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Endurance Test: Ford C-Max Takes On Chevy Volt

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.

A loaded Ford C-Max Energi is around $36,000, but you might be eligible for a $3,750 Federal tax credit and $1,500 tax rebate in California. In contrast, a loaded Chevy Volt is around $44,000, but you might be eligible for a $7,500 Federal tax credit and the same $1,500 California tax rebate.

The net price difference may be $4,000 on paper, but with the Volt often offering $2,000 or more on discounts, the real-world pricing difference is minimal -- at least as long as the Ford isn't discounted.

Considering the Volt offers a battery that is more than twice the size and capacity of the Ford, and that the electric motor is beefier, you are simply getting more powertrain for your money in the Volt.

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