Ford’s 47 mpg City/Highway/Combined Hybrid Ratings Ring Hollow

Discussion in 'Articles' started by xcel, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    [​IMG] In a head to head shootout, something does not add up to triple 47_mpg as a 2012 Prius v hands the 2013 Ford C-MAX its hat.

    [​IMG]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Feb. 25, 2013

    2013 Ford C-MAX - $25,995 to start including destination and handling and a 41/37/39 (forget the EPA figures) mpgUS city/highway/combined rating.

    San Diego, CA -- The pronouncement of an upcoming super hybrid provided by Ford who is known for its hybrid, diesel and boosted drivetrains in the previous generation Fusion Hybrid (1,000 mile + weekend for charity has begun!), the current generation F-Series Super Duty with its Power Stroke turbo diesel, and the current generation F-150 with its 3.5L EcoBoost had my hopes raised and utmost attention.

    With literally tens of stories from the original platform out of Europe to the final certifications at 47/47/47 mpgUS city/highway/combined, the upcoming C-MAX had me riveted.

    And then something happened

    At the US C-MAX Short Lead, Ford had a fuel economy competition in which one journalist topped 61 mpg with an average speed of 19 mph. The average did not bother me as that is a typical "name your city" route here. What raised questions was the unspectacular 61 mpg result at that average speed. This run would have probably allowed a Prius liftback (51/48/50 mpgUS city/highway/combined) to peg its display at 99.9 mpg.

    On a different note, from our first drive of the 2012 Prius v, I knew Toyota had something special on its hands. Whether driving it hard, gently or to its maximum, it always seemed to deliver more than its Monroney promised. Namely, that 42 mpgUS combined rating was more a floor than a ceiling. At the Want 86_mpg From Your Prius Hybrid? We Have an “Answer” For That! event hosted by Bud Clary Toyota of Yakima, Washington, the Prius v I drove achieved 90.0 mpg during the 25 Mile Yakima Valley Tour with an average speed approaching 25 mph in a stop light to stop light and sign serpentine course looping Yakima.

    More questions than answers

    Last November, a number of members that had purchased C-MAXs were reporting what we would all deem dismal results. These are drivers that have owned hybrids in the past including one who’s 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid (42 mpgUS combined per the EPA) had a 58 mpg lifetime result since picking it up and this includes his wife and children driving it!

    The Ongoing Ford C-Max Saga -- My 2013 C-MAX Purchase at Williamsburg Ford

    Given the results I had over a very short 60 mph steady state stint in a member’s C-MAX, in mid-November I made an inquiry regarding this topic with a Ford PR acquaintance. His response was as follows:
    It was about this time that I began making requests with Ford to drive a C-MAX from the Chicago Press Fleet.

    Since that time, a number of outlets have completed their own drives of the 2013 Ford C-MAX with interesting findings. The fuel economy reports continue to show a much lower result than Ford’s supplied EPA of triple 47 mpg across the board.

    The Consumer Reports write-up was possibly the most damning.

    [​IMG]In detail, Consumer Reports Tests show Ford Fusion, C-Max hybrids don't live up to 47-mpg_claims made headlines.

    For the C-Max Hybrid, we got 37 mpg overall, with 35 and 38 for city and highway. These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we've seen among any current models.

    Their result for the 42 mpg combined rated Prius v showed it achieved a 41_mpg overall result on their strict driving regimen.

    Car and Drivers write-up was equally puzzling.

    [​IMG]2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

    Back in the real world, however, we ran a 67-mile out-and-back drive with the cruise control set at 75 mph, and the C-Max’s trip computer reported only 34 mpg. At 32 mpg, our overall observed fuel economy in the C-Max was even lower than the 35 mpg we saw from the last Prius V we tested.

    We know they drive with both feet mashed to the firewall and sometimes at the same time but after reading the review; it was as if they were apologizing for the C-MAXs poor mpg results by comparison to the Prius v with levity?

