Ford plans to release the C-Max minivan in U.S.

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Ford is planning to release a new minivan for the U.S. market, which will be based on the Focus European-developed C-Max version. Ford plans to debut the C-Max minivan at the 2011 Detroit Motor Show in January.

Ford is keeping C-Max moniker and dropping the “Grand” name for the U.S. market version. The revised compact minivan is very similar to the European market Grand C-Max. The major differences are that the U.S. market C-Max has a longer wheelbase, sliding rear doors and seating for seven instead of five, along with generous amount of cargo space.

In the seating configuration of the Ford C-Max, the second row of seats is equipped with a device that enables the center seat position to collapse instantly below the right-hand seat, making a walk-through space between the two outside seats so passengers can readily access the third row, along with two individual, bucket-like seats. Also, the third row seats can be removed if those who are not interested in the 5+2 seating arrangement.

Probably the most slick feature of the 2012 C-Max is its hands-free liftgate. Similar to a passive entry system for the driver’s door, a person with the C-Max’s key can simply wave his/her leg under the rear bumper to trigger the two sensors that will open the liftgate.

As for the powertrain of the C-Max, North American customers will have a choice of a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is found on the Fusion or the all-new 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which both engines are coupled to the same Ford’s 6F35 automatic six-speed transmission. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque, and while the 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbocharged engine is rated 180 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque.

The C-Max will be available in three trim levels of S, SE, and SEL. It is only available with front-wheel drive. So far, Ford has not announced when it plans to sell the C-MAX in the States, but we’ll know for sure after its debut at the 2011 Detroit Motor Show.

Update: 10/5/2012

Ford has been touting the C-Max Hybrid as an alternative to the Toyota Prius V in the U.S. The hybrid station wagon was first introduced this year, and it already outselling the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ. The Ford C-Max Hybrid has a 47-mpg rating, and priced at $25,995 for the base model.

Update: 10/24/2012

California’s Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (CARB) announced that Ford’s C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid MPV has been approved for the Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker, which gives it access to the state’s  High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes. The access stickers are available to the first 40,000 applicants who buy or lease a car that meets California’s Enhanced Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AP PZEV).

The C-MAX Energi has been rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 110 MPGe city and 105 MPGe combined, which qualifies for a $1,500 state tax rebate on purchase or lease of the car for 36 months or more. In addition, it also qualifies for the $3,759 federal tax credit rebate, which lowers the price to $28,495 for California buyers.