The 2022 Ford Maverick pickup truck is the practical, flexible, and efficient dream truck for makers because Ford’s engineering team designed it to be a blank canvas on which owners can paint their own picture.
In a market awash with the costly and the complicated (the average price of a full-size pickup truck is now $55,000 according to Kelley Blue Book), the Maverick is a tribute to the frugal and the simple. Surely, Marie Kondo would approve.
A recap of the basics: the Maverick is Ford’s new compact minitruck, slotting beneath the Ranger in Ford’s product line. Unlike the Ranger and most other pickups, the Maverick is built on an automotive unibody construction rather than the traditional ladder frame design. In this case, it is the company’s C2 unibody architecture that is also employed on the Escape and Bronco Sport in the U.S. market and the Focus sedan and hatchback sold in global markets.
As the Bronco Sport has demonstrated, this platform can be bunched up with some off-road gear to make it a credible machine when the pavement ends. But the Maverick’s pitch is that it will navigate the fire road to get you to the trailhead or the campsite, but it will probably leave recreational off-road driving to the rock-crawling specialists like the Bronco.
Instead, the Maverick promises a $21,490 starting price and a standard hybrid-electric drivetrain that delivers 40 mpg efficiency. And it does so with a vehicle that provides true four-passenger comfort (and occasional-use five-passenger capability) that includes important modern safety equipment like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard equipment on even the least expensive model.
It also includes equipment that today’s prospective compact pickup shoppers might consider essential: a central 8-inch infotainment display screen that connects to mobile devices using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Now, this may conjure fond recollections of a beater grunge-era Ford Ranger or Taco, er, Toyota Tacoma. But this Maverick is bigger and more carlike than those durably endearing rides ever imagined. While the Maverick is 10 inches shorter than a current Ranger, it is two feet longer than the original regular cab, standard bed version.
This extra space is all in the cab, so while you might have squeezed a questionable number of friends into the cab of an old Ranger, or had them ride in the bed, there’s plenty of room inside the Maverick so everyone gets a seat. And a seatbelt.
And while classic minitrucks had a punishing ride that sent their drivers into cars at the first opportunity, the Maverick’s car-like underpinnings mean that this truck has genuinely car-like ride and handling. Not “not bad for a truck,” but an actually comfortable ride and precise steering response that is uncharacteristic of a burly beast of burden.
The Maverick’s base drivetrain is an Atkinson cycle 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to Ford’s in-house hybrid-electric motor that we discussed previously with eDrive System and Applications Supervisor Abdul Hajiabdi. The combined system output is 191-horsepower and 155-lb.-ft., driving the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.
The EPA hasn’t yet certified the Maverick’s fuel economy numbers, but Ford is predicting the results will be 40 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 37 mpg in combined driving. This aligns with the numbers we saw on the Maverick’s trip computer during a couple of days of driving.
There is an available non-hybrid powertrain that is the familiar 250-hp, 277-lb.-ft. turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission. This drives the front wheels, or all four if the buyer chooses the available four-wheel-drive option. Four-wheel drive is not available with the base hybrid drivetrain.
The optional engine’s EPA fuel efficiency numbers are available, and it is rated at 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 26 mpg in the front-drive configuration. Four-wheel-drive costs 1 mpg from each of those scores.
By spending the extra money to get the more powerful engine, and getting much worse fuel efficiency as a result, the Maverick is thrown into competition with many other vehicles whose price and efficiency are similar. The base Maverick, in contrast, lives in an as-yet unpopulated neighborhood, with no direct competitors.
Value, therefore, is the Maverick’s primary virtue, and the base XL model, with its steel wheels and plain-looking interior appointments, is the real story. Consider adding the hitch receiver and trailer lighting plug for a paltry $100 and the $495 spray-in bed liner to preserve your investment, and then look away from the option sheet, and your out-the-door MSRP is $22,085 for a vehicle that will deliver impressive fuel efficiency and haul you, your friends, and your stuff to the mountain bike trail or campsite.
Before heading out, you’ll want to personalize your truck. Normally, that means spending another pile of cash in the dealer’s accessories department or buying similarly pricey aftermarket add-ons. And sure, Ford will sell you a Yakima bike carrier.
