Ford caught the automotive landscape (at least here in the USA) off guard when it launched the Maverick last fall. An all-new "compact", the Maverick expanded Ford's pickup offerings to include small (Maverick), medium (Ranger), large (F-150), and extra large (Super Duty). Based on the same platform as Ford's Escape and Bronco Sport, Maverick is available only as a 4-door crew cab with a 4.5-foot bed and either front- or all-wheel drive. In another unusual twist, Maverick is offered with gas and gas-electric powertrains. Competitors are few and include the Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz. However, only the Santa Cruz is a true compact.
Maverick comes in XL, XLT, and Lariat trim. Standard on all is a gas-electric hybrid powertrain that pairs a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with electric motors through a continuously variable automatic transmission for a combined output of 191 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. Optional across the board is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower ad 277 lb-ft of torque. The turbo engine gets an 8-speed automatic. Hybrid models are available only with front-wheel drive while turbo models come with either front-drive or all-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity is 2,000 pounds unless equipped with the 4,000-pound towing package that is only available with the turbocharged engine.
Prices range from $21,490 to more than $28,000. Standard equipment on the XL includes LED headlights, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration, and forward-collision warning with brake intervention. XLT adds alloy wheels, rear center armrest, power-locking tailgate and cruise control. Top-line Lariat adds keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, simulated leather upholstery, and power-sliding rear window. Other features include spray-in bedliner, wireless charging pad, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, heated seats and steering wheel, and adaptive cruise control. For also offers a FX4 Off-Road package that includes all-terrain tires, front tow hooks, hill descent control, and skid plates.
With the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, Maverick zips from 0 to 60 MPH in a scant 6.4 seconds, that's quicker than it's competition and quicker than any midsize pickup as well. The quick-shifting automatic transmission mates well to the turbo mill and provides prompt, if a bit abrupt, downshifts when more power is needed. The engine cruises smoothly and isn't overly coarse in hard acceleration.
However, buyers need not shy away from the base hybrid powertrain. It provides more than sufficient acceleration and has enough umph to pull the occasional light trailer or load of sand from the home store. It posts a 0 t 60 MPH time of 7.6 seconds, about average for a midsize truck. More importantly power delivery is strong and linear in cut-and-thrust urban traffic. The powertrain does seem to run out of breath in highway passing situations though. It is important to note that the hybrid comes only with front-wheel drive.
On that subject, Maverick's all-wheel-drive system is NOT a four-wheel-drive system. It is designed for light-duty off-roading and mainly focused on providing additional traction on slippery roads. There is a FX4 package that adds a few additional off-road goodies and up to 8.3 inches of ground clearance.
EPA ratings come in at 22/29 MPG for the all-wheel-drive turbo, slightly better than the similar-size Hyundai Santa Cruz. Hybrid impresses with an EPA rating of 42/33 MPG. Both engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline. It should be noted that hybrid models get a 13.8-gallon gas tank while turbo models get a significantly larger 16.5-gallon tank.
Outside of highway cruising, trucks aren't particularly smooth riding. Either they ride to firm and jar occupants, or they ride too softly and induce motion sickness. However, the Maverick presents an on-road poise and sharpness that sets a new standard for compact and midsize trucks, The suspension calibration is superb, with the Maverick soaking up both large bumps and sharp expansion joints with aplomb. Secondary motions are nicely muted and there's no head toss. Best of all the ride quality doesn't change much with a load in the bed (save for the steering getting a bit light).
When the road gets twisty, Maverick digs in as best it can. Body roll is minimal, but it still feels like a truck at times with the way the back end isn't quite sure what the front end is doing. Steering is always overboosted, but at least it tracks true on the highway. Brakes provide excellent stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal makes coming to smooth stops second nature (even on hybrid models). FX4 creates a bit more sloppiness entering and exiting turns and slightly less suspension refinement overall.
Interior noise levels are impressively low, on par with a compact crossover. The hybrid powertrain can moan in hard acceleration, but that's more a factor of the continuously variable transmission than the engine itself.
Considering the Maverick is all-new and a unibody design, rather than the traditional pickup truck body-on-frame construction, you might wonder if it has the chops to handle the tough truck stuff. Mostly yes, but in a modest way. Payload capacity is a useful 1,500 pounds, but the bed is fairly small, so it's not all that useful for hauling couches or motorbikes. Towing capacity for most models is 2,000 pounds, which means a light trailer only. You can opt for the towing package an all-wheel-drive turbo models and increase trailer weight to 4,000 pounds, but at that point you'll be taxing the limits of the engine and brakes. All-in-all, Maverick is perfect for light duty work, but not a replacement for a work truck.
Maverick sports a simple and functional interior. There's enough brightwork and contrasting materials that to keep it from being spartan, but luxury-truck intenders will need to step up a class. Materials are appropriate for the price and the fit-and-finish seemed to be exemplary for a first-year vehicle. Another plus is the extremely functional layout. Controls are quite conventional, clearly marked, and simple in operation. The low cowl and tall greenhouse make for excellent visibility and the large door openings, modest step-in and high roof make it easy to get in and out.
The front seats are heavily padded (for the class) and provide all-day comfort. Front-seat occupants are treated to generous head room and adequate leg room. The center armrest is at the perfect height as well. The rear seats are reasonable roomy, easily accommodating two medium-size adults. Tall folk will wish for more foot and knee room. There is an optional sliding rear window that improves ventilation.
On the tech side, you'll need to step up to the Luxury Package before you start getting impressed. The base audio system is underwhelming, and the standard is an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is slow to respond to input. Adding the Luxury package brings a better infotainment screen, adaptive cruise control, enhanced voice controls, wireless charging pad, and lane keeping assist. It should be noted that many of those features are standard on the more-expensive Hyundai Santa Cruz.
From a cargo standpoint, Ford claims the bed has an overall volume of 33.3 cubic feet. Frankly, that's not too impressive. They also tout something called "Flexbed," which is really just a bunch of ways to partition the bed with 2x4s and the like to make it more versatile. About the only party trick up Maverick's sleeve is a multi-position tailgate that allows you to lock it at a 45-degree angle to better carry long timbers and the like. Santa Cruz has a much more configurable bed with in-floor storage and a hard and lockable tonneau cover. On the inside, Ford has come up with some innovative and thoughtful storage options including some additional storage around the infotainment screen, a deep center bin, a cord-wrap and lots of storage under the back seat.
Bottom Line -- Truth be told, Maverick was an idea whose time had come. Pickups just keep getting bigger and more expensive and Ford thought a compact truck with a fair price would be a winner. And they were right. Maverick is sold out for months. Its combination of utility, comfort and affordability make it attractive to weekend warriors and light-duty contractors. It will be interesting to see if Ford can resist the urge to raise the price in the coming years.