Big, bigger, biggest. For years, that seemed to be the only formula that worked in the U.S. pickup market. But these days, small has become beautiful, at least for some truck buyers. And with the midsize segment gaining ground, there just might be room for a new generation of compact pickups, as well. Or so Ford is betting with the launch of the 2022 Maverick.
If the name sounds familiar, it once was branded on the back of a compact Ford sedan. More than four decades later, it’s making its return in compact truck form, and if my initial drive of the 2022 Ford Maverick is any indication, the automaker could have a real winner on its hands.
The new Maverick doesn’t stray far from classic pickup proportions. If anything, you might confuse it with the midsize Ford Ranger which measures only about a half-foot longer, nose to tail. With some creative design tricks, the 2022 Maverick offers a surprising amount of room inside, along with a reasonable amount of cargo space and hauling power.
Maverick also features the sort of technologies that hip urbanites and young Millennial families are likely to 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. The step-up powertrain still boasts good mileage but bumps towing capacity up to 4,000 pounds.
Ford’s new offering has the market almost entirely to itself. While Hyundai is launching its own compact truck for 2022, it adopts a distinctly different focus, with more emphasis on style. And, if early orders are any indication, there’s more than enough room for both new models. If anything, I’d be surprised if other manufacturers don’t jump in, much like what happened when the midsize pickup segment started to revive nearly a decade ago.
The new Maverick shares its basic underpinnings with both the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport. It’s a highly flexible platform that, with the pickup, has undergone a number of tweaks meant to enhance its ability to haul and tow.
You’d have to crawl underneath to know it’s a unibody platform. Maverick picks up on key design cues from both Ranger and Ford’s flagship pickup, the F-150. That includes a belt line that appears to drop down below the sideview mirrors.
Despite its low starting price, all versions of Maverick get LED lighting which frames a broad grille meant to emphasize the truck’s width. The overall look comes together like Lego blocks, giving Maverick a rugged and capable appearance.
At first glance, potential buyers might question the functionality of the truck’s 4.5-foot cargo bed. Its “flex-bed” design is much more useful than it first appears, with the ability to lean the tailgate back at a 45-degree angle, making it easier to carry things like trail bikes or as 18 sheets of 4×8 plywood.
Maverick is the first Ford product to adopt a new “customer-centered” approach to design. And it encourages “the DIY mentality,” suggests chief engineer Chris Mazur. The bed has molded in slots into which an owner can drop in cut 2x4s to create a false load floor, for one thing, or divide the bed into multiple compartments. In fact, do-it-yourselfers will find QR codes in several places on the truck that link to videos and articles offering creative suggestions.
For off-roaders, Ford also offers an FX4 package. It provides additional underbody protection, a modest boost in ride height, all-terrain tires and modified suspension tuning.
The same goes for the interior, where Ford offers guidance for those who might want to use home 3D printing technology to create things like cellphone mounts, or storage and waste bins.
As with the front end, Ford designers adopted a horizontal layout to the instrument panel to emphasize the width of the interior. They lowered the center console to further enhance that feel. The cabin is far more roomy than I initially expected. It is, in fact, slightly larger than the interior of the old Fusion sedan, though backseat passengers still might feel a bit claustrophobic.
With a starting price of just $19,995 — before delivery fees — you might expect to see plenty of chintzy plastic trim. Instead, Maverick designers came up with some creative alternatives, such as stucco-textured panels and technical graining, rather than faux leather.
As part of the customer-centered design strategy, the development team asked potential buyers to show how they’d use the truck. That led to things like a split armrest design that allows room for oversized beverage bottles. And for those who don’t have a 3D printer at home, the Ford Integrated Tether system lets an owner snap in a variety of accessories, including storage holders and a waste bin.
The rear seats even lift up to reveal additional storage nooks that can — by now, no surprise — be divided up into smaller compartments.
Motivating the compact pickup, two different powertrains are available. But the real surprise was Ford’s decision to make a hybrid Maverick’s base engine.
It pairs a 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle gas engine with a 94-kilowatt electric motor. Together, they produce a peak 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.