    Next up in the shooting gallery was the Wall Street Journal.

    [​IMG]The Journal’s Dan Neil is known more for driving exotics at high speed than hybrids so it was interesting to read his own perspective in the following: Ford's Fine C-Max Falls Way Short on MPG.

    Well, I had whole bouquets of kudzu and I never saw anything close to 47 mpg. With respect, Ford, someone needs to recalibrate, and it isn't me.

    A lawsuit already?

    [​IMG]A California-based law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against Ford, alleging the company has led a "false and misleading" marketing campaign for its 2013 C-MAX and Fusion hybrid vehicles. The suit seeks punitive damages, including reimbursement for the full purchase price of Ford's new hybrid vehicles.

    The plaintiff, Richard Pitkin of Roseville, California, purchased a C-Max Hybrid in October and says he averaged only 37 mpg, lower than the EPA rated 47 mpg.

    Ford’s overly “aggressive” PR and Marketing campaign

    To give you an example of how much effort has been expended on “Beating the Prius”, a search of Ford’s media site using the term “Prius” reveals 4,380 results as of this afternoon. That seems excessive given Toyota’s media site shows 0 hits for the term C-MAX and just 13 when inquiring on the Fusion.

    In that Ford media site search, there are tens to hundreds of press releases with disparaging comments about the fuel economy and range of the Prius v versus the C-MAX. If Ford were a person, they would probably be labeled a stalker!

    Within those searches, just two of the tens looked up include the following remarks:
    If the C-MAXs fuel economy of 47/47/47 mpg is as real as the press releases portend, Ford has every right to market the C-MAX as they see fit. If the C-MAX does not meet the 47 mpg rating and calculated range however, the onus is on Ford to explain. After all, it appears that Ford’s upper level execs are the ones who placed Hyundai/Kia on the EPA hot seat for an average of 1 mpg overstatement on some of their most popular B and C-segment automobiles. This appears more like 10 to 15 mpg!

    While the Press release pronouncements have slowed, just last night I saw a Chicago area Ford dealer commercial stating that Ford has a hybrid lineup that beats Prius in fuel economy.

    Procuring a C-MAX Hybrid

    After being informed last November from Ford’s Press Fleet manager that the C-MAX would not be available in the Chicago Press Fleet until possibly this spring, I asked if I could drive one from the LA Press Fleet. With a definite yes, soon afterwards I had my RT tickets to and from LAX purchased and was heading west for our own take on the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid in a review of our own.

    The tables set so how about a direct head to head drive?

    Toyota Prius v vs. 2013 Ford C-MAX Fuel Economy Comparison Drive

    While in San Diego last month, I made some calls to Toyota’s PR folks to see if they had a Prius v I could use for a shootout. A few e-mails later and I had a Prius v-3 and a Prius five liftback mule. I then rented a 2013 Ford C-MAX from Avis Rental at the San Diego International Airport.

    The comparison focused on the Toyota Prius v and Liftback’s fuel economy vs. the 2013 Ford C-MAX claims through 4 very exacting tests including the following:
    • Long distance 365.0 mile all-highway route
    • 22.8 mile all-city route
    • Speed vs. fuel economy data and graphs
    • Maximum effort 14.5 mile round trip fuel economy drive
    Setup was completed per the manufacturers recommendations with tires set at their stated placards and oil levels were not over the full marks.

    Except for maximum effort (same route and similar speeds) and Speed vs. Fuel Economy tests (exact speeds), all comparisons occurred on the same routes, at the same time at the same speeds with multiple drivers swapping vehicles and positions periodically.


    High Speed real world tests -- Initial top off at an Arco AM/PM at 3170 Carmel Valley Road – San Diego, CA.

