The Toyota Prius has pretty much ruled the hybrid roost since popularizing the super-efficient market segment over the last decade, but that doesn't mean other automakers aren't trying to catch up. Ford, in particular, has been dabbling with gas/electric drivetrains for some time – think Ford Fusion and Escape hybrids – and now has its own dedicated hybrid model: the C-Max.

If you've ever wondered how the domestic newcomer stacks up against the ensconced champion, wonder no more. Motor Trend has taken Toyota's super-sized Prius V and put it up against the new Ford in a head-to-head video comparison. Not only that, they've had fun doing it.

"Fun in a hybrid?", you ask quizzically. "Yes", we reply, "fun." While the C-Max has inherited the sportiness of the Ford Focus chassis that underpins it, the Prius V has also improved driving characteristics, proving that gas-sipping doesn't necessarily have to come at the expense of ride experience. No, they still aren't canyon-carving sports cars, but they certainly aren't your grandparents family haulers either.

Besides fun, MT also gets down to the serious business of fuel economy. Driving in the style of host and senior features editor Jonny Lieberman (somewhat spiritedly, we imagine) returned mile per gallon figures that were slightly lower in the V than what Toyota advertises, with a bigger drop in the C-Max: 39 and 37 mpg, respectively.

Scroll below to move beyond performance numbers on a sheet and see how the two really stack up against each other. Watch 'till the end where Mr. Lieberman lets slip a sweet little hint about what one might expect from the next Prius.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      That's a pretty fair comparison I'd say. The C-Max does sound like it's more desirable due to the interior space and the fun to drive aspects. I can't say I'm thrilled with the interior in the Focus I'm driving, so I cannot get as excited as Leiberman about the C-Max interior, but for the price I doubt there is reason to complain. To Leiberman and everyone else I would suggest the term for what Ford is doing with the C-max is "studying for the test".It's the human equivalent, most are familiar with it. You look at what the test is about and try to do well at what's on the test, even if it doesn't make you better (smarter for humans, more efficient for cars) on the whole. That's why the Ford gets better mpg on the test and not in regular use. I cannot look at that C-max trunk area and not get unhappy. I can live with the lower space than the Prius V, but that bump just looks awful. Every time I'd see it would remind me this is not as well designed to be a hybrid as a Prius is. And it's even worse on the Energi.
        Ford Future
        • 22 Hours Ago
        @Rotation
        How do you make conclusions from one bad, self admittedly bad, hybrid driver?
          Neevers1
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Ford Future
          insideline said they thought it was because of where and how they drove it.
          Rotation
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Ford Future
          Insideline has to say something to mitigate what they are saying because they don't want the auto companies to stop sending them cars to review. The car fell far short of it's highway and city mileage. Sure, they sped a little, but the EPA tests do take this into account some too. Ford is studying for the test.
          fefifofum
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Ford Future
          Yes it's a CONSPIRACY!!!! Hahahaha
          Rotation
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Ford Future
          Insideline has similar problems with their new Ford Fusion too. Previous Ford hybrids have had similar results. The previous Ford Fusion was rated almost 20% better on mpg than the Prius but with real world results was more like 5-6% better. Better is better, but indeed Ford had studied for the test and produced disproportionally high figures.
      Sasparilla Fizz
      • 2 Years Ago
      I thought it was a good review for a 10 minute video. One thing to keep in mind is that the C-max has a Lith battery, which if you keep the vehicle for a long time will probably loose capacity over time (will you need to buy another one at 100k miles?), while the Prius V still has a NiMH that shouldn't loose capacity over time.
        Ford Future
        • 22 Hours Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        Buy another battery in 100,000 miles? No battery on the market is losing capacity like that.
        Spiffster
        • 22 Hours Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        "NiMH that shouldn't loose capacity over time." How do you figure that? Of course NiMH loses capacity over time. As a matter of fact the Lithium based battery should perform better over time.
          DaveMart
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Spiffster
          All batteries loose capacity over time. The question is whether it is enough to cause a problem. The NiMH battery in the Prius is well tested, and capacity loss is not a serious issue. The Ford's battery is probably, although not certainly, OK in the hybrid. In the plug in hybrid the issue is a bit more doubtful, as the lithium manganese battery chemistry used is not wonderful for cycle life, although it is liquid cooled which helps unlike that in the Leaf. So the Prius is ahead on points, but the real problems may or may not start with the plug-ins from both makers.
          Ziv
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Spiffster
          Looser! LOL
          Smurf
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Spiffster
          You make assumptions that no other factors are designed into the battery topology other than the use of NiMH of Lithium. Honda proved that NiMH batteries suck if you have a bad cooling system and you over charge them. What is making Toyota NiMH batteries last longer than Honda is battery cooling and not over charging... The Chevy Volt is already also proving that if you don't over-charge the battery, and have a quality temperature management system, you can use a Lithium battery in and EV application without significant battery degradation over time... Nissan? Just the opposite. Ford C-max has a quality battery cooling system. One can expect the batteries to last 10 years and beyond......
          John
