2022 Ford Maverick Pickup First Drive: Compact Size, Big Aspirations

Ford Maverick Pickup
The new Ford Maverick sits below the midsize Ranger and full-size F-150 in the lineup but packs plenty of capability. Ford

The 2022 Ford Maverick doesn’t care if you think it’s a real pickup or not. Maverick walks its path with confidence, filling a hole that exists somewhere between the dwindling ranks of the bare-bones economy car, the newly rediscovered compact pickup and the surging ranks of compact crossovers.

Like the recently released 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, the four-door Ford Maverick compact pickup is tilted strongly in the direction of buyers who exist in the coveted demographic automakers refer to as the “outdoor lifestyle” segment. It was accordingly designed from the ground up to accommodate numerous racks and support systems, both commercially available and D-I-Y, to facilitate the transportation and use of bicycles, tents, generators, and all manner of crunchy accoutrement. That the base front-wheel drive hybrid XL model returns approximately 40 mpg and starts at $21,490, including a $1,495 destination charge, is just its ace in the hole.

Keep it Simple, But Don’t be Stupid

If simplicity truly is the key to happiness, Ford Maverick owners are going to have a hard time containing themselves. In a world where its really, really big brother, the full-size F-150, is offered in eight distinct trims before delving into cab and bed combinations and pages of tech, hardware and towing options, the Maverick is a model of simplicity. It comes in just a single four-door body style, three trims (XL, XLT and Lariat) and two powertrains.

This new truck gives Ford four pickups to meet the competition when deliveries begin later this fall: compact Maverick, 199.7 inches long; midsize Ranger, 210.8 inches; full-size F-150, 209.1 to 250.3 inches depending on cab and bed length; and mega-size Super Duty, ranging from 231.8 inches to a freight-train-like 266.2.

This pared-down approach is not a coincidence. Trevor Scott, Maverick Marketing Manager, told Forbes Wheels coming in hot with low-price of entry was one of the first ideas on the whiteboard when the team began brainstorming the project. They plotted a course from there, determining what features were essential to the target demographic, and which were extraneous.

Ford Maverick Pickup
Once the province of the fleet vehicles and farm trucks, basic steel wheels, or “steelies” as they are known, now have a legion of followers. Ford

The Base XL is a study in restraint, riding on 17-inch steel wheels with 225/65 tires, adding power windows and locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, two USB ports and a manually adjustable tilt and telescopic steering wheel to the interior. The 2.5-liter hybrid powertrain with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive with five drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul), is standard. Also included are variable-ratio electric power steering, manually adjustable cloth seats and numerous other small items including two 12-volt power ports and a compact spare tire. In short, everything you need to get the job done but very few distractions.

Standard safety tech includes pre-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and automatic headlamps and high beams. Simple, right? And we’re still at the $21,490 price—the least expensive Hyundai Santa Cruz is $25,215, but’s whose counting?  (We covered the full rundown of Maverick size comparisons, powertrains and trims in an earlier story.)

Ford Maverick Low-Tech High-Tech

Possibly the single most evident truth of the keep-it-simple philosophy is that no advanced navigation system is offered across all trims. In a long-overdue development, the Maverick ships with Apple CarPlay and Android auto and an 8-inch center screen as standard equipment, putting the heavy infotainment lifting on the user’s personal device.

This makes sense for numerous reasons, primarily that the average 50-year-old and younger consumer is essentially surgically attached to their cell phone at this point, making native infotainment redundant. Plus, it removes the burden of continuously updating the software from the manufacturer. In an era when new phone models and software updates occur with the urgency of spawning salmon, it makes sense to leave that to the compact, portable easily updatable and replaceable cellphone. Considering the high costs and profit margins associated with proprietary infotainment systems, it’s a bold move.

The Maverick hybrids interior is cleanly styled and light on the gimmickry; nearly every nook, cranny and control has a purpose. Ford

Of course, Ford Pass is standard, allowing you to start, unlock, find and view data all from your cellphone as well as providing a 4G hotspot. But there are numerous ways to nudge the price skyward, including the 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and 8-speed automatic (a scant $1,085), which opens the door to all-wheel drive (a significant $3,305) and over a dozen factory rack and carrier options ranging from $79 to $1,038. Ford’s CoPilot360 safety package (a steal at $540) adds adaptive cruise control with stop & go, evasive steering assist, lane centering, reverse sensing system, blind spot warning with cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warnings, lane-keeping assist and hill descent control.

But now things are getting less simple, and that’s before considering the XLT ($23,775 base) and Lariat ($26,985 base) trims, not to mention the FX4 off-road package ($800) or the 4k towing package ($745).

50 MPG Maverick Hybrid Fuel Economy Drive

Despite its thrifty mission, the XL Maverick hybrid impresses with a notably quiet and controlled ride; the absence of wind noise around the upper door frames and A-pillar is of particular note. Impact damping is impressive for a small vehicle, and, thanks largely to the low-end torque, it displays a modicum of the point-and-shoot personality that can make small vehicles so much fun in-town.

