I decided to take a walk the other day at a local trail system that runs out along a spit into Lake Ontario. The weather was perfect, a few billowy clouds, 15 degrees, a slight breeze and birds chirping merrily to each other. On my sojourn of reflection I happened upon a pair of swans who were busy tending to their nest which was located in an isolated pond. I sat and watched as the male would pass reeds to his mate, she would then arranged them around herself building a nest for their soon to arrive offspring. It was a very tranquil scene.
I then started to ponder over the effort automotive manufacturers have been putting into doing their part to ensure future generations can enjoy moments like these by developing ever greener vehicles. I must admit I am not prone to this type of thinking, I usually prefer to dwell on 0-100 km/h times and horse power, but that week I had been driving a 2016 Ford CMAX Energi.
It was an eye-opening experience, one that saw me attempting to drive as greenly as I could; very odd indeed. If a light was going to turn red I would start coasting long before hand and brake lightly so as to allow the regenerative braking to return as much energy back to the battery as possible. I did this because the dash would display the percentage of energy I had recovered and, being somewhat of a perfectionist, I had to get 100% every time. I did have bouts of anti-green sentiment in which I wanted to see how quickly I could make the leaves fall off of the animated branches that would grow across the screen during my greener driving. I even tried to see how un-ecofriendly the car could be (turns out not very). Overall my week was set at a leisurely pace and at the end of my test period I had averaged 6.5L/100 km of fuel economy.
The CMAX Energi is a gas/electric hybrid that operates in three modes: Electric only, Gas only, or Auto which uses both to achieve maximum greenness. With a full fuel tank and the charge indicator reading full the range estimation was 738+23 km’s. That meant the vehicle could drive up to 761 km’s using both power sources. Put another way, you will have no range anxiety whatsoever. The CMAX can be charged in your garage using either a 120 or 240 volt receptacle. I tried both. To monitor the charging you can walk to your car and check the ring surrounding the plug port on the car which illuminates 4 sections indicating the distance to full charge. There is a more techy way however. There is an app for you smartphone (both Apple and Android) that allows you monitor and schedule charging times. The app will also estimate how much CO2 your driving style produces, and should you forget where you parked the app will tell you the vehicles location.
I was a bit skeptical about being able to find locations where I would be able to charge the CMAX in the Niagara region. The navigation system only knew about one at a restaurant in Niagara Falls. On the U.S. side of the border there were charging stations located all over, both 120V and 240V chargers. This left me a bit deflated at the real practicality of owning a plug-in hybrid. I know I have seen charging stations locally, but where? I found two very helpful sites (suncountryhighway.com and caa.ca/evstations) that displayed at least 10 in the area at wineries, hotels and so on. I ended up using one at a Canadian Tire that is powered by both solar and wind generators. It was a 240V or level 2 charger and free to use. The literature that came with the CMAX claimed the battery will take 7 hours to charge from empty at 120V and just 2.5 at 240V. With some charge left in the battery I only had to occupy myself for 45 minutes; luckily at the other end of the plaza there was a Timmies.
While sipping my coffee I went over the options sheet. It had all of the latest park assist features, hands-free, Bluetooth, SYNC3, Voice Recognition, Siri integration, cameras and so on. What made these features desirable was how simple they are to operate. Nothing took more than a few moments to find or figure out. The interior has been designed with the familiar control layout found throughout the Ford family and the only gripe I had was with the sheen of the plastics. I had hoped for muted earth tones in an environmentally responsible sort of vehicle. What I found was the high gloss and easily smudged plastic all too common among the Fords. The seating position is very nice for all passengers and there is an astounding amount of headroom for such a small vehicle. While this is a hatchback the cargo area is limited by the battery which takes up the lion’s share of the space. Behind the battery there is enough room for a grocery trip, and larger items could be carried in the rear passenger area if the seats were folded down.
On the road the CMAX drove exactly like any other car. There was only one noteworthy difference. The brakes are grabby. This seems to be the result of the regenerative braking kicking in. I suggest not bringing your coffee with you until you get a feel for the way it stops. I did find it amusing the first few times the car pulled away under electric power because it made the same sound as a roller coaster pulling out of the loading area. On the first morning when I turned it on and there was no noise at all which had me questioning whether I had forgotten a step. Such are the trials and tribulations of electric vehicles.
The gasoline engine is a 4 cylinder Atkinson cycle displacing 2.0L and can be noisy at times. It uses an e CVT hybrid-power split transaxle to deliver power to the front wheels only. The electric motor produces 88kw which is equivalent to 118 horsepower. Used in connection with the gasoline engine the system will produce a sustainable output of 188 horsepower. Most will find this to be more than enough.
The CMAX is a hefty little car, tipping the scales at 1,651 kg (3,640 lbs) but it handles in a surprising and nimble manner. The only unexpected issue was the rather large turning radius. By virtue of its short length, tall stature and great outward visibility safely negotiating city streets and tight parking areas is easy.
Now on to the most frequently asked questions. What kind of fuel consumption does it have? How much does it cost? According to the Ministry of Natural Resources guide the 2016 CMAX ENERGI is rated to return 5.8 L/100km city; 6.5 highway; 6.1 combined. I found these figures are realistic and achievable. The base price for the ENERGI model is $31,999, but the tester came with $4,730 in options and accessories. Add to that the $1600 destination and delivery fee and we come to an as tested price of $38,329. If you have a short commute, say 10 kilometers one way, it is conceivable that you will spend very little on fuel because you can drive to work and back on electricity only.
Ford has done a good job with this one. The CMAX ENERGI delivers the latest hybrid technologies in a simple to use and easy to live with vehicle. It even looks like a regular car, not drawing attention to itself with obnoxious piousness. To my eye the European styling plants it squarely in between the Fiesta and Focus. If you want a hybrid but are not looking to make a political or social statement the CMAX is a worthy contender.
2016 Ford CMAX ENERGI
- Fuel economy
- Easy to drive
- No range anxiety
- Ample passenger space
- Go Green without announcing it
- Limited cargo space
- Brakes can be touchy (regenerative braking takes getting used too)
- High gloss interior plastics
- Charging stations can be hard to locate
- Charging station may be at a location you have no other reason to visit (bring a book)