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Spiffster
          You need to read up on batteries. NiMH batteries typically maintain their capacity 5 to 10 times longer than Li-ion. The Li-ions are lighter, but will not last as long. Just check your laptop or iPod battery after 5 years.
          DaveMart
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Spiffster
          I follow a Chaucerian spelling system. It worked for a few hundred years until whippersnapper grammarians decided to put the language in a straight jacket!
          Ziv
          • 22 Hours Ago
          @Spiffster
          Sorry to be the spelling nazi, but using loose when you mean lose makes it hard to take your thoughts seriously. If you put a loose collar on your dog, you will probably lose him. The only word pair that is more frequently mis-used is your / you're.
      ljoleary
      • 2 Years Ago
      I just bought a prius v. You could't give me a Ford for free. I have had 2 fords in my life time and they were easly the two worst vehicles I have ever owned!!!!!!!!!!!
      Ford Future
      • 22 Hours Ago
      You need a refresher course in Potential and Kinetic Energy. The brake regen from going down a hill requires NO Gas Engine Input, that's how a roller coaster works. http://www.google.com/imgres?q=potential+kinetic+energy+animation&hl=en&sa=X&tbo=d&biw=1920&bih=1046&tbm=isch&tbnid=Rn89pHuab6pu6M:&imgrefurl=http://www.laurencenet.net/Mechanics.html&docid=Gn9BvnTUTjxgKM&imgurl=http://www.laurencenet.net/images/RollerCoasterAnnimation.jpg&w=428&h=328&ei=O06dUM_OBq-60AGnrIDoBQ&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=3&sig=116399510068009007322&page=1&tbnh=149&tbnw=201&start=0&ndsp=56&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:0,i:98&tx=201&ty=360
      mustang_sallad
      • 22 Hours Ago
      Ford Future - you're not giving Kim Reynolds much credit if you think he's not aware of the fact that Hybrids recover energy through regen braking. Of course he knows that - but his point (and Rotation's) is correct - all of the energy comes from gas, the hybrid system just allows you to make better use of that energy and waste less of it. Normally when you brake, you're throwing away energy that the engine worked hard to produce, including getting you up that hill in the first place. Maybe over the life of the vehicle you could do more downhill than uphill - say if you built the vehicle in Denver and then moved to the coast and never went back - but that doesn't take away from the point he was making: a higher EV max speed doesn't really get you anywhere in terms of fuel efficiency in a vehicle that doesn't have a plug. If anything, I think it's wasteful, cruising at steady high speeds is where a combustion engine is operating most efficiently (aero drag losses are the same regardless of whether you're on gas or electricity), so it makes more sense to save your battery for when you're at lower speeds and doing more stop and go driving. I'm a fan of the C-Max, but Kim Reynolds has a good point, and you are not out-thinking him here by any means.
      Rotation
      • 22 Hours Ago
      Ford Future: How did you get up that hill? You burned gas to drive the car to the top of the hill. The potential energy came from somewhere, it came from the chemical energy in the gas tank. It's pretty simple to understand. What happens if you weld the fuel filler on the C-Max closed? Eventually the car stops, never to move again. That's because you removed its only energy input. It may take a little time, if the gas take is full, the battery is charged and you are at the top of a hill. But eventually it'll stop and you'll have to tow it to move it further.
      ljoleary
      • 2 Years Ago
      Most fords need loads of repairs in order to pass the 100,000 mile point. There sucess with the Escape is due too the fact they bought and used the Toyota hybrid components since day 1 ! Now they are trying to sell a hybrid that they designed themself is most likely going to be a joke, along with there dream world 47-47-47 MPH . the real tests showed about 35-37 MPG. I know that someware in the back of everyones mind they know Toyotas are built to be dependable for....just about forever!!!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yes, I assume that the Prius V does get a mile or two better than the C Max but, the C Max driving experience is so much more satisfying than the Prius V, I would gladly accept the trade off over the average ten year life of the car.
      skierpage
      • 2 Years Ago
      5:42: "You just don't get that [drone] with the Toyota because that powertrain is a generation ahead of where the Ford is at". That doesn't seem to match Lieberman's experiences driving the cars, "It's just a better car". I wonder what the meat of his off-the-record conversations about the next-generation Prius are. It's great that Toyota has credible competition.
        Harry
        • 22 Hours Ago
        @skierpage
        I wonder what his Toyota contacts thought of telling him off the record stuff, then getting cited in a backhanded (or palm of the hand) way that the next-gen Prius will get 60 mpg.
      Rotation
      • 22 Hours Ago
      Ford Future: If you only go up the hill once, then you can only come down it once. You never get out more energy from coasting down the hill than you put in burning gas to drive up it.
      Ford Future
      • 22 Hours Ago
      Stephen Liu if you think: "the bulk of the battery's charge comes from excess energy generated by the engine when cruising", then you don't know how to drive a hybrid.
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      Rotation, have you bought a hybrid yet? I have, I drive the Honda Insight, a hybrid with one of the smallest batteries on the market. And it rarely pulls energy from the engine to regen the battery. You need a long hill that depletes the battery to it's 40% mark, then the hybrid starts taking power from the engine to bring the battery up to 50%, before it's normal charge-discharge behavior resumes. Most of the time the battery stays in it's 60% range, brake regen power to the battery then acceleration with electric motor assist. As the CMAX has a bigger batter, and a bigger electric motor then the Prius, if it DIDN'T out perform the Prius, there would be a serious FLAW in the engineering.
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