Star rating: 4/5
Model: Focus C-Max FFV
Price: from £16,495
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol/bioethanol
Top speed: 121 mph
Eco rating: 8/10
I jumped at the chance to road test the latest biofuelled C-Max as the only thing that’s green about my ageing Vauxhall Astra is the colour. This latest Ford runs on bioethanol – a renewable fuel made from crops that absorb carbon dioxide as they grow – offsetting the CO2 produced when driving. There’s no loss of power with this eco-fuel. Swift acceleration makes overtaking quick and safe. This, combined with light steering, gives the C-Max marvellous road handling.
On the model I tested there was a natty touchscreen navigation system – a boon for those without a map or sense of direction. And perhaps most importantly, the driver’s side includes that all-important nook to put your frothy lattecino. Parking phobics shouldn’t let the body size put them off – as there’s a parking-assist button available as an optional extra that will beep you into that tight parking space.
So, who’s it for? Wide doors and high driving position will suit many with mobility problems – so care managers may suggest this model to disabled clients as a potential Motability car. And there’s certainly plenty of room for a foldaway wheelchair in the boot. But it’s really a family-oriented school-run kind of car. There’s plenty of room for a child seat to be stored in the boot – along with your case files. In fact, it’s so spacious you could probably fit all your filing cabinets in the back. And while I’m no fan of the unsightly people carriers that congest our roads, the C-Max’s slightly sporty appearance ensures it is stylish enough to stand out in the council car park.
Generous seating means your passengers will avoid the usual undignified back seat crush. So, whether you’re ferrying colleagues back from a meeting or service users from the day centre, your passengers should be sitting comfortably. Though any comfort may be offset if would-be Lewis Hamiltons take advantage of the C-Max’s excellent road handling when negotiating winding ‘A’ roads.
In fact, this car took me to places I’d never been – in particular an hour-long drive along the A26 to the East Sussex town of Crowborough – in my search for the nearest bioethanol filling station. It’s a different story in Somerset and East Anglia, which host most stations, but with only 16 E85 outlets in the UK, and not a single one within the M25, it’s not much of a green proposition for those of us living in the capital. So visiting that temporary foster carer 200 miles away would involve planning your journey around the measly number of filling stations dotted round the rest of the country. Having said all that, this model costs the same as the standard version and can also run on regular unleaded petrol.
E85 is only 2p a litre cheaper than unleaded so there’s relatively little financial incentive to use bioethanol. And although it sounds green, C-Max is not going to drive your eco-warrior colleagues green with envy as biofuel has a poor reputation with many who feel that growing the crops to produce them is responsible for accelerated deforestation and bio-diversity losses. If reducing your carbon footprint is a primary concern, it’s worth considering other options such as hybrid electric or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles.
Drivers will find a better spread of E85 pumps on the Continent. So camping holidays there shouldn’t be a problem – or even if you’re just doing a spot of cross-Channel shopping. And I’ve checked there is a bioethanol station just outside Calais. But the current dearth of filling stations in the UK means biofuelled cars are for the moment something of a novelty interest. Except perhaps for environmentally concerned drivers living in East Anglia.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London