Reviewing a new car that fits neatly into its market segment is simple. There is an easy quantitative formula to measure how it stacks up against the competition on a numerical basis – headroom, storage capacity, horsepower, etc. From there, you can draw broader conclusions about the vehicle itself.
But occasionally an automaker takes the bold step of creating a new segment entirely,, and that's where things get interesting. After spending time in the new Ford Maverick, it's clear that Ford has created an entirely new category of truck that both stands on its own and at the same time makes a compelling cross-shop against cars and trucks from entirely different classes.
|Quick Stats||2022 Ford Maverick XL 4x2|
|Engine:||2.5-liter I4 w/Permanent Magnet Motor|
|Output:||191 Horsepower / 155 Pound-Feet|
|Base Price:||$19,995 + $1,495 Destination|
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The Maverick's design – a unibody pickup truck, similar to the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Honda Ridgeline, with a diminutive footprint reminiscent of small pickups of the past, like the old Nissan Hardbodies and Chevrolet S10s of the ‘90s – is not unheard of. But what the Maverick offers from the very base of its equipment range stands alone in the modern market.
The base XL trim starts at a scant $19,995 (not including $1,495 in destination fees) and comes standard with a front-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrain, which makes it the only standard hybrid truck in America. The 1.1-kilowatt-hour battery-electric system works in concert with an Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter inline-four engine to achieve fuel efficiency above 40 miles per gallon easily.
What the Maverick offers from the very base of its equipment range stands alone in the modern market.
It doesn't come at the cost of utility, either, as the electric motor and gasoline engine combined make a rated 191 horsepower that's good to tow up to 2,000 pounds or haul 1,500 pounds in the bed. For a truck that measures almost a foot shorter and comes in five grand less than its bigger sibling, the Ford Ranger, that's impressive.
If the base model doesn't offer enough truck for your needs, though, Ford has another drivetrain package that offers a bit more oomph. The XLT and Lariat trims are available with a turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-four that offers 250 hp and 277 lb-ft, which, in concert with an available towing package, doubles the max towing capacity to 4,000 pounds. Additionally, all-wheel-drive is available with the EcoBoost drivetrain.
Gallery: 2022 Ford Maverick: First Drive
Other interesting options that make the Maverick's potential audience grow wider include the FX4 off-roading package, with all-terrain tires and skid plates, as well as the Ford Co-Pilot 360 safety suite, which adds radar cruise control, cross traffic monitoring, and a host of other driver awareness features.
In short, customers can configure the Maverick's flexible options sheet like the best pickup trucks on the market, like the F-150. As the price ticks up and the list of extras gets longer, the pricing becomes more on par with many other small trucks on the market today – where it truly stands out, though, is as a fully stripped base model.
Baby’s First Built Ford Tough
Even at its cheapest price point, rolling around on the base-spec 17-inch steel wheels with a hard plastic dash, Ford put care into every design element of the Maverick's comfortable and smart cabin. Designers added attractive and utilitarian door handles and carved usable cubbies into every square inch of real estate without making them look overly busy or cluttered. Rubber inserts in every center-console nook come standard, and are an appreciated nod to the rugged life most base model pickups live.
Every trim level gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard, as well as a base 4.2 inch touchscreen to control them through. There is a pleasantly sparse but well-thought-out selection of physical radio control buttons, and the climate control system is readable and easy to use, even in the base model. In short, even sitting on the durable cloth seats in a cabin stripped down to its most basic functionality, the Maverick is a pleasant place to be.
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The base model drivetrain is extremely compelling, as well. Because the hybrid pairs four-wheel-disc brakes with fairly strong electric motor regeneration, braking can be a bit difficult to engage smoothly. Still, I adapted to it quickly and the efficiency gains of the hybrid are more than worth the learning curve. An electric continuously variable transmission delivers the gas engine and electric motor’s power to the ground, as with most hybrids. The eCVT is as likable and pleasant as the mechanically similar (but technically different) setup found in the Escape Hybrid.
