But that's not all. Ford has added a second "oh, wow" feature in the form of an automatic rear gate opener. If you have the keyless fob in your pocket and your hands are full with groceries or shopping bags, as you approach the rear liftgate, wave your foot under the rear bumper twice, and the liftgate opens ... presumably, not in your face.

Finally, Ford has a new-age answer to its 1965 Country Squire dual tailgate feature.

Other features designed to make the C-Max feel like a premium model include ambient lighting. Standard safety features will include AdvanceTrac and Curve Control. Ford expects five-star safety ratings for the vehicle.

While Europeans will be buying the C-Max with turbodiesel engines, North America of course will have a choice of two gas engines. The bigger four-cylinder will be the base engine, a 2.5-liter preliminarily rated at 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. The optional engine is Ford's new 1.6-liter EcoBoost four, the first Ford to get the 1.6-liter turbo for the American market. The engine is estimated so far by Ford at 168 horsepower (180 when running on premium) and 173 pound-feet. Both engines hook up to a six-speed automatic, for optimal fuel economy.

Ford has declined to announce the North American on-sale date and pricing, and won't say whether it will be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, near Dearborn, along with the Focus, though that would be a good bet. We'd expect the C-Max base price to be about $20,000, just north of the Focus, with typically-to-well-equipped models in the $25,000 to $30,000 range. Look for it to go on sale here as early as Fall '11 and probably no later than Spring '12.

Will Americans embrace European-sized minivans? Too early to tell, though if gas prices rise above $4 per gallon again, the C-Max will look like a better buy next to larger, V-6 minivans. And if it is a hit, don't be surprised to see Chevrolet rethink its decision not to sell the Orlando here.

2012 Ford C-Max
Base price $20,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass , 4-door minivan
Engines 2.5L/168-hp (est)/167-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 1.6L/168-hp (est)/173-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase 109.8 in
Length x width x height 178.0 x 72.0 x 64.4 in
EPA city/hwy fuel econ N/A
CO2 emissions N/A
On sale in U.S. Fall 2011