I'm not the only C-Max driver disappointed with its mpg

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Apparently, it wasn't just me.

A lawsuit seeking class-action status has been filed against Ford Motor Co. for what the suit alleges are inflated mileage claims for the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. The suit, filed this month in California, is on behalf of consumers who -- like a growing list of automotive media testers including Consumer Reports -- have been unable to get anything close to the C-Max Hybrid's promised fuel economy.

It has been almost three months since I bought the first 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid that showed up on my local Ford dealer's lot. My early October purchase of the Focus-based hybrid promised serious savings on the hundreds of dollars I spend each month on gasoline for my daily 120-mile round-trip commute. The savings from its 47 mpg city/47 highway/47 combined fuel economy, by my calculation at the time, would make over half of my car payment each month.

But like the dozens of people who have written to me since October with similar stories, my relationship with my C-Max Hybrid has yet to reach anything close to its full potential. In fact, it has deteriorated.

After logging more than 5,200 miles, my average fuel economy has declined from the 37.6 mpg I got within my first two weeks of ownership.

According to my onboard trip computer, my average is down to 35.5 mpg. That figure includes a 660-mile round trip over the holidays to southeastern Ohio during which I got a relatively woeful 34.1 mpg, despite keeping my eco-cruise-monitored speed below 70 mph on the 520-mile highway portion of the trip.

To put that another way, my $29,000 C-Max Hybrid now averages just 1 mpg better than my wife's nonhybrid 2011 Ford Focus, which cost more than $10,000 less.

I visited Ford shortly after buying my C-Max Hybrid to find out what I was doing wrong. I've since adjusted my driving behavior -- I slowed down on the highway, adopted a pulse-and-glide driving strategy, used more gentle braking techniques -- in an effort to increase my mpg.

As you can see by the numbers above, it hasn't worked, though I have had instances in which my fuel economy on short hops of about eight miles has reached 44.6 mpg. But I've also had short trips on which the hybrid didn't kick in, and my fuel economy has been in the low 20s.

Because the C-Max Hybrid is so new to U.S. consumers, I have received my share of queries from curious onlookers asking what I think of my new car. And with the exception of my ongoing frustration with fuel economy, I have grown to like it, and don't even mind the MyFord Touch infotainment and controls system any more (a lot of consumers have complained that it is too complicated).

But I've taken to giving the curious a pat answer: On the whole, the C-Max Hybrid is a great Ford Focus.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.

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