Towing was reasonably simple as well: I hauled a roughly 1,600-pound trailer with a riding mower on it around the backcountry of Nashville, and the hybrid system had plenty of grunt in reserve, so as to never make merging or ascending a steep hill feel nerve-wracking. If 2,000 pounds of towing is all you need, the base model is plenty torquey for it.
The only part of the base model I found disappointing is that cruise control and power mirrors are not avaialble; you have to spring for the next trim level, the XLT, to get those, which seems like a punitive bit of cost-cutting in a vehicle that otherwise eschews making base buyers feel like they were missing out on key functionality.
The ride quality across all trim levels is what you would expect from a pickup built on Ford's modular front-drive architecture (which also underpins the Bronco Sport, Escape, and Euro-market Focus): comfortable and almost car-like, without any of the steering dullness or body roll of a traditional body-on-frame truck. The seating position and visibility is similar to a ‘90s Ranger or Hilux, but unlike the small trucks of yore, it would be a comfortable place to eat miles in.
The most important part of any pickup is the bed, and the back half of the Maverick is plenty functional.
Thanks to the well-designed interior, parking and maneuvering the Maverick is a breeze through tight spaces, which owners will appreciate on tight worksites or, more likely, compact urban parking garages. The small design does the Mav favors for ingress and egress as well; getting objects left in the bed without popping the tailgate is a breeze and the ride height is comfortable for people vastly shorter than I am.
The most important part of any pickup is the bed, and the back half of the Maverick is plenty functional. It measures only about four and a half feet long, but Ford cramed in as much functionality as possible. In addition to the aforementioned 1,500-pound payload capacity, the tailgate is multi-positional to allow for easier hauling of large objects that won't quite fit. Ford stamped the bed with a variety of mounting points, tie downs, recesses, and bolt holes specifically designed to encourage DIY hauling solutions and to further enhance the usefulness of the Maverick to customers.
This is a small truck that's still more than capable of being used and abused like one.
Twelve-volt power plugs – accessible via pass-throughs – and an optional bed-mounted 110V three-prong plug are thoughtful additions for people expecting to go camping or to worksites with their Maverick. Ford already has bed caps, covers, and other add-ons in the works specifically for weather protection, as well. In short, this is a small truck that's still more than capable of being used and abused like one.
Bridging All The Gaps
And this is what makes the Maverick so much more compelling to me as an overall vehicle than just at its face value of a small truck. It is an accessible path into truck ownership with almost none of the negative tradeoffs a bed demands.
The hybrid Maverick offers the comfort, ease of ownership, and fuel mileage of any comparably priced small car or SUV on the market, all while seating four adults comfortably and handling pickup duty with ease. And if you snag all-wheel-drive and the FX4 equipment, the Maverick makes a compelling argument as an “adventure lifestyle” vehicle against typical trail-running competitors like the Subaru Crosstrek or even Ford's own Bronco Sport.
In its base XL trim, with its overall roominess and usefulness offered at just under $20,000, the Maverick is a strong competitor for a variety of base-range compact crossovers, such as the Kia Soul or the Honda HR-V. And the phenomenal fuel mileage I was able to achieve in my testing makes the gas-electric Maverick a contender in the hybrid market with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or the Honda CR-V Hybrid, while starting at thousands less.
I came away from the Maverick impressed at how a truck so focused on its core purpose – being a useful pickup – could appeal to so many potential buyers in so many vastly different market segments. Ford understands the Maverick has the potential to change how Americans think of pickups by erasing their traditional trade-offs, all while bringing the company's F-Series expertise from decades of selling trucks to its smallest offering. The Maverick is uniquely compelling, and I expect it will make an attractive proposition to shoppers who'd previously never imagined a Ford pickup in their garage.
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Photo Credit: Victoria Scott / Ford
2022 Ford Maverick XL 4x2