For those above a certain age, the name Ford Maverick will bring up memories of the affordable 1970 compact that replaced the Falcon in Ford’s lineup. It’s return for 2022 as a compact pickup truck may be surprising, but its mission is very much the same: provide affordable transportation in a compact package. And given that nearly 77% of U.S. new car sales are workhorse vehicles like SUVs, vans and pickups, is it any wonder that the all-new 2022 Ford Maverick pickup is the least expensive new Ford you can buy? In fact, when it hits the market, the Maverick will be the least expensive hybrid you can buy in America, although the EPA has not yet rated its fuel economy.
From a value standpoint, this Maverick is hard to beat. It offers room for four — five if they’re friendly — more than 33 cubic feet of cargo space in the bed, and incredibly good fuel economy thanks to the base model’s driveline. It’s a gas-electric hybrid, one that generates 191 horsepower through the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission. With a 1,500-pound payload and a 2,000-pound towing capacity, it can easily handle most of life’s chores, while returning the sort of fuel economy you’d never expect from a pickup. We’ll get to that in a moment.
If you need more from your Maverick, Ford has you covered. The company’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission is optional. Rated at 250 horsepower, this engine doubles the Maverick’s towing capacity to 4,000 pounds, although payload remains unchanged. All-wheel drive is available with the gas engine, but not the hybrid. All drivelines come with Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul drive modes, although adding the FX4 Off-Road Package — optional on the XLT and Lariat — brings with it Mud/Ruts and Sand modes.
But the value goes beyond the driveline. Offered in three trim levels, base XL, mid-level XLT, and top-of-the-line Lariat, the Maverick shares its platform with the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport — at least from the B-pillar forward. With handsome, restrained styling, the Maverick’s appearance will wear well, and doesn’t look soft or petite.
At slightly less than 200 inches in length, it’s sanely sized, something that can’t always be said of its slab-sided full-sized brethren. This makes it far more maneuverable in urban settings and parking lots, able to easily handle the cut and thrust of commuting. Steering is relatively quick with some road feel, and the suspension keeps rebound in check over bumps.
And it’s a sprightly performer as well. The hybrid’s electric power provides a smooth, strong stream of power. Driving as I usually do returns fuel economy of 35 mpg in mixed driving. Placing it in Eco mode and practicing hypermiling saw the Maverick return a stunning 51 mpg. And this from a truck that can also haul 500 pounds of 4x8 sheets of plywood, 1,000 pounds of cement or tow a trailer loaded with a pair of jet skis. The 2.0-liter gas engine’s performance is noticeably stronger, but fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. And it lacks the unearthly smoothness of the hybrid. Unless you need the towing power or all-wheel drive, skip it.
And as capable as this truck is, the cabin is very accommodating. Given its segment, the cabin feels most natural in its lower trim levels. There’s an honesty to the interior that’s refreshing. The leather-lined Lariat, while extravagantly equipped, feels out of place somehow, like a striver. Indeed, there’s something refreshing about a truck with a manual driver’s seat and ordinary rearview mirror. Its cloth seats have durable fabric with an attractive mix of color. Even in base trim, you never feel like you settled for less. Here, textured plastic isn’t disguised as something it’s not, it’s just textured plastic.
Oh, about value. Even base models come well-equipped with an eight-inch center-stack touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility standard. You’ll also get 12-volt power outlets, automatic headlamps, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, LED headlamps, rear under-seat storage bins, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, steering wheel audio controls, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power windows. A 4.2-inch instrument cluster screen is standard; a 6.5-inch screen is optional.
Similarly, the bed is engineered to make a life of hauling far easier. The 4.5-foot bed, about the same length as the 1925 Ford Model T’s pickup bed, is fitted with six cargo bed tie-down hooks, side storage cubbies on XLT, Lariat, provisions for bed dividers and two-tiered loading, a multi-position tailgate with bottle openers. An LED cargo light and 110-volt AC power outlets are available, as are a number of aftermarket accessories, including bedliners, tiedown cleats, bed covers and more. Best of all, the bed is easy to reach while standing outside.
The Maverick proves to be a very compelling proposition, a product whose merits are very hard to ignore. Yes, it faces competition from the new Hyundai Santa Cruz, a truck that’s more a lifestyle statement than a true pickup. In contrast, the Maverick is the real deal: a truck that works hard and plays hard without breaking a sweat, and looks good while doing it. Compared to a cramped economy sedan or a Lilliputian crossover, the Maverick is clearly the best choice in an affordable vehicle. And when it’s the least expensive new Ford you can buy, as well as its most fuel efficient.
Even if you never thought you’d need a pickup, the Maverick will convince you otherwise.
Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at TheDrivingPrintz@gmail.com.