Endurance Test: Ford C-Max Takes On Chevy Volt

Tickers in this article: F GM

What about when the battery is down to the level where the gasoline engine HAS to kick in, no matter what? The Volt is rated at 35 MPG on the highway, and I yielded 37 MPG on the exact same 1,100 mile test loop as the Ford, with other ideal conditions also identical.

The Ford yielded 32.6 MPG on the same test, despite being rated at 43 MPG. Chew on that for a minute: The Volt performed 2 MPG ahead of its EPA estimate; the Ford at least 10 MPG below. That's a HUGE delta, and both cars weigh approximately 3,800 lbs.

So from a performance perspective, the Volt holds almost all of the cards: It drives almost twice as far on electricity alone, it does so without being forced into gasoline mode with annoying and herky-jerky frequency, it does so with much more power, and when it switches to gasoline mode it's no less efficient than the Ford despite the EPA rating suggesting otherwise.

Ford's only advantage is that once you're driving far, therefore on gasoline, it's got more power and it's quieter, especially on long uphill climbs at high speeds (70 MPH+).

What about the electronics and the dashboard? Ford gets a bit of an incomplete here because although you can download the iOS app, it doesn't yet work with this car. So it wasn't possible to test.

The screens in the Ford have plenty of information to show, but does much of it very poorly. The numbers mixes electric-only and hybrid driving for a deceptive combined number. Huge swaths of the high-quality LCD displays are filled with all sorts of irrelevant information, including illustrations of a bunch of growing trees. I kid you not. How juvenile!

Other key statistics on the screens appear for only a few seconds after you turn off the car, then vanish to never again return. For example, you can never really find out how many electric-only miles you have driven since you last fully charged the car. That's the default setting in the Volt, and it's the thing you really want to know.

The Ford's audio system and navigation are as incomprehensible as they are in so many other cars these days, and even more so than in the Volt. I can't for the life of me create shortcuts for radio stations, let alone anything more complicated.

The Ford is completely missing an AUX jack, which means that I had to connect my iPad via USB. When playing podcasts, the Ford apparently failed to keep the podcast bookmarks.

Let's say you started listening to a podcast in a car, then left the car and wanted to continue -- bookmark nonexistent. To remedy this, I simply ended up driving the Ford with a set of big Bluetooth headsets over my ears, connecting directly to the iPad, completely circumventing the car's audio system.

Other minor irritations in the Ford: The steering wheel doesn't have nice leather. The climate controls, plus some other buttons, are right in front of the transmission shifter, hidden. The climate controls also default to some high fan setting, causing me to have to turn it down almost all the time. The cup holders and other storage opportunities around the driver are also un-smooth for smartphones, keys and related items.