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Ford C-Max: Small Utility Vehicle

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Emergency Services Vehicles Topics:  Ford C-Max
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Ford C-Max: Small Utility Vehicle

Bill Crittenden
17 March 2016

2013 Ford C-Max
Having been frustrated with a few problems on our Mazda CX-7, I had a bit of a breakdown and took the family to the local Ford dealership. The timing was perfect, because they had a white, used C-Max Hybrid SEL with all the options we wanted.

I've wanted this exact car for years, and as soon as I got to drive it for more than a test drive, I've been thinking of one great potential use for it.

This was prompted by my son finding the 120V outlet between the front seats. Our other family car, a 2003 Pontiac Vibe, has one as well. In combination with the AWD, size of the vehicle, fuel economy, and laptop-sized flat tray on the back of the front seat, I've thought that the Vibe made the best security vehicle on the market for years.

The C-Max is a generation more advanced than the Vibe in technology. The only shortcoming of the vehicle is the lack of all wheel drive. Security officers don't have "snow days" off. If that's not a requirement for your climate, there are no obvious shortcomings for basic patrol.

It doesn't have a whole ton of storage space in the rear storage, because it's narrow and tall. But it's also more than tall enough to be comfortable for a person 6'2" tall with short legs and a long torso. I can even sit comfortably in the rear seats. Legroom isn't great, but I physically can't bend myself over to fit into a lot of sedans with sloping rear roofs. The high roof makes it very easy to get out of and back into, great when your patrols require frequently stopping and getting out.

The hybrid drive not only delivers good fuel economy for a vehicle its size, but the conspicuous but nicely done Hybrid badging can be a selling point for environmentally-conscious clients. Fuel economy even gets better with constant stop-and-start use instead of worse because it relies on the electric motor at low speeds and recharges at stops.

Not only is it a hybrid car, but it's an American-branded, American-built hybrid car. That's a rare thing to find. If that matters to your clients or customers, then this car should definitely be on your short list. The Prius is the country's most popular hybrid but is made overseas. The Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot are made in Illinois but aren't available as hybrids. The similarly-sized Mazda5, Jeep Renegade, and Chevrolet Trax aren't hybrids AND aren't made in America.

As I mentioned, it has a 120V outlet, so you can run equipment from the passenger seat without worrying about battery life. It doesn't have the tray that the Vibe did, but then laptops have often been replaced by iPads. A standard 12V lighter-style car charger outlet won't charge my son's iPad mini, but the C-Max's 120V with the charger from his bedroom will, so there's still a big advantage to having the C-Max here.

Sure, it lacks all wheel drive for getting through snow or mud, but that doesn't mean it can't handle winter. The Winter Package includes heated seats that adjust to 5 levels of heat as well as a remote starter (my wife's favorite option when our northern Illinois winters get to about ten below zero).

2016 C-Max Hybrids start at a little over $24,000, but some of the initial purchase price can be recovered by the increase in fuel efficiency. More quickly if the price of gas goes up. The C-Max's resale value isn't as high as a Prius', and a work vehicle is going to get a few scrapes & scratches, so a used one would be great if you're not too picky about the color.

If your security department or company doesn't need an off-road or all wheel drive vehicle, I highly recommend the C-Max. Heck, even if you do need all wheel drive occasionally due to weather, I'd happily have a C-Max for the 360 or so days I could use it and keep an old Ford Escape on winter tires for the handful of days that I really needed the SUV.

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