Ford C-Max Energi vs Nissan LEAF — Comparing The Drive

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

The moment I got in the spacious canopy of the LEAF, moving effortlessly with a unique and agile responsiveness, I changed. With a softer drive, the LEAF is as easy as cars get. I think it is the most naturally cooperative car to drive. Until the Model 3 or 2018 LEAF is out, I decided to compare the drive of a C-Max Energi to a Nissan LEAF to get a better understanding of the options on the market.

I was seasoned by the LEAF when I test drove a Tesla. Perhaps Tesla is as responsive; perhaps it is as soft — surely, must be. I still prefer the cut of the LEAF (if not the range to Tesla) — lightly, higher up from the road, an excellent view and lots of it. The day I drove both, it was LEAF that lingered in my mind. Like many, I am waiting to test drive the Model 3 and compare. Tesla is the king of range. But for now, how does the C-Max Energi size up (on a test drive, at least)?

20151230_181154-1 copy

If you have not driven a LEAF yet, I encourage you to test drive one and experience the finesse. Take a half hour and explore the lighter footprint. I take smooth responsiveness for granted; I expect it now. However, seeing C-MAX Energis here and there, I thought it was time to test drive one and compare. After all, the C-Max could make it longer distances. What would I have to give up for the convenience of gas (thus, range) in a plug-in hybrid?

007 (3) (2) copy

I scheduled a test drive at Ford. Arriving in any automobile showroom other than Tesla’s is always surreal. Why have so many gas vehicles? Why not more EVs? There are the few unique electric hybrids and plug-ins hidden amidst the massive, over-the-top, giant-wheeled, gas-guzzling trucks. It is a strange experience to look at the immense size of a line of trucks while looking for a small and ecologically tidy EV. Wish those trucks were electric. How soon will they be?

The Ford salesperson was very courteous, kind, and helpful — perfect service. I explained my predicament — that I love the LEAF but am interested in a vehicle that goes the distance when a charger is missing on highways like Alligator Alley. He explains that the only C-Max Energi on the lot is a used 2013.

I drive the C-Max Energi. It is responsive compared to my old gas car. It is not nearly as smoothly responsive as the LEAF. I wonder how much the 2013 and 2016 differ. There is noise. I watch the battery charging on and off and hear that sound of a gas vehicle. The brakes are not as subtle and responsive. My sister’s hybrid SUV seems quieter. I miss the spacious windows of the LEAF. The only EV with nicer windows in my opinion is the BMW i3. Everything seems tighter inside the C-Max. It is not as roomy as the LEAF.

I don’t know how much better the 2016 C-Max Energi is, but this drive of the used C-Max Energi 2013 is worlds apart from the softer ride of a heavenly LEAF. Rougher around the ridges or something. What a drag the noise of a car is. After having only quiet in the LEAF, even this plug-in hybrid seems too loud for me.

I am not impressed with anything except with the informative sales person. I do not want to say anything negative about the C-Max. For another, the EV will still save on gas and pollution. The drive is not for me, though. It is not as smooth, not as agile, not a spacious, not as quiet, not as light. I am still smitten with the LEAF. No deal. I merely wish again for more intercity rail in Florida. Or expansion of electric buses for clean and easy city-to-city travel.

Related Stories:

Nissan LEAF Will Have A 200-Mile Range

Ford Expanding Workplace EV Charging Infrastructure

A Friend’s First Drive Experience Of The Nissan LEAF

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

Cynthia Shahan has 946 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Shahan

26 thoughts on “Ford C-Max Energi vs Nissan LEAF — Comparing The Drive

  • After driving a Leaf for 5 years I hate driving ICE vehicles. Not that the Leaf is better, or ICE cars aren’t great, but things are different now. I have a higher expectation from my driving experience. I cringe when I’m stuck in a slow, noisy, smelly ICE.

  • Sorry. Driving the worst plugin on the market, that hasn’t be been updated in 5 years? Also, the CMax is So Heavy it’s energy use = $2 gas.

    Ford is dying.

  • I honestly find it difficult to understand why the majority of people who have never actually driven an electric car seem eager to deride them. So, I’m dumbfounded how the most popular affordable EV on the road, and the number two best selling electric car in the world could be considered “the worst plugin on the market”. I’m happy to see Ford, GM & other manufacturers are are working toward moving away from hybrids altogether long term.

    • I felt the C Max Energi looked like a great EV parked next to me several times. It is environmentally a good choice compared to most. . It is much better than many other options. I guess my review focused on my preference for the LEAF on a heavy side. And I drove a used 2013 – not a new 2016

  • Thanks for the review.

    I am told that the Volt drives like a true battery-electric until the gas engine comes on. It is unfortunate that the Ford C-Max Energi does not.

    • I feel I need to drive the 2016 to do a fair review. It must be better than the 2013

  • I have to differ with several of the criticisms posted here. I lease a 2016 C-Max Energi and previously leased a 2013 C-Max hybrid. I’ve driven a Nissan Leaf which I could barely fit myself into whereas both C-Maxes are quite spacious with 41 inches of headroom. [The C-Max is a European design and the Europeans greatly exceed us in making relatively small cars seem quite roomy.] If someone is interested in getting a more knowledgeable view of the C-Max, I recommend reading the Consumer’s Reports road test, which is generally quite complimentary of its driveability. I currently have an average of over 70mpg for my around-town driving. FYI, there is an EV drive mode which keeps the Energi in all-electric drive until the battery is almost completely depleted.

