There's just no denying the utility of a pickup, even though a lot of folks who drive them don't need them—or, at least, don't need trucks as big as they sometimes buy. I'm not about to criticize somebody for treating their truck like a car, though. Instead, I'll suggest they check out the 2022 Ford Maverick because it feels like the best of both worlds.
The general reception of this new unibody truck has been positive. And say what you will about the Maverick's design because I think it's solid, and even better in person. But you can't deny the numbers this truck puts up. After driving the fleet-special XL with the 2.5-liter hybrid powertrain, the middle-of-the-road XLT trim that packs the most value, and a top-flight, leather-lined Lariat with the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, I'm here to tell you that any of them are probably plenty of truck for anybody without cattle or heavy equipment to haul.
The Maverick's M.O. is to provide a solid daily commuter that can be parallel-parked and still carry 1,500 pounds of payload. It isn't for every truck buyer, but it is for the people who prefer getting what they need versus everything they could have. It wouldn't be fair to call it minimalist, but looking at the other trucks from essentially every automaker who builds 'em—including Ford—it's refreshing. And so is that fuel mileage.
The idea of a small truck isn’t new, it’s just one that people haven’t really seen in a decade or so. Before, they were body-on-frame pickups that just so happened to be more compact and have less powerful engines; the original Ford Ranger is a prime example. And although the Maverick is different in a lot of ways, it holds true to that utilitarian ethos while drawing on 21st-century modernity.
From a styling perspective, the Maverick is wholly its own. It's not a shrunken down F-Series, is what I mean. And while it's noticeably not as big as a Ranger, it isn't the smallest thing on the road, either, which is okay if you ask me. Ford released a graphic showing the Maverick's size next to the rest of the Blue Oval truck stablemates, and we've seen it driving alongside a Honda Civic, which should give you a pretty good idea of its stature. For an even clearer visual, here I am standing next to a front-wheel-drive XL hybrid. I'm about 6'5" (not to mention pretty sleepy in these photos).
Rather than crafting an entirely new platform for the Maverick, Ford built it upon the C2 architecture which, yes, is shared with the Escape and Bronco Sport. That waved red flags for some folks at first, but the whole point of a modular platform is to be adaptable. It's not like Ford just yanked the crossover body off and plopped on a four-door pickup; the manufacturer modified it to ensure it handles confidently, loaded or unloaded, no matter where you're driving. Oh, and that platform sharing is also what made that roughly $21,000 base price possible, so don't go knocking it.
On top of all this, Ford also says the hybrid can achieve 40 miles per gallon in the city while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost can tow a maximum of 4,000 pounds. You can't have both, and fuel economy does suffer when you opt for the turbocharged four-cylinder, but that makes for two distinct trims that are good at a lot and only compromise a little.
While it's important to go into a first drive without bias, you can't help but carry a preconceived notion of how a car or truck might do. In the Maverick's case, I figured the base hybrid powertrain would be entirely economically focused, which it mostly is. However, it surprised me with just how much pep it had—so much so that I didn't even mind the continuously variable transmission that's typically loathed and essentially unheard of in a pickup.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid runs on the Atkinson cycle, which is a formal way of saying it champions efficiency over power density. Still, though, with 191 combined horsepower from the internal combustion engine and electric motor, its punch is on-par with the workload it promises to handle without a worry. Torque is modest at 155 pound-feet, but I never felt like it needed more, even while climbing Tennessee's famous hills with an entire pallet of mulch in the bed.
All this is well and good, and it's what stands out about the truck until you look at the dash—more specifically, the fuel gauge. Then, you're entirely distracted by the fact that the needle has hardly budged, even after an hour-long trip. It becomes an efficiency game as the driver info panel shows how much battery power you're using, as well as how much you're gaining when regenerative braking kicks in. There's even a built-in braking coach that tells you how well you're doing at recapturing spent energy, turning driving into a challenge and you into a more efficient driver.
Braking comes on fairly quickly once you touch the pedal, but not so much that I couldn't adapt; maybe it's because I'm used to old jalopies, but nevertheless, the Maverick comes to a stop in a hurry. The steering is a little more lively than on a full-size truck, though it's had most everything dulled down on purpose, likely to make it seem more composed at the cost of some excitement. It's fairly quiet inside the cabin whether you're driving on the highway or around town, and it's fun hearing the hybrid's battery and electric motor whir when you're creeping in EV mode. The noise cancelation isn't anything fantastic—it's not supposed to be a luxury liner—but there's nothing to complain about there. Visibility is solid with big windows all around, though the rear glass is a little narrow due to the truck's somewhat low-slung roof and those bedsides.
Fuel capacity for the hybrid measures 13.8 gallons and with the type of mileage it gets, you'd have to try hard to consume an entire tank in under 500 miles. That feels great and encourages you to use the truck as it's meant to be used. With 2,000 pounds of towing capacity, the Maverick's base powertrain isn't going to pull many stumps out of the ground, but it can easily pull around a day's haul at the flea market or, y'know, a lawnmower. Its payload capacity is the same as the EcoBoost's, too, so you can haul just as many sheets of plywood in the bed of a hybrid as you can with a gas-only model.
