A few years ago, Ford announced it would be discontinuing most of its cars (save the legendary Mustang coupe and convertible), focusing its efforts on more profitable crossovers, SUVs, and pickups. Many felt that move was shortsighted – what if there’s another recession and consumers stop buying inefficient trucks and SUVs? Today, the Blue Oval has answered that concern with a best-of-both-worlds solution: the 2022 Ford Maverick compact pickup.
Primed to do battle with the similarly sized 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, the $19,995 Ford Maverick is the smallest pickup in the Blue Oval family. At 199.7 inches long and 68.7 inches high, it’s 11.1 inches shorter and 2.4 inches lower than the Ranger. It will be available in one body style, a four-door crew cab with a 54.4-inch cargo box. That makes it one of the smallest pickups in the US market, which might draw some snickers from the traditional truck crowd but will also likely attract crossover and hatchback shoppers into the Maverick fold. Helping matters will be its four-cylinder engine options: an efficient hybrid or a grunty EcoBoost.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Built on the same front-wheel-drive chassis as the Escape and Bronco Sport, the Maverick’s standard hybrid 2.5-liter inline-four makes 191 horsepower (142 kilowatts) in total. Combined torque ratings aren’t available, but the same engine in the Escape Hybrid feels plenty stout, thanks to the electric motor. Mated to a continuously variable transmission, the hybrid sends power only to the front wheels, which is disappointing in light of the Escape’s optional all-wheel drive. However, consumers will love the estimated 40-mile-per-gallon city rating, and the Maverick will be the cheapest hybrid on the market among all cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Power junkies will be more interested in the optional EcoBoost engine, a 2.0-liter unit that won the Bronco Sport a recent drag race. It makes 250 hp and 277 pound-feet (186 kW and 376 newton-meters), with an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Ford hasn’t released fuel economy estimates for either configuration yet, but the Bronco Sport gets 21 city, 26 highway, and 24 combined mpg with its standard all-wheel drive. Figure roughly the same for the Maverick AWD, which weighs about the same as a Bronco Sport Badlands, and a bit better for the lighter front-drive pickup.
The Maverick hybrid is far more efficient than the Hyundai Santa Cruz’s thriftiest configuration, a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four with about 190 horsepower that gets 21 mpg city. The EcoBoost should also be a bit more parsimonious than the 22-mpg-combined Santa Cruz 2.5T, though the South Korean truck does offer more power: 281 hp and 311 lb-ft (210 kW and 422 Nm).
Styled To Impress
Unlike the Santa Cruz, which clearly takes lots of its design from the Hyundai Tucson with which it shares a platform, the Maverick is more upright and traditionally styled. A wide grille bar and standard LED headlights with a C-clamp design are intended to evoke the F-150. Horizontal bed rails and square window openings further the connection between the Maverick and its larger siblings, and although the beltline is flat, there’s a little surfacing detail under the side mirrors that recall the scooped windows of the F-Series. Around back, large taillights and a stamped tailgate look very Ranger-esque.
Overall, the Maverick looks pretty sporty and fun to drive, let down only by oversized and ill-proportioned headlights. A Bronco-style front grille would suit the truck’s lighthearted personality better.
Inside, a technical-looking bronze accent livens up the Maverick’s wide, flat-faced dashboard, the same finish showing up on the door panels and console bins Ford livens up the cabin’s appearance with interesting design choices, namely an anodized feel to the gauge cluster and center stack and a slick cross-hatch texture on the dash and door panels. Rap your knuckles on anything and it’ll betray the Maverick’s extensive use of hard plastic, but the unique surfaces hide the materials well, keeping costs in check while also giving occupants a pleasant environment to ride in.
Cabin In The Woods
In spite of the base XL model’s low, $19,995 starting price, the 2022 Ford Maverick comes pretty well equipped. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard, making use of the excellent Sync 4 infotainment system with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Maverick also gets standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology, bundling automatic emergency braking, post-collision braking, and automatic headlights and high beams. Front and rear 12-volt power outlets and a 4G LTE WiFi modem also come standard on all trims.
