Detroit 2011: Ford C-Max Marks Company’s Return To Minivan Segment

Ford‘s last minivan, the Freestar, left the market in tatters roughly 6 years ago, lagging badly behind the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. For 2011, Ford is back, with a vehicle that couldn’t be more different.

The Ford C-Max ditches the Freestar’s antiquated architecture and inefficient V6 for a pair of 4-cylinders, including a 1.6L Ecoboost version. A dual clutch transmission also makes an appearance, and the overall footprint is much smaller, closer to a Mazda5 than any other van on the market.

Although it’s sold in Europe as the Grand C-Max, this car is likely the smallest vehicle North Americans could stomach. A “5+2” seating arrangement, similar to the first generation Honda Odyssey, allows for maximum flexibility, while features like MyFordTouch and Park Assist will help vault the C-Max ahead of the Mazda5 in terms of gadgets. Ford quotes a price starting “in the mid-20’s” suggesting a more premium branding strategy rather than the previous method of selling everything from a dirt cheap sub-20k model to a loaded-to-the-gills luxury van.

Also of note is the hands free liftgate, which can be activated by sweeping one’s foot underneath the bumper. A feature like this is sure to appeal to the target demographic far beyond any turbocharged engine or sporty suspension.

Gallery: Ford C-Max