“No quibble with the quality of the vehicle and the fuel efficiency but the sticker price does cause a sharp intake of breath…”

C-MAX Hybrid & C-MAX Energi

To plug in or not to plug in, that is the question faced by the well-heeled, nobler in mind kind of person, who is determined to go green with the next car purchase.

Forgive me for mashing up the words of my old expat mate Will Shakespeare, but reducing one’s carbon footprint is not easy on the pocket book in spite of the fuel savings on offer by “doing the right thing.” Whichever model you plump for from any of the leading hybrid manufacturers, you are going to pay a premium in the thousands over the equivalent standard gas-powered model. In pure economic terms, it will take years of fuel savings to bridge that investment gap.

If you go for a plug-in that offers emission free driving on electric power only for varying stretches of road, you are likely looking at a ten grand premium on top of the pure hybrid sticker price.

Forgive me, if you’ve heard this from me before but the point I’d like to make here is that I’ve been telling you this version of the story for the past ten years. The sad fact is that the consumers are not warming to green cars in sufficient numbers for the manufacturers to remove the sting from the sticker price. Green car sales, if I can lump them together for the purpose of simple comparison, still account for less than five per cent of the market.

You can’t blame the manufacturers for this situation. They have showed a willingness to continue subsidizing these products and have promoted the heck out of them. There are positive signs in increasing sales and the continuously improving efficiency of these machines. However, as of today, they are still a steeply priced option for the likes of thee and me. Especially, as the provisionally funded rebates are now dead.

Yes, you drive one away for less than $30,000 in some cases but that same sum can buy a lot more car elsewhere, many of them powered by very miserly four-cylinder power plants.

A case in point is the Ford C-MAX, available here either a pure hybrid or plug in – the latter bears the Energi name. The base hybrid version sells for $26,499 and its Energi sibling for $35,999. I’ve only driven the hybrid briefly so I won’t comment too much on its prowess. I can tell you that it is a worthy alternative to the Toyota Prius lineup the V (for versatile), it being the best comparison at $27,480

I’m going to dwell a little more here on the Energi plug-in version as I spent more time at the wheel. For the first part of the week, I ran it purely as a hybrid and averaged about 5.3 L/100 km/h. That’s higher than advertised but to be fair my trips were mainly in the city, short trips and through some ghastly weather.

What a revelation when I plugged it in each night – seven hours charges it up on the regular 120-volt outlet (2.5 hours on a 240-volt charging station). There are boasts of achieving up to 40 kilometres of driving in electric drive but I managed a little over 30 most days by judicious use of the right foot, in terms of acceleration and regenerative braking.

Ford talks of a fuel economy equivalency of about 1.9 L/100 km/h under ideal conditions. When does the latter ever happen?

However, I figure I could show an equivalency of around 3 L/100 km/h and perhaps better if I got the chance to get used to how the electric drive and gas engine work to together. In fact, there’s evidence through testing that early adopters of the plug-in hybrid technology that they began achieving far greater efficiency and longer pure electric driving after about six months’ ownership.

The C-Max has the look of a compact crossover though it’s strictly a front vehicle drive vehicles here. It’s ideal for a small family, eating up to five people. The rear luggage area is fabulous in the hybrid but the larger battery in the Energi version does reduce stowage substantially. You would have to look hard at your carrying needs before committing to that level of green righteousness.

SYNC® with MyFord Touch®, are standard features, offering multiple ways for owners to manage and control their phone, navigation, entertainment and climate functions through voice commands, steering wheel controls, touch screens, buttons or knobs. In C-MAX Energi, the system offers battery charge and charge point distance information as well.

Both versions of C-MAX are equipped with SmartGauge® with EcoGuide, an information system allowing drivers to see fuel economy readings on the instrument panel. The technology enables motorists to monitor their driving behavior and its effects on vehicle efficiency.

Brake Coach helps drivers choose good braking techniques to optimize the regenerative braking system.

The test vehicle featured a premium audio and navigation package, thus boosting the base price by $2,500 and a fabulous panoramic roof added a further $1,200 for a total approaching $43,000. Yikes!

No quibble with the quality of the vehicle and the fuel efficiency but the sticker price does cause a sharp intake of breath.

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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