But the company is also providing explicit do-it-yourself directions for a wide variety of accessories that Maverick owners can make using parts from the hardware store and a little sweat equity.
“The whole bed is a DIY fan’s paradise,” declared vehicle engineering specialist Keith Daughtry. “You can buy the Ford cargo management system and we’re happy to sell it to you,” he said. “But if you’re a bit more creative, you can also just go to the hardware store and get some C-channel and bolt it to the bed to make your own solutions.”
That’s because the bed (Ford calls it the “Flexbed”) is made with bolt anchors already in place to attach hardware, no drilling is required. Want to spend money on bike parts and not on truck accessories? Ford provides the directions for building an in-bed bike rack using lumber from the hardware store rather than sending Yakima still more money.
And the bed is shaped to accept lumber to make cargo dividers or to create a flat load floor for 4x8 building materials. The tailgate can be fixed into an upward angle that supports the end of plywood or drywall stacks, even though the bed itself is only 4.5 feet long. That tailgate cleat that anchors the tie-down strap for securing the plywood? It is also a bottle opener for when the job is finished and it is Miller time. Or, if you’re biking, the trail is conquered, and it is time to pop the top on a low-carb Michelob Ultra.
Wanna hook up some bed lighting, or connect a compressor to inflate your air mattress? Ford has included “eDIY” features too. That means that beneath plastic cover plates, there are 12-volt electrical connectors wired into the bed so that you can wire in accessories without splicing into the truck’s harness. “We wanted to give customers an easy way to access the electrical circuit for DIY solutions and avoid compromising the overall electrical system,” explained Electrical Program Management Team Lead Gabby Grajales.
There are DIY opportunities inside the cab too, where Ford says it will provide CAD files to Maverick owners who want to 3D print their own parts for the truck’s Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS) attachment points. The company sells parts like hooks for grocery bags and dividers for the under-seat storage bins, but makers with access to a 3D printer can just make these themselves using a provided QR code.
All of this adds up to a compelling case in theory, but we were fortunate to be able to spend time in the truck, so we can confirm the case. The Maverick is stylish, comfortable, efficient, affordable, and practical. It follows in the footsteps of iconic Ford models like Mustang and Bronco, with their huge catalogs of aftermarket parts and enthusiastic owners who personalize those vehicles.
The biggest surprise was how lively the base truck felt with its hybrid-electric drivetrain. The turbocharged engine is undeniably faster, but there is nothing about the hybrid that suggests the turbo is needed.
The hybrid is rated to tow 2,000 lbs., while the turbo can be equipped to tow twice that amount. But the hybrid is plenty strong to tow dirt bikes, personal watercraft, or a U-Haul trailer.
Unfortunately, while touting that that Maverick upholds Ford’s “Built Ford Tough” truck mantra, the company wouldn’t let us test the front-drive version on the off-road course. In truth, this was more a “bad road” course, and any pickup truck, with any number of drive wheels, should be easily able to do it.
But we can’t confirm that the front-drive Maverick can scramble up the equivalent of a bad driveway for a remote hunting or fishing cabin because Ford would only allow the four-wheel-drive model with the optional FX4 off-road package on that course. The rationale was that the FX4 has the underbody skid plates needed to protect the Maverick’s potentially vulnerable hardware.
At launch, Ford also won’t offer the skid plates as affordable stand-alone options for Maverick buyers who love the truck’s value and who don’t want to spoil that by optioning it up with expensive trim, but who do want to protect the underside from rock damage while doing ordinary truck things.
But in true Maverick fashion, maybe it is only an invitation to apply some DIY skills with the aid of the burgeoning Maverick aftermarket, and bolt-on some third-party skid plates that will surely be available soon.
The Maverick’s value pricing, efficiency, and DIY-friendly features make it the most appealing truck of the year. Make ours the Velocity Blue one, and not the boring black, white, and four shades of gray that are the other available colors for the base XL trim level. Also, check out our slideshow of Maverick's features -- for a look at the tailgate cleat's dual purpose as a bottle opener, see slide 8.