    2013 Ford C-MAX

    How do you tell it is topped off? Slow - slow - slow fill until you see what's underneath :mad:

    2012 Toyota Prius v and Liftback


    Total time for the pressure adjustments and top offs, 1 hour and 10 minutes with 3 of us working! :rolleyes:

    The fuel consumption displays are all reset.

    The route

    The climb out of San Diego…

    Prius v, C-MAX and Prius liftback team climbing hard and fast. Called the C-MAX and told him to move into #2 for the together shots ;)

    C-Max and Prius v, the stars of the show.

    Prius v, C-MAX and Prius liftback at 4,000 ft. elevation on I-8 for drivers swap: C-Max at 33.3 mpg,
    Prius v at 36.5 mpg and Prius liftback at 40.9 mpg per the displays.​

    The 3:10 to Yuma. Oh darn, we’re going to be late ;)

    The C-MAX with wind turbines in back and playing with the devil at 666' and 73 mph!

    C-MAX caught in the side mirror with the Prius liftback in chase. A small data point but the Prius v coasts down the mountains at the highest speed.

    Random Border Patrol stop in the middle of nowhere.

    Just prior to Yuma at a rest stop with the C-MAX, Prius v and Prius liftback.

    At that rest stop the aFCDs reveal Prius liftback: 48.9 mpg, Prius v: 44.6 mpg,
    C-MAX: 38.5 mpg. And yes the liftback’s clock was 12 hours off :rolleyes:

    Into the night we drive!

    Prius v in the side mirror with Prius liftback out the side window when leaving the rest area. I liked this shot…

    Prius liftback up front, v in chase. Crossing into AZ at dusk. A border patrol stop. 70 mph ECO Cruise

    Time to refuel at a Circle K located at 8319 W Bell Rd. in Peoria, AZ.

    C-MAX Refuel: 37.2 mpg - 359.7 miles - Fuel History and Coach.​

    Notice the C-MAXs fuel level at only 1/3 of a tank left?

    Prius liftback 47.1 mpg after 368.9 miles. Prius v displaying 43.6 mpg after 368.4 miles. 66 mph average speed for the drive!​

    High speed final results

    2013 Ford C-MAX SEL - EPA rated at 47 mpgUS highway
    C-MAX consumed 10.271 gallons... 37.2 mpg displayed with 365 actual miles traveled /10.271 gallons = 35.537 mpgUS actual.

    2012 Toyota Prius v - EPA rated at 40 mpgUS highway
    Prius v consumed 8.953 gallons... 43.6 mpg displayed with 365 actual miles traveled/8.953 gallons = 40.768 mpgUS actual.

    2012 Toyota Prius liftback – EPA rated at 48 mpgUS highway
    Prius liftback consumed 8.430 gallons... 47.1 mpg displayed with 365 actual miles traveled /8.430 gallons = 43.298 mpgUS actual.​

    All-highway high speed drive comparisons

    The C-MAX actual fuel economy of 35.537 mpgUS result fell short of its EPA highway rating by 24.4%.

    Prius v actual fuel economy of 40.768 mpgUS beat its EPA highway rating by 1.9%. More interesting is that it provided 14.7% more mpg than the C-MAX.

    The Prius Liftback actual fuel economy of 43.298 mpgUS fell short of its EPA highway rating by 9.8%

    Another interesting result is that the Prius v had 1/2 tank of fuel left while the C-MAX had just 1/3 of a tank left. Range wise, the C-MAX was by far the laggard.


    All-City Route Test

    22.8 mile all-city San Diego route with a 200 ft. elevation drop from start to finish.

    Prius v up front beginning at a Shell on Del Mar Heights road and I-5.

    Prius v up front to the driver switch at a Rite Aid on the corner of Balboa and Genesee in San Diego.

    C-MAX takes the lead.

    C-MAX up front all the way into the Avis at the San Diego Airport.​

    The All-City Drive Results

    Prius v (rated at 44 mpg city): 59.7 mpg and 23.0 miles displayed. 55.8 mpg actual over 22.8 miles.

