conssumers Wallet.... BTW There are Cars in Europe that get 80 mpg yet we here in the US cant have them... Hmmmm wonder why THAT is...
      • 2 Years Ago
      why not just use vehicles with natural gas right now im living in colombia and to fill up your car is only $10 bucks ....in florida And other states, there is a lot of gas stations with natural gas....you guys need to stop complaining and research there is ALREADY A SOLUTION
      o my GAWD, Mike!
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder just *how* good one can get the mpg on the C-Max, especially since it actually guides you on how to drive. I've had an '07 Prius for about two years and have learned to squeeze out 60-75 mpg when I'm on prolonged city-driving trips. The technology sounds a little more advanced than the Prius, which seems to have ''sweet spots'' rather than an engine that idles low and ''goes directly to its most efficient spot.'' That'd be interesting, yes?
      • 2 Years Ago
      To: New York Department of Education From: Rich "Notorious" Mercurio - A.K.A. Alpha and Omega - A.K.A. Batman Date: August 23rd, 2012 Via: Internet Subject: The TERMINATION of TODD SPRING - Director at MONROE COMMUNITY HOSPITAL To whom it may concern: I, Rich Mercurio was TRANSFERED from MONROE COMMUNITY HOSPITAL to Clinton Crossinigs to receive DIALYSIS WITHOUT my knowing or concent. I have AVASCULAR NECROSIS of the left hip. I have CHRONIC left knee pain. I use CRUTCHES, along with public transportation to get to DIALYSIS. This WORM named TODD SPRING transfered me to a place where THERE IS NO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION after I finish DIALYSIS. I made an attempt to get to a bus stop AFTER DIALYSIS, with HIP and KNEE PAIN, on CRUTCHES. After WALKING in PAIN and feeling like PASSING OUT, I was forced to call 911 and go to the hospital. I am DEMANDING that TODD SPRING be TERMINATED I want to point out the STELLAR job that the staff and employees do at the DIALYSIS center at MOMROE COMMUNITY HOSPITAL. I have been going to MONROE COMMUNITY HOSPITAL for a long time. It is convenient to get to and go home from via public transportation. I am DEMANDING to go back to MONROE COMMUINITY HOSPITAL. Thanks and have a blessed day. Rich "Notorious' Mercurio - A.K.A.- Alpha and Omega A.K.A.- Batman 356 Avenue A., Rochester (Littlle Apple), New York, 14621, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (585) 424-0207 GOOGLE: RAINBOW WARRIORS OF FAITH "FAITH + RESPECT = PEACE" "IN DEO SPERAMUS"
      pdbliz
      • 2 Years Ago
      Henry ,,,,you the man,!!!!!!!!!!! There are lemons in all cars,,,But,,over all,,,I have had very good performance with FORDS....,,I had a Falcon Sprint....super nice,,,,I had a 1968,,,fastback,,,390 Mustand GT.....IT WAS A HOSS.!!!!!...AND ON UP TO MY fORD TRUCK NOW,,,over 300,000 and uses no oil between changes... So,I guess I am showing my age,,,,well over 60............Now,,I also had a super nice Mazada truck,,,, I try to keep away from Cheverolet,,,,not that they are any better or worse,,I have had better luck with FORDS.!!!!
      • 2 Years Ago
      SORRY BURGESS, My LIVING COMPARE is CHOSEN---2012 CT200h -LEXUS which averages 46 -47 city and 49 52 mpg highway......And ever thriving.....since July 7, 2012*********Beyond tri aid Ford fusion 2012 c what max???????
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