The hybrid powertrain—no plug-in option is offered—shuffles between gasoline and electric power deftly, a tiny bit of engine noise and the instrument panel gauges are the only indicators of the current driveline scenario. Likewise, the CVT operates inconspicuously, save for a few wild swings under heavy throttle that send the engine’s rpm skyward.

Ford Maverick Pickup
A Ford engineer opined, “Vehicles like the new Bronco are the adventure; the Maverick is intended to get you and your gear to the location where the adventure starts.” Andrew Wendler

As is often the case with hybrid and EV vehicles, our run on the Natchez Trace Parkway southwest of Nashville turned into an impromptu hypermiling competition with other journalists. Driving aggressively in normal and sport modes we managed a dash-indicated 37.5 mpg, nearly matching the 40-mpg official EPA rating Ford anticipates. Fellow drivers claimed to have hit 50 mpg driving with a very light foot in the ECO mode.

The key takeaway, however, is that the Maverick hybrid asks little of you in return for the efficiency. The cabin is larger than expected, with plenty of room for six-foot-plus drivers and passengers in front, though the optional sunroof is best left to those under the six-foot mark. The gauges are legible, back support sufficient and the audio, provided by a standard six-speaker setup entertains.

Minor gripes include the narrow seat bases, which may leave girthy types clamoring for a pit stop long before their passengers. The rear seats are tight, offering a quoted 35.9-inches of “effective” legroom. For comparison, the Bronco Sport, which shares Ford’s core C2 platform—and coincidentally, its Hermosillo, Mexico point of assembly—with the Maverick, offers acclaimed 36.9 inches of rear legroom. The Santa Cruz claims 36.5 inches of backseat legroom and the current Subaru Forester 34.9. Ford’s own larger (if aging) Ranger sits at 34.5. So, the Maverick is where it needs to be in competitive terms, but if long-legs are a family trademark, you might be disappointed.

Maverick XLT 2.0-Liter EcoBoost Gasoline

Swapping to the gasoline-powered Maverick is less revelatory than you might think. Rated for 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque (on premium fuel, natch) the Maverick EcoBoost seems significantly more potent than the Hybrid’s maximum 191 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of output. That’s impressive on paper, but less so in the real world. Retracing our steps on the same route we drove in the hybrid, we registered an indicated 24 mpg.

Ford Maverick Pickup
Should you care to, you can option a top-tier Maverick Lariat to just under $40k, but what the fun in that? Ford

But after driving the hybrid Maverick and enjoying the satisfying experience of energy regeneration on downhills, under braking and coasting, it felt like something was missing from the gasoline Maverick experience over the same terrain; a bit like we were being cheated out of free energy. For the record, the EPA ratings for the EcoBoost Maverick are 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, 26 mpg combined; subtract one mpg in each metric for all-wheel drive.

Of course, opting for the EcoBoost Maverick opens the door to FX4 off-road package (Heavy-duty radiator and cooling fan, skid plates, unique 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, tow hooks, hill descent control and few additional tweaks). We bombed through a mild off-road course and ascended a rocky uphill easily enough, but it simply tolerated the abuse rather than relish it the way an FX4 or Ranger Tremor or F-150 does. But, as a Ford engineer opined, “Vehicles like the new Bronco are the adventure; the Maverick is intended to get you and your gear to the location where the adventure starts.” (Great minds think alike: Subaru uses the same line to describe the Outback Wilderness.)

Ford Maverick Towing

The base front-drive Maverick hybrid is rated to tow a maximum of 2,000 pounds. To set a baseline, we first tried a front-drive hybrid hitched up to a trailer carrying a pair of jet skis that weighed that maximum amount. The performance was impressive. The two-place trailer tracked nicely, working its way up and around the hilly terrain, followed by a jaunt on the freeway at speed up to 80 mph. As usual, we drove with a heavy foot but still returned a dash-indicated 23 mpg with over a 20-mile jaunt. One could argue that any number of diesel mid-and full-size pickups could return similar efficiency and lug much larger loads, but if you only tow a few times a year, the Maverick will save thousands in the purchase price and fuel costs.

Ford Maverick Pickup
The 4K tow package (a steal at $745, it includes a 2-inch receiver with 7-pin connector, trailer brake controller, an upgraded cooling fan and radiator and transmission) made tugging this 3,000-pound trailer possible. Ford

The gasoline Maverick with four-wheel drive is rated for the same 2,000-pound figure, but the available 4,000-pound tow package ($745, including a 2-inch receiver with 7-pin connector, trailer brake controller, an upgraded cooling fan and radiator and transmission) opens the door to some significant towing opportunities options. A pair of ATVs on a 3,000-pound dual-axle trailer with brakes provided no real challenge, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for going more than a couple of hundred miles or so.

There’s still a half-a-dozen or so econoboxes on the market that can be had for less than the Maverick’s $21,490 price of entry, but few are as capable, efficient or offer the genuine utility of the Maverick’s configurable bed. Plus, no respectable 18-year-old would be caught dead towing a Waverunner behind a Kia Rio. More than just a good small pickup, the Maverick is a good compact vehicle.