Consumer Reports On Plug-In Hybrid Reliability – Ford C-Max Energi Plagued With Problems – Chevy Volt Above Average


Chevy Volt Scored Slightly Above Average in the Reliability Survey

Chevy Volt Scored Slightly Above Average in the Reliability Survey

While Consumer Reports’ latest annual reliability survey of 1.1 million vehicles showed reliability of pure electric vehicles to be generally well above average, the same is not so true for plug-in hybrids.  Now Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports weighs in on some of the results.

Starting with the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, we see that it received an overall reliability score of “below average” for 2013.  The standard Prius (you know, the one that doesn’t plug in) was more reliable than its plug-in counterpart, according to Consumer Reports.

On the flip side is the Chevrolet Volt, and some data that had not been made publically available.  The latest survey shows the Volt to be 7% above average in regards to reliability.  Major issues reported for the Volt include electrical problems and engine cooling issues.

Moving to the Ford C-Max Energi, it seems that if you so much as glance at it the wrong way, it then breaks down.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but Consumer Reports found the C-Max Energi to be the least reliable of all vehicles included in the ownership survey.  Mr. Fisher notes that the C-Max Energi received the “worst rating in the entire survey.”

The Tesla Model S did well overall with Consumer Reports noting that the car’s drive system, electrical system, suspension, brakes, paint, and trim all receiving good scores  Problem area?  It did exhibit some problems with squeaks, rattles, and body hardware.

Fisher noted on the Tesla to Design News, “Among 600 Teslas, we didn’t see a single problem related to the battery, electric motor, or the electronics. The funny thing was that problems were mechanical. They have these little electric door handles that pop out. They don’t always work.”

In regards to plug-in hybrids in general, Fisher states:

“When you get a vehicle that is electric and also has a gasoline engine, then you’ve got all the associated maintenance and you end up losing the advantages of the pure electric powertrain.”

Source: Design News

Category: ChevroletFord

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33 responses to "Consumer Reports On Plug-In Hybrid Reliability – Ford C-Max Energi Plagued With Problems – Chevy Volt Above Average"
  1. ClarksonCote says:

    “When you get a vehicle that is electric and also has a gasoline engine, then you’ve got all the associated maintenance and you end up losing the advantages of the pure electric powertrain.”

    I don’t agree with this at all. With my Volt, I change my oil in the engine every 2 years. That’s it. While I agree that is certainly more than needed in a pure EV, it is much less than would typically be needed in a standard automobile.

    Maybe the statement is more accurate for milder plug-ins like the C-Max Energi and PiP, but even then, maintenance intervals are lowered and the advantages are not entirely lost.

    1. Anon says:

      Don’t worry. Everyone suffers from Cognitive Bias Error from time to time…

      1. ClarksonCote says:

        Were you looking in the mirror as you typed that? 😛

    2. Brian says:

      Seriously. Even my mild-hybrid Insight benefits from its partially electrified power train. I change the oil about once a year which is better than a typical ICEV. This maintenance item may not have gone away, but that doesn’t mean there is zero benefit.

      I also benefit from the regenerative breaking reducing wear and tear on the brakes.

  2. Mark H says:

    “When you get a vehicle that is electric and also has a gasoline engine, then you’ve got all the associated maintenance and you end up losing the advantages of the pure electric powertrain.”
    The Volt, the BMW Rex, and future extenders will suffer less because the engine is, in most cases, used far less. Yes the Volt is a plug in hybrid too but this is why Chevy coined the phrase EREV and one more reason why the differentiation is important for the Volt as well as future EVs that run primarily on the battery and use the engine primarily as a extender.

    1. ClarksonCote says:

      Looks like we picked up on the same thing at the same time, Mark. Agree completely about trying to use the EREV term to help differentiate too.

  3. Anon says:

    Just imagine how much higher the reliability rating of a Volt would be, if it were a pure electric vehicle.

    No complicated secondary ICE and related hardware, like multiple clutches or planetary gears to worry about. More room for a better battery pack. And certainly no need for buying any Premium Petrol or farting out a tailpipe.

    Being slightly above average isn’t much to brag about. But in this case, still better than Ford.

    1. ClarksonCote says:

      Anon, you continue to miss the point with your purist EV fanboy attitude. A Volt allows people like myself to own one vehicle instead of two.

      People like you may choose to just take a different gas powered vehicle while you condemn any plug-in with an engine, but that’s pretty hypocritical. The fact is, mainstream consumers want the security of a vehicle that can go 1,000 miles if it needs to.

      A vehicle like the Volt provides that comfort while also giving pure EV driving for their daily commuting up to 38 miles daily. It’s the best “gateway drug” to EV’s available, so you really should rethink your position.

      1. BraveLilToaster says:

        *Drive* 1,000 miles? I have two little kids man. I would rather shoot myself in the leg than drive 1,000 miles for anything. That’s why God invented airplanes, isn’t it?

        1. Nate says:

          A few weeks ago we drove 1800+ miles round trip through the beautiful Pacific NW and northern Rockies. This was with a 1 and 6 year old. Great trip and we enjoyed the drive. I’m really glad we didn’t have to deal with airport security, over priced poor quality food, boarding process and waiting to take off (with kids), poor cabin air quality, waiting to un-boarding (with kids), and unloading luggage and car seats off of baggage claim ramps. We fly a couple times a year too but driving seems way easier.

          Too each their own though.

    2. Nate says:

      There hasn’t been any reliability problems with the clutches or planetary gear sets. Quit making stuff up.

