The biggest threat to the Ford Maverick is the Ford Maverick

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The pickup reigns supreme here in the United States, and no company is more synonymous with trucks than Ford. Ford trucks have been among the nation’s most popular vehicles for over four decades, surpassing just about anything with wheels. And this year alone, the Blue Oval unveiled its first new pickup truck nameplate since 1983 with the 2022 Ford Maverick. A unibody pickup based on the automaker’s small-car architecture, the Mavericks’ goal is to introduce a new generation of buyers into the Ford Truck family. That said, with two different powertrains and a wide range of prices to start with, the Maverick lineup demands that one really know what they want out of their small truck experience.

In order to better understand the different Maverick offerings, Ford hosted a small rally in the Las Vegas area so these new small trucks could be sampled outside of Red Rock Canyon National Park. So Road & Track took the opportunity to try out a loaded Lariat with the all-terrain FX4 group, as well as the basic XL hybrid. While the Lariat suited a few off-road antics, our driving was limited to the pavement of local scenic roads, and those driving impressions are limited to traditional everyday driving situations.

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Even with the longer wheelbase and an all-new suit, the Maverick immediately felt linked to the Bronco Sport; no surprise, because the two trucks share the C2 architecture; to an observant driver, it’s clear that the Bronco and Mav are more Escape than F-150s. Which is a simple fact, not a judgment; that’s a price worth paying for an MSRP under $ 20,000 if you ask us.

And the C2 architecture has advantages for the Maverick. The optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder is a long-time member of the C2 family and, in this application, provides this small truck with 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque to get the job done. It’s not exactly the performance level of a sports truck, but the engine is perfectly matched to the size and character of the truck. The eight-speed automatic transmission has a wide range of gears to work with, ensuring the truck never felt constrained at elevations above Las Vegas. This optional EcoBoost powertrain is a must have for customers looking to get all-wheel drive from their Maverick, as hybrid models are currently only available in front driver / CVT specification. Adding the more powerful engine and all-wheel-drive combo requires $ 3,305, while the EcoBoost alone is a $ 1,085 option. Both trucks come with a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds, but only AWD EcoBoost models can opt for the 4K Max Trailering Package, which brings the maximum towing capacity to 4,000 pounds.

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On the road, the two Maverick models behave more like crossovers than pickups; again, not really a bad thing. Ford acknowledges that many potential Maverick customers have never experienced a truck before and likely wouldn’t appreciate the handling characteristics of the body on the chassis. That said, it feels like Ford tried to give the steering a truck-like feel, especially in the effort required at low speeds. The ride is firm as well, likely the result of beefier springs for payload and towing reasons. Without the horizontal patterns inside the interior meant to remind the F-150, it would be easy enough to forget that you are piloting a truck from the driver’s seat. It’s more evident when you realize you’re about seven inches shorter than the F-150 sitting next to you in the light.

But any sense of cross-genetics fades as you walk to the local hardware store. With just 4.5 feet of bed behind the cabin, parking and low-speed maneuvering are easy to manage. And it might be small, but the Maverick’s unique FlexBed system offers some really useful features. Chopped lumber can be used to divide the bed into different sections, while the multi-position tailgate helps increase overall load capacity. Ford even included a scannable QR code in the bed that gives instructions on how to make multiple accessories from scratch using pieces from the hardware store. Some people buy pickup trucks just because they have plans to do, but Ford is hoping this truck could reverse that script, or at least rewrite it to include more scenes from everyday American life; the lift height around the back is also just over 30 inches, which means loading groceries, bikes, or beach gear won’t break your back.

Apart from the FlexBed, Ford has equipped the Maverick with other range-wide features aimed at attracting buyers. Take the large 8.0-inch infotainment display, for example, which is enhanced by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The interior is also widely split between trim levels, although, of course, different packages add technology or luxury to each trim level. Ford hasn’t completely given up on its content removal habits, with some options like cruise control tied to the XLT and above. That said, the XL Hybrid was far from disappointing; in fact, entry-level offerings are actually the best reason not to buy a loaded Maverick.

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The Maverick Hybrid features a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder mated to two AC motors, which combine to deliver 191 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque. This power is transmitted to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission, allowing the truck to reach up to 42 MPG in town. Despite a curb weight of 3,674 lbs, behind the wheel this output seems adequate until you’ve already exceeded most highway speed limits. Sadly, if not surprisingly, the CVT isn’t as lively as the EcoBoost’s eight-speed automatic, as it exacerbates the gritty note of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with every thrust of the accelerator. Speaking of that accelerator pedal, the Maverick Hybrid requires some pretty significant rocking before the CVT wants to simulate a new gear. While this can eliminate some feelings of harsh growl from the truck, the fuel-saving benefits of the powertrain are hard to ignore. The figures released by Ford are easy to reach and were easy to beat with minimal gamification in driving style. The only real quirk is the brake pedal, which is a bit inconsistent to the touch. This is not abnormal with some modern hybrids, and it is not shocking enough to create problems in this case.

The fact that this charismatic and useful vehicle starts at under $ 20,000 is hard to believe after spending some time in it. Whether you like the fact that it has a truck bed in the back or not, the Maverick should be considered by anyone floundering around the world of hatchbacks and crossovers at this price point. Ford is a truck company these days, whereas it is not an SUV / CUV company, which makes the Maverick their new “hatchback”. And whatever else, the Mav is an affordable offering for the masses, just inheriting Ford Truck DNA to keep it brand-loyal and interesting.

Yet not all Mavericks are necessarily a bargain. Ford stuck over $ 10,000 in upgrades and packages on our Lariat FX4 tester, bringing the total MSRP to around $ 37,650, including destination charges. For reference, a new F-150 XLT starts at $ 35,400 excluding destination fees. This is where higher level Mavericks start to lose some of their charm. That’s not to say the loaded Maverick wasn’t a great place to hang out, but the F-150 is just a lot more truck for that kind of money. If size isn’t a concern, it’s hard to argue with the industry leader.

Ford, on the other hand, didn’t put any options on our XL hybrid test model, which was priced at just $ 21,490, including destination charges. If towing a big trailer or a true all-terrain vehicle isn’t on your Maverick’s bill, there’s not much to pay for much more than that. A slight increase in the XLT finish will likely satisfy the needs of most first-time truck buyers; which starts at just $ 22,280 in hybrid specs. If demand and economy combine to allow Ford to develop an all-wheel-drive version of the hybrid, this would be the most ideal spot in the lineup. And based on the huge customer interest in the Maverick Hybrid over the past year, this option seems more likely than not.

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