    C-MAX (rated at 47 mpg city): 54.4 mpg and 22.4 miles displayed. 52.0 mpg actual over 22.8 miles.​

    All-city route drive comparisons

    C-MAX actual fuel economy: 52.0 mpg actual over 22.8 miles.

    Prius v actual fuel economy: 55.8 mpg actual over 22.8 miles.

    While the C-MAX did beat its EPA city result, it fell woefully short of besting the lower fuel economy rated Prius v revealing that the C-MAX fuel economy claims beyond that of the Prius v are not what we were meant to believe.


    Steady State Tests


    Anyone that has followed our drives over the years knows how much effort we place in making the results as accurate as possible with multiple lengthy drives in each direction, at each speed, minimized elevation differentials, GPS speeds are used, and of course an accurate offset for the aFCDs including odometer offset and temperature compensations.

    Speed vs. Fuel Economy comparison results
    • The C-MAX fell below its EPA highway rating of 47 mpg at 60.9 mph (calculated straight-line interpolation)

    • The Prius v fell behind its EPA highway rating of 40 mpg at 72.7 mph (calculated straight-line interpolation) and clear off the chart!

    • The Prius Liftback fell behind its EPA highway rating of 48 mpg at 68.1 mph (calculated straight-line interpolation) and mirrors most other vehicles we have tested
    The 47 mpg highway rated C-MAX again failed to beat the lower rated 40 mpg highway rated Prius v at “ANY SPEED” with no chance to surpass the v at lower or higher speeds beyond the recorded speed vs. fuel economy charts as generated. The C-MAX highway EPA figure of 47 mpg appears even more suspicious as the much lower rated Prius v bests it at each and every speed documented!


    Maximum Fuel Economy City Drive

    While beyond the realm of the “average” driver, with all three fuel sippers in hand, why not find out what they are worth when pushed to their limits?

    2013 Ford C-MAX SEL – EPA rated at 47 mpg city
    75.3 mpg over 14.3 miles displayed. – 72.1 mpg over 14.5 miles actual.

    2012 Toyota Prius v-3 – EPA rated at 44 mpg city
    99.9 mpg over 14.7 miles displayed. – 99.9 mpg over 14.5 miles actual.

    2012 Toyota Prius liftback Pkg. 5 – EPA rated at 51 mpg city
    99.9 mpg over 14.8 miles displayed. – 99.9 mpg over 14.5 miles actual.​

    The reason I can say 99.9 mpgUS actual for the Prius v is because the route was an ~ 100 ft. elevation climb from start to the turnaround point of the loop at a stop sign. The Prius v showed 96.8 mpg at that point and cleared back over 99.9 with < .3 miles on the back side with the final .7 miles not using a drop.

    Once again the C-MAX misses its competitions marks and in this case it felt like as if there was simply too much fuel consumption during any engine run time. The C-MAX is equipped with Michelin Energy Saver A/S’ (P225/50R17s) whereas the Prius v is shod with Yokohama BluEarth S34 (P205/60R16s). The Prius v “felt” like it glides better even with lower placard pressures?

    All told, if I were in a fuel economy challenge of any sort, would I choose the C-MAX or the Prius v? I think we know the answer to that question.


    I have also read a number of Ford inferences about cargo capacity of the C-MAX vs. Prius family so with all of them in hand, we put the trio to the test. The results were eye opening.

    Real world useable cargo capacity comparison

    Prius liftback (22 cu. ft. spec) useable cargo volume comparison.

    Prius v (34 cu. ft. spec) usable rear cargo volume comparison.

    Prius v vs C-MAX rear cargo area comparison.​

    Prius v (34 cu. ft. spec) and Liftback (22 cu. ft. spec) could stow all four pieces without worry as to orientation. The C-MAX (24 cu. ft. spec) consumes the luggage although the prone large piece edge stuck out and would not allow the hatch to close even when placed in the center.