  4. Phatcat73 says:

    I think the author is trying to convey that a pure BEV has fewer parts,that can break down vs an ice or a hybrid (of any sorts).

    I actually compared the cmax to the Leaf and at the end of the day went with the Leaf for its mechanical simplicity, amongst other reasons.

  5. David Murray says:

    With the Cmax I wonder how many of those problems were in any way related to the drivetrain or battery systems.

    1. Bloggin says:

      My guess since it is CR, it’s mostly about their dislike of the MyFord system.

    2. Puzzlegal says:

      Hmm, I just took this survey (so recently that I’m puzzled how results are out) and I thought they asked you to exclude any repairs covered by the warranty. I’m sure they excluded recalls and accidents. I wondered, as I filled it out, “what else is there”. I mean, all these cars are new enough to be under warranty, so what could be included?

  6. MTN Ranger says:

    How come the Leaf isn’t included in this discussion by CR? There definitely should be enough data from the second best selling PEV in the US.

    1. John says:

      Because the Leaf is not a Plug In Hybrid

      1. Anon says:

        But they included the Tesla which isn’t a PHEV either?

    2. webdbbt says:

      CR gives the Leaf a “much better than average” reliability prediction, while the Volt is rated “average”. But for owner satisfaction (percentage of owners who would definitely purchase that same vehicle again) the Volt is second highest:
      Tesla Model S 99
      Volt 91
      Leaf 81
      Median 78 (all Hybrids/EVs)

  7. GeorgeS says:

    I’ve had my Volt for 2 years now and I never have had to go to the dealer. Most reliable vehicle I have ever owned. This seems to be the case with other owners as well.

    It makes sense that the C Max and the Prius have reliability issues though. They are just boring hybrids with a tacked on battery while the The Volt is a real EV.

    1. David says:


  8. Bloggin says:

    So the C-Max Energi was the worst, but there are no numbers to back up the claim.

    CR consistently overstates their ‘problems/dislike’ related to the MyFord Touch system as ‘defects’. So it would be interesting to see just how many ‘actual’ problems the C-MAX had not related to owners not reading user manuals, then compared with the other plug-in vehicles.

    Does anyone have the actual data?

    1. GeorgeS says:

      I wonder if CR “surveyed” many Arizona Leaf owners. It doesn’t sound like it. I don’t think Leaf drivers with a worn out battery are applauding its reliability.

      1. Nate says:

        Probably a low sample size, and Arizona is a relatively small market share. They didn’t have a city in one of the initial launch markets, right? Seattle, Portland and S.F. all have mild weather and have been consistently top markets — not just in 2013 — but all the way back from the beginning.

    2. Anon says:

      Good point. Also… is the “worst” still above average for cars in general? Sounds like possibly clickbait serving up the good as the enemy of the perfect.

    3. AReader says:

      It’s not at all clear where CS’s C-MAX prediction comes from. The reliability history is only for one year – 2013. For that year, one category (electrical) is below average, all other categories are well above average.

    4. Puzzlegal says:

      Yes, I am dying to see this.

      I’m also a little miffed at CR for spending so much energy dissing the “MyFordTouch” system. You don’t really have to use it for anything but GPS. Okay, I tend to use my phone instead of the built-in GPS of the C-max, so it’s not great, but saying the car sucks because it’s GPS has an awkward user interface is like saying a car sucks because you don’t like the position of the cup holders. It’s hardly a critical component of the car.

      I have a c-max. I told CS I would buy it again. I haven’t had any serious problems with it, and I LOVE the way it handles, and the way it drives in general. Oh, and it’s extremely fuel efficient, to boot. It gets upwards of 40mpg when the battery is dead, and we run it enough on battery that our overall average MPG is 85.

  9. BraveLilToaster says:

    I find the Tesla reliability figures interesting, since I’ve always been quick to point out that reliability of something as complicated as a car doesn’t begin and end with the drivetrain. There’s thousands of other complicated do-dads that can short out or break or stick or otherwise stop working.

    Starting with that huge – and delicate! – touch screen that fills the dash of the Tesla.

    Gas powertrains are generally well-refined these days and don’t break down like they used to. Even so, simpler *is* better.

    1. Puzzlegal says:

      I was looking at the next planned Tesla, and wondering about the reliability of the fancy gull-wing doors.

  10. EnerGT says:

    I have the CMAX ENERGI and I also completed the CR survey and participate on the CMAX blogs. The only issues have noted of any consistency have to do with the myTouch system. I am at 11k miles since last August and it’s the best car I’ve owned. The only issue has been that you have to change the radio station sometimes when you start the car. I wonder if my CR survey counted negatively based on that one and only problem?

  11. Ken_3 says:

    I had a Ford Focus BEV that spent 10 weeks in the shop trying to fix it. I traded it in for a C Max Energi. It now has 4000 miles on it and was in for a minor recall. I do NOT use the Ford Sync system. I do not use any of the connection system. Ford has a lot of issues with their system.

    The car drives well. I show 152 mpg on the dashboard readout.
    Give me a BEV with a 150 mile range that I can afford and I will buy it. Until then, I will stay with the PHEV.

  12. AtlantaEVDC says:

    Agree that for today’s US EV market, VOLT is a great choice. Reliable, low operating costs, solidly built. On my 2nd VOLT. 2 year lease was up & found my ’13 so reliable & economical ($.45/mile all in cost) that I bought a 2014. My ownership cost analysis is on website if you are interested in learning more.