First Drive: Ford C-Max Energi

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Ford (F) C-Max Energi just entered production in October and I got a chance to take it for a very brief city spin a week ago. A more meaningful test, which would involve at least two to three days of highway driving and electric-range testing, will hopefully be forthcoming sooner rather than later.

In terms of its powertrain, the C-Max Energi slots in slightly closer to the Toyota (TM) Prius Plug-In than GM's (GM) Chevrolet Volt. The total size of the battery capacity in the C-Max Energi is 7.6 kW, compared to 4.4 in the Prius and 16.5 in the Volt.

While the Prius will only take you six miles on electricity, the C-Max will do 21, which is still far behind the Volt's 38 miles. Once those all-electric miles are over, the Prius performs at 50 MPG, the C-Max at 43 and the Volt at 38 MPG.

The C-Max differs compared to the Prius by being able to operate in all-electric mode for its first phase. It does so by limiting performance a little bit, however, topping at 85 MPH.

The Prius sees its gasoline engine cut in at moderate acceleration, or if you drive near or a bit above 60 MPH. As such, the Prius really operates in "blended" gasoline/electric mode for 11 miles (6 of whom are electric), again compared to the C-Max's 21 all-electric miles.

Because of how differently the Ford operates, the "feel" of the acceleration isn't directly comparable with the Prius. If you force the C-Max into all-electric mode, it is obviously smooth, quiet and efficient, whereas the Prius will engage the gasoline engine whether you like it or not, at that point obviously performing like a regular Prius in terms of acceleration. You can operate the C-Max in that kind of mode as well, and at that point it smokes the Prius -- relatively speaking.

That said, the C-Max is no match for the Volt in terms of the sports department. Not only is the Volt much more powerful with its 111 kW main electric motor, sometimes helped by a secondary 55 kW electric motor. The Volt is also a relative sports car, physically speaking, where you sit low like in a Camaro or Corvette, and have a lower center of gravity. Simply put: The Volt is the sports car of the bunch, with spinning tires at every red light, and exceptional acceleration/response.

The C-Max is very spacious for five people. I would go so far as to say that all five occupants could be professional basketball players -- the American kind, not the North Korean. The doors are big, and the car itself is tall. This accessibility and space is one area where the C-Max gets top honors, and easily trumps the Volt.