The EcoBoost is a must if you want to hit that 4,000-pound max towing number, something that's probably important to you if you're stepping down from a Ranger or even an F-150. I tested the turbocharged Maverick's towing performance, first with a roughly 2,600-pound Airstream camper and then again with a 3,700-pound load consisting of two Polaris Sportsman 570 ATVs. It was nicely composed and didn't have trouble merging onto a highway or climbing steep grades; luckily, you get an integrated trailer brake controller with the 4K Tow Pack so you can stop what's behind you. EcoBoost-powered Mavericks also get an eight-speed automatic transmission instead of the CVT so you can use that to your advantage while towing.
Off-road, the Maverick is decently capable, particularly when you spec it with all-wheel drive and the FX4 package. The light trail I drove it on looked tougher than it really was and the truck conquered it accordingly, alluding to some untapped potential that a small percentage of owners might make the most of. With 8.6 inches of ground clearance, the Maverick manages the same as a Hyundai Santa Cruz and is just a tenth short of the Subaru Outback, for reference. You won't be completing the Rubicon in a stock Maverick, but then again, that was never really the point.
In more ways than not, the Maverick drives like a crossover, though the ride is a bit firmer than its Escape platform-mate. It takes corners flat without the body roll that's typical of trucks, and it cruises down the highway nice and quietly. This is where that C2 architecture comes in handy—you can eat up highway miles effortlessly, which is what you want in any daily driver.
The interior is roomy, all things considered, and I had no problem fitting, even with my 6'5", 270-pound frame. I wouldn't want to sit behind me, but that's not so much a mark against the truck; unrealistic expectations are the downfall of us all. If you expect any vehicle that's defined as "compact" to fit five full-sized adults comfortably, you should probably dial it back a notch.
There are many smart cubby holes and storage slots so all your passengers' stuff can be stashed away conveniently. The door pockets are deep and wide enough to hold reusable drink bottles of all kinds, and there are four spots, not including the cupholders, where the driver can conveniently stow their phone. The Maverick's cabin designers were purposeful and methodical here while still making it a fun place to spend hours at a time.
Rather than trying to hide that most of the Maverick's interior surfaces are plastic, the design team embraced it and chose to get funky with unique moldings that add intrigue to otherwise mundane trim pieces. They didn't shy away from color, either, as there are oranges and blues in addition to the typical blacks and greys, depending on the trim and exterior paint scheme.
The Maverick's 54-inch bed is a skosh longer than the Santa Cruz's, though that's not saying a whole lot. Ford has done what it can to make it as usable as possible, from both a space perspective as well as a utility standpoint with DIY-friendly features. There's accessible 12-volt power on either side of the bed for rigging your own lighting solutions, and there's also an available 400-watt inverter for when you need more juice. Then you'll find slots for 2x4s to craft a makeshift bike rack or whatever comes to your genius MacGyver mind, and Ford plans to release virtual how-tos for anyone wanting to make the most of their Maverick's aptly named FlexBed.
I'm not saying it's impossible to stump the Maverick—there's always a load too big or a parking space too small—but in everyday life, it ought to be just right. Keep in mind the criteria that's important to you and if this truck fits, it's unlikely to disappoint. Ford built a small pickup that's endearingly quirky and delightfully handy, all while keeping the price down and the value respectably high.
Your base Maverick comes with the hybrid engine, front-wheel drive, and the CVT. Other standard features include manual lumbar adjustments for the driver and front passenger, a remote keyless entry system, automatic high beams, an eight-inch infotainment screen, and pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking. Total base vehicle price comes to $21,490. The top-trim Lariat AWD I tested out had the Luxury Package ($3,340), the 4K Tow Package ($745), a full-size spare tire ($115), and a powered moon roof ($795). All in all, the total vehicle price was $37,080, so quite the jump over the standard truck.
There's not much out there to compare the Maverick against except for the Santa Cruz, and the two are fairly evenly matched on paper. Whereas the Hyundai can tow more at 5,000 pounds, the Maverick hybrid stomps it in terms of fuel economy. Payload is where it gets a bit murky for the Santa Cruz as multiple sources list its max capacity at 1,748 pounds, which would be nearly 250 more than the Maverick's; however, the real number seems to be 1,411 pounds. Pricing also falls in the Ford's favor, with the Santa Cruz starting at $25,175 compared to the Maverick's $21,490 entry point, as mentioned above. (All prices reflect destination charges.)
If you're thinking about going small and getting Ford's newest truck, then pick which spec fits your needs. The hybrid is an all-around player and for the money, it's seriously that good; start adding options to an EcoBoost with AWD and you'll soon be in the high $20,000 or low $30,000 range. Figure that in with still respectable but not showstopping fuel economy—25 mpg combined—and the answer seems clear for people needing a capable and delightfully efficient daily. At that price, there aren't many commuter cars that can hang, and the Maverick genuinely feels like the only one of its kind.