    C-MAX (24 cu. ft. spec) consumes the luggage but with the large piece having had
    to be tipped up and placed in sideways. Now its top is just above seat back height.​



    Simply stated, Ford’s claims of the C-MAXs superiority in city, highway and combined fuel economy over the Prius v per its EPA ratings in press releases and advertisements continue even with the number of counter claims provided by journalists, automobile reviewers, and anecdotal comparison evidence by some very important automotive media outlets.

    In this direct head to head fuel economy comparison between the Toyota Prius v and Ford’s C-MAX, the C-MAX lacks any credence for such claims. Given the various detailed tests spelled out above, Ford may be able to duplicate the EPA results but they certainly cannot duplicate the claims of besting the Prius v in the real world no matter an all-highway or an all-city commute.

    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.

    Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess? I do hope that Ford begins a PR push to provide future C-MAX owners customer satisfaction by highlighting its strengths versus “We know we can pass any EPA test.” I do not really give a damn about passing the EPA test. I do care about four CleanMPG members that currently own a C-MAX and are frustrated to no end.

    Bob, Rich and Rick, thanks for purchasing a Hybrid as you are saving fuel vs. what you could have purchased. Just not as much as what we had all hoped.
  2. wick1ert

    wick1ert Well-Known Member

    Fantastic read, and I love the straight up comparisons and data that you pulled. I am also very glad I didn't purchase a C-Max based off the EPA numbers as it was highly considered - at least until I remembered I'd have a car payment again! Considering I typically average in the low-upper 40s on average commuting in the liftback, I can only imagine I'd have been even more disappointed with the C-Max.

    From now on, I will wait until you're able to do one of your famous drives.
  3. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    Thanks Wayne, nobody else seems to have done nearly as detailed of an analysis as you did.
  4. Jay

    Jay Well-Known Member

    Very comprehensive, Wayne. Thanks.
  5. Paymaster

    Paymaster Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the write-up. Hopefully Ford will pay attention but so far they seem to have their story and are sticking with it. That law firm probably will pay attention to this though;). Its too bad because like you said there are a number of good things about it. Its a great size for my family. The mileage bugs me though. Maybe this summer I can get that mystical 47 mpg on a whole tank. In the meantime every time a Ford exec states that maybe there is a problem with EPA test or it's the drivers fault I want to call that law firm myself.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013
  6. priusCpilot

    priusCpilot George

    Really good data here which I would use for evidence in court lol!

    There are some positive things to owning a C-MAX over a V but the real negatives for me are.

    1. EPA 10 below for the average driver.

    2. It needs to go on a diet, it weighs to much.

    3. I like the way the V looks over the C-MAX especially the rear.
  7. rmcmast

    rmcmast Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the report Wayne. Even though I'm disappointed with the mileage, I'd probably still have purchased it knowing all this. It's great to drive and at least in the front seats feels much like the Escape we had before.

    Like I've mentioned before, even with its better mpg, the Prius was not an option for us. I might have gone for it, but my wife really wasn't comfortable in the V and really wanted to purchase from a US automaker. I still cringe every time I see one of the Ford commercials boasting about beating the Prius mpg though.
  8. Gord

    Gord Super Moderator Staff Member

    Great write up as usual Wayne and very detailed, thanks!
  9. bestmapman

    bestmapman Fighting untruth and misinformation

    I was surprised the Prius V did as well as it did.
  10. Prozac

    Prozac Well-Known Member

    It truly is a shame that Ford is trying to stick to the EPA numbers. The fact is this car offers things that the Prius does not, one of those being a quieter ride. I said this before, I would be willing to give up a mpg or two for the quieter ride. With the amount of highway travel I have to do, I find the quieter, more comfortable cars allow me to function after a good amount of travel. Hope Ford wakes up and takes their lumps like Hyundai.
  11. 2RR2NV

