Ford's ads say the C-Max has more power, is more fun and gets better fuel mileage.
Oh, and the price is a bit lower, at $25,995 to start, with shipping.
Ford admits a head-on attack at Prius is daunting because Toyota all but owns the hybrid category in many shoppers' minds.
"It's a direct comparison. Prius is so well-understood by customers. Toyota has done such a good job with hybrids. So it makes sense for us to compare C-Max to Prius," says Jim Farley, Ford's chief of global marketing. He worked for Toyota before joining Ford in 2007.
"And it's fun to drive, which you don't expect from a hybrid," he adds.
A new TV ad shows cartoon character Mr. Linea jumping out of his Prius V, kicking it in frustration after being passed by others, then hopping into a C-Max newly drawn by the cartoonist and zipping past the Prius V. The Italian animated character has been around since the 1970s and has a cult following here.
No comment from Toyota spokesman Greg Thome: "Typically we don't comment on other people's advertising."
C-Max somewhat resembles the Prius V, the hatchback that is the biggest Prius. But Ford argues C-Max is sleeker, and the ad's cartoonist indeed draws it as a more flowing shape. Like Prius models, the C-Max is available only as a gasoline-electric hybrid.
Thus, Ford is aping Toyota's successful Prius hybrid formula: look different, be different, promote big mpg.
C-Max is rated 47 mpg in city, highway and combined modes. Prius V: 44/40/42. Prius V is a bit larger outside and has more cargo room. The two have similar passenger space. C-Max has a combined gas-electric rating of 188 hp. Prius V, 134 hp.
Ford expects C-Max to appeal to mainstream buyers, partly because of its normal, familiar interior, vs. Prius' unique layout that's defined by placing gauges in a center pod atop the dashboard.
Topless VW Beetle Soon
VW on Wednesday released photos and some details of the coming convertible version of the redesigned Beetle coupe that made its debut last year. The model is due in showrooms in the fourth quarter as a 2013 model at a price TBA. We'd guess it will come in somewhere more affordable than VW's hardtop convertible Eos that starts at $34,350
The latest open-air Beetle -- the company bills it as the third-generation Beetle convertible, after its Type 15 that rolled out in 1949 and the New Beetle ragtop that arrived in 2003 -- keeps the traditional fabric top and still folds baby-carriage-style in the rear, though flatter than the earlier models for better visibility.
It's a power top that VW says will fold and go in 10 seconds. It also claims room for "four full-size adults," which we'll wait to see. But the rear seat has a split fold-down arrangement that should mean useful carry room.
Volkswagen also is highlighting the topless car's extra safety gear, most prominently pop-up roll bars behind the rear seat that are deployed by the air bag computer. The car also will have standard side air bags that offer combined head and thorax protection for the front-row occupants.
VW says the convertible will offer all three engines available in the coupe in the U.S.:
Base 2.5-liter gasoline five-cylinder (170 hp., 177 lbs.-ft. of torque, six-speed automatic).
2.0-liter turbo diesel four (140 hp., 236 lbs.-ft., six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic).
2.0-liter turbo gasoline four (200 hp., 207 lbs.-ft., six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic)
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