Ford C-Max Fuel Efficiency Questioned by Consumer Reports and Now EPA Investigating


The Ford C-Max is an important vehicle for the automaker.  It represents the very first dedicated hybrid they have produced.  The company has big plans for the car, it is being pitted directly against the Prius v as a mainstream crossover hybrid.

The C-Max Energi And Hybrid

Furthermore, and of great important to us, the C-Max comes too as a plugin in version with 21 miles of EV range and a price less that $30,000 after tax credit.

Ford just launched the C-Max and has begun a concerted marketing effort to drive sales.  It is doing well so far with considerable and growing early sales.

Unfortunately for Ford just at this critical juncture, the venerated Consumer Reports has declared the vehicle does not get the fuel efficiency that Ford has announced.

Ford stated that the C-Max Energi would get a combined EPA of 47 mpg.  These are official EPA numbers that were determined using the traditional city and highway federal driving cycles.

In CR’s real world testing, however, they found the car only delivered 37 mpg average.  In a table posted on their site (shown above) this was the largest discrepancy of all hybrids tested.  Almost all the hybrids performed lower in CRs hands than on the EPA tests, for example the Prius scored 6 mpg lower.

Since the big public splash this news had made, the EPA has decided they will investigate.  According to Autoblog, EPA officials have said they will “look at the report and data” from CR testing.

Ford spokespeople point out that one reason for such a wide variation seen in the C-Max is the fact that it has 50 more horsepower than for example the Prius.  Because it is possible to get a responsive mash on the accelerator in the C-Max it is possible to lower real world mpg more dramatically than in other hybrids.  Some owners  Ford points out, using the opposite driving behavior, have even tweaked the car to get 55 mpg.

“Early C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg. This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions and other factors can cause mileage to vary,” says Ford.

There are no public CR tests of the plugin C-Max yet.  Ford has announced that car will get 43 mpg when operating in non-electric mode.


Categories: Ford


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14 Comments on "Ford C-Max Fuel Efficiency Questioned by Consumer Reports and Now EPA Investigating"

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It would be in Ford’s best interest to find a way so that the EPA tests are concluded as rapidly as possible.

This will go one of two ways…

Either Ford will be vindicated and Consumer Reports will walk away with egg on their face, or Ford will be found to be in the wrong by overstating their MPG figures, and suffer the embarassment. I hope for Ford’s sake they did their testing as legit, and the numbers are correct as stated.

In Hyundai’s case, the mpg debacle for them hasn’t appeared to hurt them. They are on the path to a record sales year. However, I’m guessing since Ford is a Domestic brand, they will get thrown under the bus by consumers. It’s not a fair world. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I think neither of those will happen. (If Ford did cheat on the EPA tests then they are in trouble, but my guess is they didn’t.)

Consumer Reports won’t get egg on their face because their tests probably do give a decent real-world estimate. Ford won’t be found to be wrong because they will did run the EPA tests properly. It’s just that the EPA tests aren’t so good at giving real-world estimates. This will become a bigger problem in the coming years as some manufacturers optimize their vehicles for the EPA tests instead of for the real world.

Now what should happen is that Consumer Reports should run the official EPA tests on their Fords (and their Prii) and see what they get. I don’t think that will happen, but it would be interesting.

I’m with you. As regulations get more strict, the easiest way to meet new requirements is to game the EPA tests. In theory, one would hope that the EPA itself wises up to this and keeps trying to improve their tests (i.e. match them better to real world driving).


What numbers are you getting ?

none yet – I am picking the car up tonight finally

/crosses fingers



To be fair, CU’s article does mention that “still deliver excellent fuel economy.”

“Make no mistake; both the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid still deliver excellent fuel economy. The Fusion Hybrid’s 39 mpg is the best of any family sedan we’ve tested, edging out the Toyota Camry Hybrid by 1 mpg. And the C-Max Hybrid’s 37 mpg is second only to the Prius V’s 41 mpg in its class. But our tests show that buyers shouldn’t expect the stellar 47 mpg that Ford is promoting.” -CU

Lyle, does this have anything to do with the fact that Ford counts any mileage with their engine off as “EV Miles” even after depleting the battery?

If they did this, and didn’t count them towards the gasoline mileage, it would bias the gas engine’s efficiency lower. Not to mention, it is also an inaccurate, and somewhat misleading, accounting of “EV Miles”

I’m sure you recall that GM only counts miles for the Volt derived from grid power as “EV”, and other miles all as gas miles (even when the engine is off for some of them, since those electric miles were still ultimately derived from gasoline).

Most of the Ford cars to have come out in the opast few years actually get better MPG than what is on the sticker. My neighbor has a fusion hybrid and a focus and I have spoken to him at length about his MPG numbers.

Considering CR only gets 43 for the 3rd gen Prius vs the EPA 50 mpg. I have to take issue with CR’s numbers. I (at least 75% of the time) got between 45~50 mpg for the 2nd gen Prius, and the 3rd is more efficient. If they didnt come closer to 50 than that something is wrong with their testing… ie: Always hard acceleration, Always driving faster than speed limit, HVAC at full blast, Bad weather, in the mountains etc.

It’s easy to see what Ford probably did to get the 47mpg rating on their EPA tests (since Ford does the test by itself and it doesn’t specify min acceleration rates). They accelerated the C-Max on battery only for as long as possible and came up with these ivory tower numbers nobody would get in real world driving (without really driving people behind you crazy).

Open letter to Ford: I thought my 2013 C-MAX would be a Prius Killer? NOT! As a returning Ford buyer I feel deceived. I want to support US companies and US jobs. What was Ford thinking when they published 47/ 47/47 estimates? Based on the advertised EPA estimates, I would have been ok with low 40’s but 28-33 mpg is not even in the ballpark. This is not an issue about EPA testing standards, but rather an issue about setting false customer expectations in order to promote sales. Ford’s “47MPG” marketing campaign tarnished what should have been the roll out of a truly remarkable vehicle, the CMAX. Real world MPG estimates should have been promoted in the mid-30’s. No one would have questioned those numbers and the CMAX would have received the accolades it deserves. How these MPG estimates made it through Ford corporate is beyond me! Maybe it was the rush to go to market? I have been accused of not knowing how to drive hybrid. For the record, during the last three years I have leased both a 2010 Prius and 2010 Honda Insight Hybrid, and consider myself an experienced hyper-miler. My mileage in the Prius is 50… Read more »