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.
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 four-by-eight-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.
2022 Ford Maverick | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears
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.
2022 Ford Maverick | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears
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.
2022 Ford Maverick | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears
Without anything in it, the Maverick is incredibly solid and controlled. The ride quality is exceptional; it’s on the firm side, like most pickup trucks, but bumps and expansion joints are soaked up with a single whump and little else — no bobbing motions, no rocking, no bouncing. It almost feels European in its chassis control and sophistication. Steering is also nicely weighted and gives excellent feedback; there’s none of the Santa Cruz’s video-game-like numbness in the steering wheel. It’s easy to hustle the Maverick along at higher speeds, as the body control, brakes and suspension all feel outstanding even on the base XL trim.
I can say with confidence that either powertrain can handle a payload in its bed without batting an eye. The same goes for trailering — the hybrid can drag up to 2,000 pounds, but the EcoBoost turbo can tow up to 4,000 pounds when equipped with the trailer tow package (which includes things like a larger radiator, oil cooler and integrated electronic trailer brake controller in the dash). With the hybrid, I towed a pair of Jet Skis without any issue whatsoever. With the EcoBoost, I hauled a 2,600-pound Airstream Basecamp trailer and a 3,650-pound flatbed trailer with two quads strapped to it, and both performed beautifully, with no performance, acceleration, braking or stability issues. I sampled a hybrid variant with a full pallet of mulch in its bed and a turbo model with more than 1,000 pounds of bagged cement mix. Again, both performed flawlessly, making me wonder if they’re actually underrated for how much weight they could safely handle.
As for off-roading, the Maverick is available with an FX4 Off-Road Package, which brings a special off-road-tuned suspension, chunkier tires, more underbody skid plate protection, tow hooks and special modes for the drive selector. But Ford is quick to admit that despite these mods, the Maverick is not a very serious off-roading machine — it’s the thing you take to a campsite, but not beyond the campsite. In this regard, it’s more like the Bronco Sport and less like the big Bronco or the Ranger Tremor. As such, the off-road portion of the drive was mild, little more than a two-track path followed by a relaxed rocky hillclimb, both of which gave the Maverick no challenge whatsoever.
What About That Other New Compact Pickup?
The question that’s going to be asked a lot is, “How does the Maverick stack up to the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz?” The new Santa Cruz is also a crossover-based compact … um … not-pickup, according to Hyundai, which has gone to great lengths to try and convince everyone it’s some kind of nebulous sport-lifestyle-activity vehicle — a thing for active young people who want a crossover but have dirty hobbies and don’t want to put their wetsuits/muddy boots/mountain bikes/fresh catch in the carpeted cargo area of an SUV. Sure, Jan.
2022 Ford Maverick | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears
There are some significant differences between the Maverick and Santa Cruz, however, and I don’t just mean the Santa Cruz-spaceship-versus-Maverick-trad-truck styling. The biggest might be in interior design: The Santa Cruz has a decidedly more expensive, upscale look and feel, with a far larger optional multimedia screen, more connectivity options (standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, for example), an available fully digital instrument cluster and more overall room inside than the Maverick.
But this is another result of the two trucks’ differing missions. Ford opted to prioritize bed space and utility over backseat passenger room, whereas Hyundai went the other way, giving the Santa Cruz a more spacious backseat but less useful cargo bed. Frankly, I think the Ford idea is the better way to go. The backseat passengers, when there are any, can be accommodated by front occupants adjusting their legroom as needed. But the bed space can’t be adjusted — it’s a fixed volume, so the manufacturer may as well maximize that utility and allow for adjustability in the interior instead.
The clincher for the Maverick might just be its price: It starts at $19,995 (which climbs to $21,490 when you add the eye-popping $1,495 destination fee). That’s nearly $4,000 less than the starting point of a Santa Cruz, but it does include less standard equipment. The three trim levels are XL, XLT and Lariat. A well-equipped XLT hybrid could run into the high $20,000 range. A loaded Lariat EcoBoost AWD with the Lariat Luxury Package and all the trimmings will top out at about $38,000. When the average price of a new car is now $41,000, the Maverick represents an absolutely jaw-dropping value.
The Maverick’s not perfect, of course. It’s not difficult to see where Ford cut corners to give us this screaming deal — you still have a twist-key in the XL and XLT trims (push-button start is available only in the Lariat), the buttons and switches for everything from climate controls and windows to turn signals and lights are the past generation of Ford parts-bin stuff from 2016, not the latest and greatest bits. There’s no cruise control at all on the XL trim, and the only standard advanced safety features are forward automatic emergency braking and automatic high beams; everything else is optional. The 8-inch multimedia screen is oddly dim and hard to read on bright, sunny days; that it’s also perfectly vertical and not raked at an angle at all doesn’t help, either.
But all of this frankly doesn’t seem to matter much because the Maverick’s whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s just so damned cool — it turns heads everywhere (especially in one of its eye-popping colors; where were these in the Mustang Mach-E palette?) and draws a crowd wherever it’s parked. On my drive, a young Tennessee bubba in scuffed steel-toed work boots got out of a lifted Toyota Tundra bro-dozer and begged to see more of it. So did a park ranger. So did an elderly gas station attendant. So did a group of young college girls on a Nashville street corner. Everybody loves the Maverick regardless of age, gender, occupation, just like the original ’65 Mustang. There’s nothing like the Maverick on the street right now — but like the Mustang copycats that showed up in the years following its bombshell launch in 1964, I don’t think you’ll have to wait long for Maverick clones to start appearing. The Ford Maverick is the ’65 Mustang for the 21st century.
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I have a XLT with turbo gas and tow package, the only thing I don't like is the auto start feature which will shut off and restart when stopped, if you want to shut it off, you have to do it every time you start the car, keep that bs on the hybrid's, here they belong!
Rating breakdown (out of 5):
Value for the money5.0
Purchased a New car
Used for Having fun
Does recommend this car
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Basic warranty terms
12-Month/12,000-Mile (whichever comes first) Comprehensive Limited Warranty Blue Certified: 90-Day/4,000-Mile (whichever comes first) Comprehensive Limited Warranty Disclaimer: See your dealer for warranty coverage details.
7-Year/100,000-Mile (whichever comes first) Powertrain Limited Warranty Blue Certified: Available Disclaimer: See your dealer for warranty coverage details.