Ford Motor Company knows a thing or two when it comes to building and marketing pickup trucks.
For the past 46 years, its full-size F-150 ranked as the best-selling pickup in the U.S. Now, Ford works its magic shrinking the size down a notch or two and returning a Blue Oval name from the past, Maverick.
Unlike the F-150 with several mix-and-match body styles and bed lengths, the new, diminutive Maverick keeps ordering a bit simpler with one four-door Crew Cab (conventionally-sized swing-out doors) configuration and standard 4.5-foot stout bed (with, among other built-in extras, tie down clamps doubling as bottle openers). Three trim choices include XL, XLT and Lariat with even base XL trims coming nicely equipped. Available powertrains total two.
Another differentiator: the new smaller pickup includes a standard four-cylinder gas-electric hybrid engine boost substantially increasing fuel economy (although F-150 markets the highly successful all-electric F-150 Lightning EV). Maverick constructs from a lighter uni-body, car-like platform instead of the body-on-frame choice found in F-150 and just about every other full or medium-sized pickup truck.
That’s why the 2023 Maverick handles like a car without much bounce felt in springier body-on frame construction. Expect improved fuel economy while an electronic power assist steering lightens the steering wheel feel for drivers. Best of all, it starts with attractive pricing in 2023 of $22,595.
Ford’s newest Maverick incarnation made its global auto show debut with an accompanying buzz at the Chicago Auto Show’s first ever memorable summer extravaganza held Mid- July 2021 (not murky mid-winter as usually pegged) compliments of the global pandemic.
The original Ford Maverick name debuting in 1969 didn’t resemble a workhorse truck born in the form of a low-cost two-door coupe aimed at a pesky yet growing segment of import compacts such as the Volkswagen Beetle. It lasted until 1977. The flat-bed version arrived all new in the 2022-model year and quickly sold out from dealer lots. The brisk sales pace remains unfettered in 2023.
Maverick’s hybrid powertrain qualifies as a ‘full’ hybrid rather than the ‘mild’ hybrid version meaning the electric motor does more than just assist the gasoline engine. No concern surrounding nightly socket sessions as both versions remain self-charging and plug-free.
Ford offers a second powertrain in the form of a turbocharged (EcoBoost in Ford speak) 2.0-liter, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder cranking out 250 horsepower and 277 ft.-lb. of torque mating to a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission. As with the hybrid engine, front-wheel drive comes standard. Unlike the gas-electric hybrid engine, all-wheel drive is optional and standard with the newly optional Tremor package.
Maverick shares a chassis and underpinnings with the Bronco Sport Compact crossover (which is different than what’s aboard a conventional body-on-frame Ford Bronco) and joins an emerging class of popular and practical smaller, comfortable riding pickups including Hyundai’s pricier Santa Cruz and Honda’s larger mid-size Ridgeline.
Changes from its premier 2022 model year remain understandably minimal, the exception being the available off-road Tremor package with an upgraded suspension available in XLT and Lariat trims only when ordering the non-hybrid engine. Ford offers off-road intended Tremor Packages in its larger body-on-frame truck lines. Maverick’s Tremor package conquers lighter trails with ease but leave heavy duty trails to beefier pickups; it’s an honorable choice for maneuvering the jungles of suburban Chicago. Towing capacity reads a rather plebian 2,000 pounds with the hybrid engine. Double that with the EcoBoost powertrain.
The Tremor Package boasts orange rear fender decals spelling out TREMOR within black outlining, looking smart when adhered to our tester’s milky grey exterior hue. Also, Orange accented, front tow hooks blend with dual horizontal lined accents running through the front grille (and around a smallish Blue Oval logo). Inside, orange stitching trims seats while TREMOR embosses upon front bucket backrests.
Mechanical wise, Tremor includes Ford’s ‘Trail Control System’; think cruise control for off-road trails. Off-road modes include: mud/ruts, rock crawl and sand all controlled from push buttons near the transmission system. Another nearby button locks the rear differential, sending torque specifically to the rear wheels instead of all four. A front skid plate allows for a nine-degree steeper approach angle. A 9.4-inch ground clearance raises the base level by .08 inches.
Order any trim and manually drop down the tailgate to create a six-foot long floor. The back gate also brings back its manually adjustable multi-position feature as it dips half-way open/down when unclipping thin grey cables at each end and hooking them onto latch pins. A $495 spray-in bed liner looks great while adding a layer of protection and comes highly recommended. A low-ride height contributes to easy egress/ingress and it's attractively priced (as with the Maverick two-door fifty years prior) under $23,000.
Our XLT tester with Tremor package started at $24,455. The Tremor appearance package added $4,490 and with a few additional add on extras and $1,495 destination charge brought the bottom line to $34,207 including a $1,495 destination charge.
Inside, Maverick delivers a spartan, chiseled truck ambiance; simple without overwhelming bling. The instrument panel combines the best of multi-colored analog and digital worlds while the mid-size 8-inch center stack flat touch screen looks right at home rather than a boastful high-tech, highly distracting toy. The relatively intuitive screen provides clear graphics and little lag time.
The dash runs side-to side rather than a serpentine effect. Happily, both volume and station pre-set dials below the screen help audio interactions flanking push plates helping locate radio frequency. Black onyx remains the preferred color choice of the largely plastic dash with textured nuances.
Diminutive square air vents flank each dashboard end with a similar-sized duo under the multi-function screen, separating the sound system from HVAC controls featuring large dials monitoring inside temperature with tactile push buttons between assisting fan speed and direction. This welcome design eliminates the need to swipe/scroll through the screen for temperature sets.
When firing up the internal combustion engine, the ignition cylinder (yep, an actual key within a key fob is required) awaits on the steering column’s right side. The dial-like transmission changer locates between cloth-inspired front buckets with secondary PRNDL illuminating horizontally along the instrument panel floor. The dial itself includes PRND along the outer shell with Low (L) summoned by a center dial push. An electric parking brake pull tab resides aft. Dual inline beverage holders adorn to the right.
Both Smartphone favorites Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard along with an embedded modem and WiFi for up to 10 devices with plenty of USB ports of varying sizes.
A practical feature returning from 2022, extra partitioned floor storage found under second row three-seat bench that manually lifts up from its lower front end.
Payload capacity weighs in at 1,500 pounds within 33 cubic feet of volume, which Ford, for descriptive purposes, parleys into 37 bags containing 40 lbs. of mulch. The back end features a multi-position tail gate and 12 available in-bed anchor points.
With the 13.8-gallon tank accepting regular, unleaded 87-octane fuel and filled to the brim, expect a driving range exceeding 500 miles when ordering the gas-electric hybrid engine (take that all-electric Nissan Leaf with an EPA estimated 149 miles between charging). Opting for the turbocharged four brings forth 20 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway. Both engines boast an easy-fuel capless system eliminating pesky plastic twist covers replaced by a self-sealing barrier.
At a Glance
2023 Ford Maverick
Price as tested: $34,207
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo inline four
Wheelbase: 121.1 inches
Overall Length: 199.7 inches
Overall Height: 68.7 inches
Overall Width: 72.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,829 pounds
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city/ 24 mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: Five-year, 60,000 miles
Assembly: Hermosillo, Mexico