    • The problem is the No Update of the battery.
      The industry has far better batteries now. Every other car manufacturer in the world knows this. Ford, however, must have fired the one guy who knew something about batteries.

      Because the CMax Energy has two problems. 20 miles of range, which turns into 10 in cold weather, and a bulky battery taking up luggage space. Both could be solved with a modern battery upgrade.

    • Thanks. I think my one short experience in a used 2013 is lacking, and I appreciate that you add to it. I am typically alone in the LEAF. Perhaps the addition of the Test driving sales person added to this feeling of less space. It is a nice looking EV. Why I choose to drive it to compare. To each his own. It is ecologically on an upside of most.

  • This is extremely biast isn’t it you rant on and on about the Leaf before even testing the CMAX , the leaf is dog ass ugly and a friend has 1 so I’ve road in both the Cmax is the much nicer of the two and if I had to be caught dead in 1 of them I’ll take the Ford

    • Well, perhaps another time I will try the C-Max Energi 2016.
      Anyway. I appreciate the input in defense of C-Max Energi — I am smitten with LEAF, but I appreciate – all these ecologically better EVs and like to know there are buyers for all of them.

      • Thanks for the reply, I honestly think we should be pushing our own countries products not Japan. Ford makes several very competitive EVs.

        • Sometimes people forget that this website is read by people from all around the globe. I appreciate that many of the readers are from the US but this is a clean technica site with content intended for readership throughout the world.

          As such, people from places outside the US have no interest in pushing products from any particular country. It is more interesting to push products which are good or better than the competition.

        • U.S. LEAFs are built in Smyrna TN.

          • Doesn’t make it American still Japanese.

          • So by your criterion those folks driving Ram pickups and Jeeps are driving Italian machines?

          • So you really think Nissan is an American car..seriously! and since Ram is 100 % owned by Fiat technically yes. They all assemble cars all over the world don’t they but that doesn’t change if they are American or not.. Coca Cola is bottled everywhere but it’s still American. You’re wsy of thinking is just what the imports want you to believe whike they make it impossible for America to sell in their markets.

          • These days corporations are global and saying that one company is “American” while another is “German”/whatever is not very meaningful.

            Buying American isn’t really as important and doing what we need to do to make America’s economy strong. We need to invest in education and research. Keep our infrastructure in good shape. Move to renewable energy so that we spend less for electricity and travel. Pay people a living wage so that we create a strong market inside the country.

          • That statement contradicts it’s self and I disagree. If that where so the playing field would be equal and it’s not.Japan, Korea etc protect their markets by making American cars to expensive. Yes we do need to focus on our infrastructure and our American businesses. Ford and GM both compensate their employees far more than Toyota etc so doesn’t it make sense to buy true American products so they can afford to expand our industry base? We are getting to dependant on non American products.

          • Where’s the contradiction?

          • You’re belief that buying American isn’t important 《which is sad》then saying we should invest In our infrastructure. .

          • Josh, do you know what the words contradiction and infrastructure mean?

          • Yes I do Im not stupid. I explained my point of view and it’s polar opposites to state we should make America strong by supporting a Japanese business over an American business that buying American really doesn’t matter…it does

          • Josh, you may want to review how much foreign content is in your “American” car. Sure Nissan corporate and design is in Japan. But please admit that cars with US corporations and design centers are loaded with foreign components and subassemblies, which often account for about half of the value of the car.

          • It’s still better to buy an American brand regardless of where it’s assembled or its content so what you’re saying in meaningless. Like I said Ford and GM far out compensate their employees and development is where the big bucks go.. It’s just blows my mind you’re so pro Japanese over you’re own country. .very sad

  • Was the C-Max fully charged when you drove it? It doesn’t sound like it. You should have been able to go 20 miles or so before the gas engine kicks in. Like the Volt, over half of the miles driven by C-Max Energi owners are all-electric, and if you want to compare the C-Max to the Leaf, you should be comparing electric mode to electric mode. My experience driving a Fusion Energi is that it is a very quiet and smooth driving experience.
    If you want to evaluate the hybrid mode of the C-Max, then compare it to a Prius or Volt or any other hybrid vehicle, not the Leaf. From what I have read and experienced, the C-Max (and Fusion) Hybrids and Energis are among the most refined hybrids available, which is not to say that they are as quiet and smooth as an all-electric vehicle or PHEV running in electric mode. Here’s the thing – although the all-electric Leaf is quieter and smoother than the C-Max in hybrid mode, when you run out of charge in the Leaf you won’t be getting anywhere, while you can continue on to your destination in the C-Max.
    I drive a 2014 Fusion Energi and it is amazing in all-electric mode. I live 18 miles from my office and I can easily make it to and from work on electricity alone (I charge it at home and at work). Of course I’d love to have more range, but I also appreciate that I can drive 180 miles round trip to visit my son in Lansing without having to find a charging station where I would have to leave the car for 5 hours to recharge (there are no high-voltage stations in Lansing, MI). I can use my PHEV as my only vehicle, I don’t need a second vehicle for longer trips, or where I don’t have the time to recharge between trips.

Comments are closed.