    2RR2NV Ultimate Newbie

    we can hope but with Ford's money, doubt it. all they care about is being legal. and EPA helps that. BUT, looking at what happened with the Civic dealio, we CAN hope that Ford gets kicked into the dirt.
  12. rickkop

    rickkop Active Member

    This was a great test. Thank you Wayne for publishing true results. I have been looking for a replacement for my Prius and the C-max and Fusion hybrids were both high on my short list but as everyone else I had heard the rumors that these vehicles didn't perform anywhere near EPA ratings. Too bad as this will leave a bad taste with consumers who where burned and they will look elsewhere for thier future purchases. Rick
  13. ksstathead

    ksstathead Moderator

    Incredible analysis, Wayne. Thank you.
  14. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    No need to thank me. Thanks to Toyota for having a Prius v and Prius liftback in their press fleets and available at the time and Avis for having two C-MAXs in their rental fleet out of San Diego to choose from. The bill for the 4-days rental was not so pleasant however.

    I think I have corrected all the Gr and Sp errors but if you see anything that sticks out, feel free to send me a note or fix it.


  15. JBumps

    JBumps Active Member

    I disagree Wayne. The thanks are more than deserved. This is the kind of review material that keeps me coming back and that can't be found elsewhere.

    Thanks for the report - unfortunately, it does mean that the Ford offering will not likely find itself on my wife's shortlist this spring.

  16. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    WOW Wayne, what a fantastic and detailed review. Confirms a lot of what I've been hearing about the C-Max with respect to the two competitors (Prius Lift and Prius V) that it's slotted between. Especially:

    As I've been saying for a long time, EPA cargo volume doesn't always tell the story. When you're loading actual bags and not just counting how many balloons or teddy bears you can stuff in the floor-to-ceiling space, the standard Prius' longer floor helps make up for the lack of height. The measurements I've taken line up pretty well with your findings about stuffing real luggage into these cars.
    • Prius Liftback cargo floor length: 34".
    • Prius V cargo floor length: 36" minimum. The cargo area can be extended (by as much as 10") without folding down the rear seats by sliding them forward on their tracks.
    • C-Max cargo floor length: 31".
  17. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Well-Known Member

    This is a very helpful comparison - thank you for doing it.

    I wish the factory MPG meters could be calibrated to the actual fillups and to the actual distance, as well. None of these cars (or any car that I have seen) has an accurate MPG meter - and they always overestimate the mileage.
  18. chucky2

    chucky2 Active Member

    To me the biggest loss here for the consumer isn't consumers buying Ford C-MAX, but really, the EPA testing itself. The point of the EPA testing for consumers is to give them data points right on the vehicles in the dealers lots so they can compare what are supposed to be meaningful numbers on one vehicle to meaningful numbers on another vehicle. What this test shows is that, while a manufacturer can game the EPA testing sequence to produce certain numbers, they many (even, most?) times do not equate with Reality.

    Yet, that is exactly what the EPA numbers should be shooting for, the closest potrayal of Reality possible.

    From gas engined vehicles driving normally by normal people not meeting their EPA numbers, to diesels getting far better mileage than their EPA numbers would suggest, to hybrids such as the C-MAX here failing to deliver rated mileage, the single largest thing that should come out of this is the EPA needing to revamp its rating system in a real and comprehensive way.

    Thank you btw for doing the test!

  19. rhwinger

    rhwinger Well-Known Member

    Thanks Wayne.

    Great work.

    Just to add, the C-Max ride is very nice. My son likes to drive it as well. If Ford would just rate this thing at 40 MPG, I'd still buy it. But I feel the exaggerated mileage claims leave a bitter taste in my mouth.


    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013
  20. ILAveo

    ILAveo Well-Known Member

    I'm curious about where Wayne thinks Ford's testing went wrong. Link to EPA test description. I doubt that they'd be bold enough to straight up fudge their results, but the size of real world discrepancy calls for an independent test.

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