Ford’s new CMAX is being touted as a high-mileage competitor to the Toyota Prius, and Ford is posting some high numbers for its five- door hybrid.
But how accurate are these mpg ratings? Shouldn’t we expect inflated mileage numbers from a car company?
CleanMPG.com ran a scientific test of the CMAX, testing just how much mileage it could squeeze out of the hybrid, and to see if Ford’s rating of 47/47/47 mpg for city/highway/combined was actually possible. The results pointed to "no."
CleanMPG.com is not the first to accuse Ford of inflating the numbers. In December, the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Neil came to a similar conclusion: “With the cruise control set on 76 mph on a dead-flat four-lane highway in mild conditions, the C-MAX’s instantaneous mileage readout was fixed at 35.8 mpg, well short of nominal.”
Consumer Report’s review was no better: “For the C-MAX Hybrid, we got 37 mpg overall, with 35 and 38 for city and highway. These two vehicles (they also tested the 2013 Ford Fusion) have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we’ve seen among any current models.”
CleanMPG’s test used a 2013 Ford C-MAX and a Toyota Prius v (in addition to a Prius five liftback for a control/chase car), and involved four different components testing the hatchbacks’ fuel economy. The test included a “long distance 365.0 mile all-highway route” ( San Diego to Phoenix along Interstate 8), a “22.8 mile all-city route” (within San Diego), “Speed vs. fuel economy data and graphs” and a “Maximum effort 14.5 miles round trip fuel economy drive.”
The Prius v bested the C-MAX in every category. In the highway driving test, the C-MAX achieved 35.537 mpg, falling short of its EPA rating for highway driving by 24.4 percent. The Prius actually beat its EPA rating, achieving 40.768 mpg on the highway (14.7 percent better than the C-MAX).
The city driving test proved hopeful for the C-MAX. It beat its EPA rating (47 mpg) with 52.0 mpg over the 22.8 mile test. But it still did not beat the Prius, which achieved 55.8 mpg.
The speed tests were similar. In straight-line tests, the Prius outperformed its rating of 40 mpg at 72.7 mph (it got 43.1 mpg), while the C-MAX could match its rating of 47 mpg at 60.9 mph.
And when pushing the cars’ efficiencies to the limit, the C-MAX displayed 75.3 mpg over 14.3 miles, with an actual rating of 72.1 mpg over 14.5 miles (measured using GPS). The Prius v blew the Ford out of the water in this test, displaying 99.9 mpg over 14.8 miles, and actually achieving 99.9 mpg over 14.5 miles.
To add insult to injury, the C-MAX’s cargo capacity didn’t measure up to the Prius v’s larger trunk.
It’s important to note that the C-MAX is a pretty efficient car, and a 35.5/52.0/43.8 mpg rating is nothing to scoff at. But as CleanMPG’s test has pointed out, these are far from the promised 47/47/47, and most importantly, Ford’s would-be Prius v killer just doesn’t match up with its competitor, which managed to beat its ratings (“that 42 mpg US combined rating was more a floor than a ceiling”).
As CleanMPG concluded, “while the C-MAX brings a number of class leading attributes to the table as pointed out in our review, fuel economy and cargo capacity are not within that realm. In a nutshell, the Ford C-MAX is a nice 41/37/39 rated Hybrid offering but is a terrible 47/47/47 mpg rated one.”