2022 Ford Maverick Hands-On Preview: 5 Reasons Ford’s Small Pickup is a Big Deal

Ford shook the pickup market last month with the reveal of its small Maverick truck.

It wasn’t a surprise that the Blue Oval was debuting a baby brother for the Ranger and F-150. It was rumored for years, and shots leaked of the 2022 Maverick on the production line before the official reveal. We knew the sort of package that was being delivered.

But Ford threw the world a curveball. We didn’t know what would be under the hood (a standard hybrid drivetrain), nor just how affordable the Maverick would be (barely over $20,000 in the US, comfortably under $30,000 in Canada). This is the builder of North America’s favorite vehicle flexing its know-how at the other end of the market. Not only will the Maverick offer a budget-friendly option for those tired of ever-pricier mid-size rigs—it could very well pull sales from traditional compact sedans, thanks to a blend of practicality and potential savings.

Below you’ll find an unordered list of the five biggest reasons the 2022 Ford Maverick is going to be a big deal.

It’s not actually that small

Have you been in a modern heavy-duty pickup lately? I’m reasonably sure there are NYC condos smaller than those things. The growth of these gargantuan road beasts has shifted our idea of what a “small” pickup is, and that means the “small” Maverick isn’t necessarily the tight fit you may expect it to be.

My first experience with the Maverick in the metal is in the corner of a big garage. Without other cars directly lined up beside it, it’s hard to get a bead on the actual footprint of Ford’s latest. It doesn’t feel small, and the numbers back it up: at 199.7 inches (5,072 mm) from end to end, the Maverick is barely smaller than a ’90s F-150 Flareside. It’s much longer than certain body styles of the previous-generation Ranger, too. Perhaps more pertinent to new-truck buyers, the Maverick is 4.0 inches (102 mm) longer than the upcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz. The Mav will come in just one body style at launch: a four-door model with a 4.5-foot box.

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And you know what else? The Maverick doesn’t look like a pissed off Transformer. The big headlights give it a friendlier visage than some other recent rigs. The nose comes up to a reasonable height on a human, too. Tucked away in the garage is a Bronco Sport in the same Cactus Grey. Seeing them together there’s a clear family resemblance in the angle of the hood’s leading edges, and its stance. That makes sense, as the Maverick’s chassis is a permutation of the one found under the BroSpo. Not that that translates into the same powertrain options…

Standard hybrid powertrain

The most surprising part of the Maverick reveal wasn’t that Ford was slotting a hybrid powertrain into it; it’s that the electrified drivetrain is the standard one. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder works in tandem with a 94-kW battery pack, providing a combined 191 horsepower. A continuously-variable transmission sends the power to the front wheels—and the front wheels alone, with this drivetrain anyway.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Review: Simplicity Is Key

The payoff is a targeted fuel economy rating way beyond what other pickup trucks are pulling these days. Ford says the Maverick should hit 37 mpg (6.4 L/100 km) combined, and a stellar 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km) in the city. The former figure is pure compact car territory, and some 50-percent better than the afore-mentioned Hyundai. The Maverick can still tow up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) in this form, too.

Those who want more oomph will want to upgrade to the 2.0-liter EcoBoost. This familiar setup throws down 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, and it heads to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Towing capacity doubles to 4,000 lb (1,814 kg); both drivetrains afford the Maverick a 1,500-pound (680 kg) payload.

Is the standard hybrid powertrain a necessity for essentially car-less Ford to hit CAFE fuel economy standards? Maybe. But in the end, it’s the drivers who win.

The interior is funky and fresh

Surely Ford has skimped on areas like the interior to get down to that headline price, right? No, not really.

Okay, this pre-production XLT trim is in no way the lap of luxury. But it’s not a glorified Kinder Surprise interior, either. Plastic materials feature heavily, with speckled, light-gray bits contrasting with the usual black. Punches of orange liven things up a bit, as well. Big, chunky door handles make it easy to close the doors, and there are deep pockets in them to store oversized water bottles.

