Nearly half a century ago, Ford introduced a game-changing vehicle that became an inflection point for the auto industry and American culture — an affordable, stylish, widely appealing sporty car. The 1965 Ford Mustang was a marvel aimed at the youth market that found buyers across the spectrum thanks to its amazing combination of attributes. But times change, and now, 56 years later, we have this: the 2022 Ford Maverick. No, it’s not the same formula that made the Mustang an instant hit — but the Maverick is just as much a product of its time as the Mustang was of its era.
Sports coupes are out, and personal utility vehicles are in. In the “swinging ’60s,” it was glitz, power and speed. In these “terrible ’20s,” it’s all about efficiency, utility, ruggedness and go-anywhere, do-anything looks. That’s what Ford has delivered: an affordable, useful, stylish, economical, versatile vehicle that, like the original Mustang, combines popular style with attainable price. While that looks amazing on paper, what is the Maverick like to drive? Is it any good? It looks like a pickup truck, but does it work like a pickup truck?
I came to Music City USA, Nashville, Tenn., to drive all the versions of the new Maverick — and I can say yes, it works. It works so very, very well.
Related: Up Close With the 2022 Ford Maverick: Just Being a Compact Pickup Is Enough
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Wee, Not-So-Wee and Friggin’ Huge
With a nod to that old Mike Myers bit on “Saturday Night Live,” those are essentially the three sizes that Ford pickups now come in. On the Friggin’ Huge side, we have the F-Series (any of them, really); not-so-wee, that’s the Ranger; and properly wee, that’s the Maverick. It’s small. You might think it looks like a big butch truck in videos and pictures, but stand next to it and you quickly realize that this thing is astonishingly tiny. Built off of Ford’s C2 platform, the same one that underpins the Bronco Sport and Escape SUVs, it sits low (you do not climb up into it at all), and has a low roof. Just how squat is it? There’s no bumper step to help you climb into the bed — if you want to hop into the bed, just open the tailgate, put a foot up on it and step into it.
Those compact dimensions mean that a lot of thought and attention have gone into every aspect of how the Maverick works. You don’t have the massive real estate to play with that an F-Series does, so everything has to be smartly conceived and properly executed. It shows up in the details inside, where despite the tight dimensions, there’s room for no fewer than 16 huge bottles in the doors and front and rear consoles. The dashboard is horizontally oriented to give the impression of width despite not being all that wide. The center console doesn’t come up above the bottom seat cushions, allowing you more room to splay your knees, again creating the feeling of width. The backseat lower cushions flip up, allowing you to slide a bicycle in the back if you prefer to store it out of the elements instead of in the bed of the truck.
That smart packaging also translates into the integrated pickup bed out back. The Flexbed tailgate has adjustable cable stays that let you open it partway, creating a level plane with the tops of the wheel housings and allowing you to carry a full 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood (or more than a few, up to a tailgate-load-limit of 500 pounds). The bed has cutouts that you can drop pieces of lumber into to make your own super-cheap bed dividers, and there’s even a QR code to scan that will take you to a YouTube channel full of DIY projects that Ford has created. There are 12-volt fused connectors behind cubby panels that you can use to tie in electronic accessories without having to run wiring up from the front or through the firewall.
There’s even another QR code inside that will help you download the computer-aided design file for the interior’s special connector slots, so you can create your own home 3-D-printed accessories. A lot of creative engineering and packaging design has gone into the Maverick, and it all comes together nicely to create something that feels quite purpose-built. The Maverick is a pickup truck, not a sport-activity-criss-cross-whatever, and it’s built as such.
Quick or Efficient
You have a choice of two powertrains with the new Maverick, both perfectly acceptable but each distinctively different. Setting the Maverick apart from … well … everyone is the fact that it comes with a standard gas-electric hybrid powertrain. It’s a 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission that drives the front wheels only. It makes an easygoing 191 system horsepower and 155 pounds-feet of torque. That ain’t a whole lot, and it shows up in the Maverick’s lazier accelerator responses. It’s tuned for efficiency, and boy does it deliver — our admittedly brief run of a little more than 50 miles of mixed urban stop-and-go and slightly quicker twisty back roads turned in a 43 mpg combined reading from the trip computer. That’s pretty exceptional for a five-seat compact pickup that has a 1,500-pound payload rating and a base 2,000-pound towing capacity.
Around-town driving is just fine with the hybrid, and while you won’t be winning any stoplight drag races versus a Hyundai Santa Cruz, you’re likely not engaging in any to begin with. The hybrid’s operation is smooth and quiet, without any odd noises or weird transitions between electric and gasoline mode. And it does enjoy staying in electric mode for as long as it possibly can, further impressing upon you how remarkably solid and silent the Maverick is overall.
But if you’d rather trade a little efficiency for a lot more capability, the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is what you want. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, it’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and delivers a more robust 250 hp and 277 pounds-feet of torque. It provides much snappier acceleration, and actually becomes obnoxiously fun when you engage the Maverick’s Sport mode thanks to quicker shifts and more aggressive throttle mapping. Your payload rating won’t change, but add the 4K Tow Package and your tow rating jumps to 4,000 pounds, enough to pull a small camper. The trade-off for this is fuel economy that drops considerably: The EcoBoost trucks are EPA rated at 23/30/26 mpg city/highway/combined for the FWD model and 22/29/25 mpg with AWD. Mixed driving returned about 26 mpg according to the Maverick’s onboard computer, which ain’t too shabby, either. The official numbers for the hybrid aren’t out at the time of this writing, but as mentioned, I saw 43 mpg observed.
Make No Mistake, This Is a Pickup Truck
Ford says that from day one, it approached the Maverick like it approaches all its other pickups. The truck has to perform similar duties; it has to survive pickup truck tests; it will have a catalog of pickup truck accessories to customize it; and it will have things like FX4 Off-Road packages, as all Ford trucks do. Ford was so confident in its minitruck’s ability to truck that it even arranged an off-road course, a towing test and even one laden to maximum payload ratings to sample.