The new 2022 Ford Maverick might trigger a sense of déjà vu, especially for Baby Boomers.
While the name was originally used for a compact sedan offered during much of the 1970s, it was an era when young drivers were just as likely to buy one of the market’s many compact pickup trucks, vehicles that were rugged, flexible and about as affordable as anything on the market.
During the past five decades, compact trucks have basically vanished, at least from U.S. showrooms, but Ford is betting big that the segment is ready to come back to life. And unlike its big F-150 and midsize Ranger siblings, trucks that score big with suburban and rural buyers, the new Maverick is taking aim at the sort of hip, young urbanites who normally wouldn’t be caught dead in a pickup.
“Maverick challenges the status quo and the stereotypes of what a pickup truck can be,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager. “We believe it will be compelling to a lot of people who never before considered a truck.”
Attracting a new group of truck buyers
The new model doesn’t blow off the basics that pickup buyers would look for. It’s got plenty of cargo and towing capacity and offers a flexible bed, tailgate and interior. But Maverick also features the sort of technologies that hip urbanites and young millennial families focus on, including an onboard WiFi hotspot and the latest in smart safety systems. For environmentally minded buyers, Maverick’s base engine is a hybrid delivering an estimated 40 mpg on city streets.
Now add the fact the truck starts at $19,995 — though buyers will be able to drive that up substantially by opting for features like a more powerful EcoBoost engine, a power moonroof, the FX4 off-road package and premium Lariat trim.
The 2022 Maverick will become one of just three unibody trucks on the market, starting with Honda’s midsize Ridgeline. The Ford truck arrives in showrooms later this year, about the same time as the long-awaited Hyundai Santa Cruz.
Maverick certainly lays claim to having rugged DNA. Its platform is shared not only with the familiar Ford Escape but also the new Ford Bronco Sport.
Retaining Ford’s heritage of toughness
While not quite a match for the latter SUV’s off-road capabilities, “One thing that (was) non-negotiable is that Maverick is Built Ford Tough,” said Chris Mazur, the all-new pickup’s chief engineer. “Our engineers were unrelenting, putting it through a battery of vicious on-road, off-road, environmental and simulated customer use testing until we were satisfied. Ford trucks are Ford trucks — through and through.”
In sharp contrast to the curvaceous Santa Cruz, Maverick sticks with a classic pickup design, “upright and squared off,” as Ford puts it, with doors, grille, window and standard LED headlights that don’t stray far from what F-150 and Ranger fans are familiar with.
At 199.7 inches in length and 68.7 inches in height, it’s nearly a foot shorter, and about two inches lower than today’s Ranger. And it’s 32 inches shorter, seven inches narrower, than an F-150. The bed, meanwhile, comes in at 4.5 feet, or half a foot shorter than Ranger which is, itself, six inches shorter than the standard F-150 bed.
There, Maverick makes up for its shortcomings with a multi-position tailgate design that can tilt partially down to safely carry longer cargo, like as many as 18 sheets of ply or drywall — or a kayak. The “FlexBed” also has slots so lumber can be used to subdivide it. There are a dozen anchor points and plenty of power points, including two optional 110-volt outlets. While Maverick owners might be less likely to use them on a construction site, they’ll do fine running a laptop or a cooler for a tailgate party.
New model’s a multitasker
Flexibility is a key part of the appeal, Ford is betting. The cabin’s FITS system, or Ford Integrated Tether System, can be used to attach a variety of cabin accessories, including cupholders, a trash bin and more. There’s also plenty of storage space around the cabin.
The cabin, meanwhile, features a rugged, stone-like material for its instrument panel, and various surfaces are finished with a material that incorporate recycled and ground-up carbon fiber.
“This customer wants simple, but not basic, and Maverick is all about thoughtful details executed well,” said Barb Whalen, who led the team in choosing materials and colors.
The target Maverick audience has never known a world without smartphones — or cars without Bluetooth, telematics and satellite radio.
The base Maverick features an 8-inch touchscreen that incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has FordPass Connect to remotely unlock doors, check fuel levels and perform other functions via a smartphone app. There’s also a WiFi hotspot for handling up to 10 different devices.
Considering the target Maverick buyer may just be starting a family, Ford is putting emphasis on advanced safety technology, as well. The truck comes with Ford CoPilot360, which includes standard Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Automatic High Beam Headlamps. Among the options are Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Centering and Evasive Steering Assist.
Some “go” with the “show”
Motivating the compact pickup, two different powertrains are available. The base engine pairs a 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle gas engine with a 94 kilowatt electric motor. Together, they produce 191 horsepower. Fittingly, urban drivers will get an EPA-estimated 40 mpg in the city, with a combined rating of 40 mpg. The engine is paired with a CVT gearbox and is available only in front-wheel-drive.
Maverick offers an upgrade to a 2.0-liter Ecoboost engine, mated to an 8-speed automatic. This package punches the pony count up to 250, with torque rated at 277 pound-feet. The turbo-4 can be ordered in either front- or all-wheel drive.
Even the hybrid manages to carry up to 1,500 pounds of cargo and tow up to 2,000 pounds. The EcoBoost package bumps that tow rating to 4,000. To put that into perspective, the Ranger can handle anywhere from 3,500 to 7,500 pounds, depending upon options.
There’s no doubt that Ford is taking a bit of a risk launching such a small pickup. But it doesn’t want to be left behind — as happened when it dithered for several years before finally deciding to bring the midsize Ranger back to life. Compact trucks like Maverick are commonplace in Mexico and other parts of Latin America and marketing chief Scott is convinced there is now a “tremendous opportunity” here, as well, especially for a manufacturer that seeks out a “first-mover advantage.”
Analyst Stephanie Brinley, of IHS Markit, agrees. And she says she’s not worried that some older buyers might confuse the Maverick name with the long-forgotten sedan of the ’70s.
Here, she says, the Maverick name “taps into the (image) of an adventure lifestyle, a go-anywhere name that aligns with the type of product this will be.”
Ford has already opened up a special page for Maverick on the Ford.com website. Potential buyers now can check out their options – including a special “First edition” model — and place orders and reservations. The 2022 Ford Maverick will reach showrooms this autumn.