The cloth-covered front seats are comfortable, if a little flat. Moving to the back, it’s a very upright seating position, since the seats are butted up against the back of the cab. Space is pretty darned good, though: rear legroom in the hybrid is 35.9 inches (912 mm); better than the mid-sized Toyota Tacoma (32.6 inches / 828 mm) and the upcoming Corolla Cross (32.0 inches / 813 mm). The EcoBoost model gets an additional inch for good measure. The rear bench bottom also folds up to reveal the battery as well as a storage cubby just about big enough to swallow a laptop bag.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid Review: This Isn’t Your Father;s Hybrid

Regardless of trim, every Maverick includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen running SYNC 3. It’s a utilitarian OS that suits the workmanlike nature of the Maverick. I’m not quite sure what the tiny nook beside it is for though; you could fit a few coins, but they’ll surely spill out. The instrument panel is clean and minimal, with a battery gauge on the left. Speaking of, it’s very strange to twist the key the old-fashioned way to get the Maverick going, yet for it to remain silent thanks to battery power.

Practicality still matters

This is a Ford truck we’re talking about: of course there’s a lot of thoughtful touches to make the Maverick a practical partner in day-to-day activity. The relatively small size and reasonable ride height mean most adults should be able to reach into the bed right from the side of the truck. Meanwhile, the liftover height at the tailgate is just 30 inches (762 mm). Speaking of the tailgate, it can be adjusted to sit at multiple different angles, and can support up to 400 lb (181 kg). Combine that with a bed width of 53.3 inches (1,353 mm) above the wheel wells, and the Maverick can still carry the proverbial 4 x 8 sheets of plywood if required. Width between those wheel wells is 42.5 inches (1,080 mm).

Ford is calling the Maverick’s tail section FlexBed. With numerous slots molded into the bed liner, the Maverick’s 4.5-foot bed allows owners to divvy up the space by slotting in 2 x 4s and 2 x 6s. Eight bed tie downs and four threaded bed holes ensure items stay secure out back.

There’s a real sense of DIY spirit with the Maverick. Ford will naturally offer a bunch of accessories for its latest truck—including the tailgate cage shown here, which allows for items up to 77 inches long to slot into the bed. The Blue Oval will offer a bike rack for the bed too, but has shown a way buyers can make their own with a 2 x 6 and some other bits.

In the cabin you’ll find FITS (Ford Integrated Tether System). This is a small slot at the tail end of the center console that fits—ah—a variety of accessories. Ford will be providing the dimensions too, so that buyers can 3D-print their own bits and bobs as necessary.

That price

I can’t stress enough how big a deal that $21,490 ($27,850 CAD) entry price point is. The freakin’ EcoSport rings up around that price, and that thing is cramped, chintzy, and worse on gas. Not to belabor the point too much, but the Santa Cruz will start at $25,175. (A direct Canadian comparison isn’t possible, since the Santa Cruz comes only in 2.5T AWD form north of the border.)

SEE ALSO: 2022 Honda Civic Review: First Drive

Other cars that start not too far from the Maverick: Toyota Corolla L ($21,020 / $21,020 CAD), Honda Civic LX ($22,715 / $26,165 CAD), and Nissan Kicks S ($20,700 / $21,568 CAD). That’s where things will get very interesting: a mid-spec Maverick will run buyers $23,775 ($30,450 CAD), offering nearly as much interior room, as good or better fuel economy, and the added utility of a bed out back. Those craving more power and AWD only have to add an additional $1,085 ($2,500 CAD) on top, too.

The Maverick could be the return to relatively simple, straight-forward trucking many have bemoaned the current crop of full-sizers have long left behind. Pair that with an increased desire to get outside and explore, and Ford’s littlest pickup might just capitalize on an underserved part of the car buying landscape. We look forward to putting some miles in with it ahead of its late 2021 availability.

Discuss this story at our Ford Maverick forum.

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