The interior also gets some clever cargo management solutions, chief among them being Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS) slots, designed for a variety of removable accessories like cupholders and grocery bag hooks. Ford also plans to make the slot geometry publicly available, allowing owners to 3D-print their own solutions. One such slot is located on the rear center console, with a few more in the massive binnacle under the rear seat. Speaking of, that space is large enough, Ford says, for a fully inflated volleyball and a pair of inline skates, making us wonder if the automaker’s engineers dream of moonlighting in Venice Beach.
Another interesting feature is the Maverick’s slotted door armrests, which separate the window switches from the elbow rest. The slot creates vertical space above the door pocket for a 1-liter bottle holder, but it also allows the rear seat to accommodate a mountain bike, the rear tire fitting in the slot to hold the bike upright. The cabin also boasts a few little cubbies in the center console around the rotary gear selector, as well as a large center armrest bin and two slots near the center touchscreen, perfect for a wallet or garage remote control.
Cloth seats are standard on the XL, with the XLT getting unique plaid cloth and the Lariat receiving somewhat rubbery faux leather. All trims offer Co-Pilot360 Assist as an option, adding blind spot monitoring and lane-keep assistance. Furthermore, the Lariat’s driver-assist upgrade also includes adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and rear parking sensors. A 4.2-inch productivity screen on the gauge cluster is standard on the XL and XLT, while the Lariat gets a 6.5-inch display. As with other recent Ford debuts, there will also be a fully loaded First Edition package, limited to the debut model year.
Impressively, every Ford Maverick comes with a payload rating of 1,500 pounds – as much or more than some midsize pickups. The prospect of a 40-mpg hybrid that can haul an ATV or 37 bags of mulch in the bed may be tantalizing to many consumers who need good fuel economy most of the time, but also want to cross stuff off the honey-do list every Saturday and go play in the woods every Sunday.
The hybrid and EcoBoost can tow 2,000 pounds, which Ford says is enough for a pair of personal watercraft or a small tent trailer, but an available max-tow package on the turbo engine pumps that number up to 4,000, good for a small speedboat or 23-foot camper. Both the towing and payload ratings seem up to the standards of most average lifestyle shoppers, who are more likely to load up a gear hauler or fishing dinghy, rather than a sailing yacht or horse trailer.
Still, the Maverick’s absolute towing pales in comparison to the Santa Cruz. The South Korean pickup can tow a 5,000-pound trailer in its highest turbocharged spec, but even the base 2.5-liter four can tow 3,500 pounds. Helping the Maverick win back some points will be an optional FX4 off-road package, which is available on trucks equipped with the EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive. The FX4 pack brings taller tires, a bit more ground clearance, some underbody protection, hill descent control, and two added off-road modes for the drive selector.
Also earning Ford brownie points is a multi-function tailgate that can sit in a partially up position (level with the wheel arches), allowing 4x8 sheets of plywood or drywall to lie flat in the cargo box. Lowering the tailgate exposes a 6-foot bed floor, with tie-downs located on the upper rear bed corners, the front bed floor, and the tailgate itself, as well as movable tie-down cleats that slide on a track near the bed rail. Strategically placed slots in the bedliner allow owners to divide cargo up using cut pieces of 2x4 or 2x6 wood – perfect for outdoorsy folks who want to keep their muddy stuff separate from duffel bags and coolers.
Savings And Sense
Starting at $19,995 plus an unspecified destination charge, the 2022 Ford Maverick XL looks like an excellent value given its standard safety, infotainment, and cargo features. The XLT adds cruise control, alloy wheels, power outside mirrors, and other niceties in exchange for its $22,280 asking price, while the $25,490 Lariat bundles leatherette trim, ambient lighting, a leather-wrapped wheel, a power sliding rear window, and rear USB ports. Each trim level offers the 2.0-liter EcoBoost for $1,085, and all-wheel drive is a $2,220 option on top of that.
An XLT with all-wheel drive will likely be the volume model, demanding $25,585; a similarly spec’d Lariat will be $28,295. Both the XLT and Lariat will also be available with the FX4 off-road package, as well as a few different optional upgrade packs. Even with destination charges and a few options, a well-equipped XLT FX4 might not even be $30,000, which strikes us as a great deal for an all-weather everyday adventure machine that barely costs more than a two-wheel drive Toyota Tacoma. The 2022 Ford Maverick goes on sale in Fall 2021, and the automaker is taking reservations now.