For those needing a bit more muscle, Maverick is offered with 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 package 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 more powerful EcoBoost package bumps that tow rating to 4,000, which, Ford says, is about what a 21-foot boat weighs. By comparison, the Ford Ranger can tow anywhere from 3,500 to 7,500 pounds, depending upon options.
Safety and Technology
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 an optional WiFi hotspot for handling up to 10 different devices.
There’s also a digital gauge cluster that comes standard on the top-line Lariat trim. And a 660-watt, eight-speaker B&O audio package also is available. There’s also a 400-watt, 120-volt AC outlet available for Maverick’s cargo bed.
Maverick owners can switch between five standard drive modes. The FX4 package gets additional off-road modes like Mud/Rut and Sand, as well as Hill Descent Control. That lets you creep down a steep climb at a steady snail’s pace without constantly jumping back and forth between throttle and brake.
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 CoPilot 360, 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.
It only took a little while behind the wheel for Maverick to win me over. The unibody platform was surprisingly smooth and comfortable when flying along at freeway speeds. And it proved to be unexpectedly quiet on all but the roughest of road surfaces. The hybrid engine was solid, if not overly peppy. The EcoBoost upgrade delivered enough of a boost in performance to let me have fun flogging it through the mountain roads outside Nashville.
Both engines proved surprisingly competent when used for towing. Even with a 1,000-pound trailer hitched up, the hybrid Maverick was able to not only maintain, but increase its speed on a moderately steep freeway grade. The Ecoboost with all-wheel-drive made simple work out of a trailer weighing in close to its 4,000-pound limit.
And I almost completely forgot how much mass was in the cargo bed when I swapped out the trailer for a cargo bed filled with 80-pound bags of concrete.
2022 Ford Maverick specifications:
|Dimension||L: 199.7 inches/W: 72.6 inches/H: 68.7 inches/Wheelbase: 121.1 inches|
|Powertrain||2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle gas engine with a 94-kilowatt electric motor or 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder|
|Fuel Economy||Hybrid: n/a; Gas: 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway/26 mpg combined*|
|Performance Specs||Hybrid: 191 horsepower/EcoBoost: 250 hp and 277 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $19,999; As tested: n/a|
|On-Sale Date||Fall 2021|
While commercial users are likely to opt for the Ranger or even the F-150, it’s clear that the 2022 Ford Maverick will have little problem meeting the needs of owners who might want to hit the local Home Depot or Lowe’s for a pallet of mulch or who’ll pull their pontoon boat out to the lake house over the weekend.
During the rest of the week, Maverick will fill in for a traditional sedan or SUV. It can readily fit into an urban parking spot and, with a 40-foot turning radius, easily maneuver along city streets.
There was a time, back through the late 1970s, when the U.S. market offered a variety of compact pickups. Back then, they were cheap to buy and maintain and served as a useful alternative to sedans and coupes for young Baby Boomers.
Prices for the 2022 Ford Maverick start at $19,995 for the XL Hybrid. The Lariat with the EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive jumps to $30,000, and a fully-loaded Lariat tops out around $38,000. Whether there’s a market for a new generation of compact trucks remains to be seen, but early sales results for the Hyundai Santa Cruz are promising, and initial orders for the new Maverick suggest it will also be one of the hits of the new model year. I’d be surprised if competitors like Chevrolet and Toyota aren’t already working up plans for their own small trucks. But they’ll clearly have to play a game of catch-up.
2022 Ford Maverick — Frequently Asked Questions
Is Maverick a good truck?
While you likely won’t trade in your F-150 for the 2022 Ford Maverick, it has plenty to offer those who want a sedan or SUV alternative with plenty of room for cargo and good towing capacity. And, with its hybrid engine option, it delivers up to 40 mpg combined.
Why is Maverick so cheap?
Ford came up with creative ideas to hold down the base price. The 2022 Maverick shares platforms with both the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport SUVs. It features a molded, one-piece instrument panel, and creative design work helped keep other costs down.
How comfortable is the Ford Maverick?
We found it surprisingly smooth and quiet when out on local roads and highways. Even when towing or carrying a cargo bed full of concrete or mulch, it was much more pleasant and easy to drive than many larger pickups.