The Ford Maverick Is the Truck America Needs
Long, long ago. Way before Ford put the Maverick name on a compact car. Way, way before the new 2022 Ford Maverick pickup was even contemplated. When the term “hybrid” was closely associated with horticultural and not electricity or internal combustion. Even earlier than when the company used the letter “F” in the name of its trucks, there was the Model A pickup. The last one was built in 1931 – 90 years ago. In many ways, the Maverick is its return.
Put aside, for a moment, that the Maverick is at all modern. Don’t think about its standard hybrid drivetrain. Or touchscreen. Or CarPlay or Android Auto or automatic braking. Shove even the standard power windows to the recesses of your mind. Instead consider its essential purpose as a tool. It’s a shop truck; a runabout for personal or professional tasks. Small tasks. Errands. Just like that 90-year-old A.
The Model A pickup was dinky. Based on the Model A, into its 103-inch wheelbase was crammed a 40-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, a small cab, and a short 55-inch pickup bed. The Maverick’s bed? 54.4-inches. Dang close.
The Maverick is dinky enough. Based on the same front-drive, car-like platform that underpins the Escape and Bronco Sport crossovers, it’s dwarfed by all its current Ford pickup brothers. It’s 11.1-inches shorter than the now mid-size Ranger and 32.0-inches less lengthy than the F-150.
By historic standards though, the Maverick is not that small. At 199.7-inches long, it’s exactly seven inches longer than the original 1983 extended cab Ford Ranger SuperCab pickup. And it’s 40.9-inches longer than that ancient Model A pickup.
Of course the Maverick, unlike the old school Ranger and Pleistocene A, is a true, four-door crew cab. In today’s truck market, it has to be. And with a 121.1-inch wheelbase – 16-inches longer than the Bronco Sport with which it shares so much engineering substance – there’s actually room in the second-row bench for human legs.
On first encounter, the Maverick looks like a true American pickup. It has the proportions of a truck, the blunt nose of a truck and the upright cab of a truck. It’s not swoopy or sleek like the Hyundai Santa Cruz or obviously car-related like an old Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero. However, it rides lower than a full-frame truck. It’s hunkered down, not up out of the muck.
And unlike most full-frame trucks, the Mav’s bed is integrated into the cab as part of the full unified body structure. Ford’s various Rancheros and the 1961 to 1963 integrated body versions of the F-100 have similarly single-unit cabs and beds. It’s nothing new in that way.
Also, over the years, Ford built various front-drive-based pickups in Europe and South America. And the Maverick isn’t even Ford’s first gas-electric hybrid truck. A hybrid powertrain is optional with the current F150.
So, the Maverick isn’t a rule-breaking, category-shattering, innovation machine. Instead, it’s a revival of a very old idea. An idea that could only reappear with the help of hybrid technology. It’s hard to see how a truck this small could profitably make it to market without a base hybrid system there to get it over the regulatory hurdles presented by how light truck fuel economy targets are set. Here’s a link to why overall foot print makes a hybrid drivetrain essential.
In base XL, front-drive configuration, the Maverick is oddly handsome. The standard 17-inch steel wheels are so anti-style that they circle back to be stylish. The interior is almost stark and its unadorned, unashamed swatches of plastic are so unpretentious that they come across as confident and authentic. In an age of Platinum-this and Limited-that, the nothing-fancy vibe truly works.
And it’s a comfortable interior even if no cows died to upholster it. The seats are flat, the fabric covering them is rugged, and the controls are all intuitively laid out. The instrumentation is mostly digital because, well, it is almost 2022. The front door panels feature split armrests that allow for the placement of things like oversize bottles in the door pockets and some of the plastic textures are intriguing. For instance, there’s carbon fiber granules/shavings/bits/whatever blended into the plastic trim of the dash.
Yes, there’s a center touchscreen. It’s not large at eight inches. But not small either. It is what it is. Which is a lot like everything else.
The transmission that comes with the hybrid drivetrain is a continuously variable unit, and it’s controlled by a rotary selector between the Maverick’s front seats. It’s a nice knob with a grippy rubberized finish that’s easy to operate, but its placement takes up space that could be better used for storage or a work platform. A column shifter – old school and still effective – would free up that space.
The XLT trim is cushier, but not much fancier. The Lariat top trim seems like overkill for a modest vehicle like this one.
The internal combustion component of the hybrid drivetrain is a 2.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle, DOHC, variable valve timed, 16-valve four. With no turbo around to boost its output, it’s rated at a modest 162-horsepower at 5600 rpm and 155-pound feet of peak torque at 4000 rpm while running on premium grade gasoline. But add in the thrust from the electric engine and total system output rises to 191-horsepower. That’s a wholly adequate amount of power for a work appliance. Exciting? Nah.
For Ford, the exciting part of the hybrid equation is that it builds the electric motor itself. This new motor is cheaper than the vendor-supplied motor it continues to use in other hybrids but no different in output. The cheaper 94-kilowatt whirlamajig is critical considering the Maverick’s sub-$20,000 advertised (but not really) starting price. It is the cheapest hybrid on the market.
The other exciting thing is that Ford expects the Hybrid to carry EPA ratings beyond 40 mpg. That’s still pending, but enough to ensure the Maverick is viable both legally and commercially.
Incidentally, the lithium-ion battery pack itself continues to be supplied by Panasonic. And that pack is identical to the one used in the Escape Hybrid.
With its long wheelbase, the two-wheel front-drive Maverick Hybrid’s ride is settled and comfortable. The front suspension is, naturally, MacPherson struts while the tail is held up by a torsion bar “twistbeam” solid axle. It drives like the modern small crossover because so much of it is a modern small crossover.
A turbocharged, 2.0-liter four rated at 250-horsepower is optional with two-wheel drive and mandatory with all-wheel drive. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transaxle that works with anonymous, low-key efficiency. It’s fine. Good enough. Okay.
With all-wheel drive the rear suspension becomes an independent coil spring system. On road, the difference in ride and driving manners between the two- and all-wheel-drive models is negligible to the point of being indistinguishable. The turbo Ecoboost four has more power, but it doesn’t feel particularly quick nor much quicker than the Hybrid. The instant torque of the small electric motor in the Hybrid compensates for a lot a low speeds.
It’s tough to overstate how important early pickups were in the last century. In the 1930s, a quarter of the American population still lived on farms and often used horses for many tasks. It’s a small truck like the Model A that increases efficiency and expanded the reach of those farms into surrounding towns. It made farmers’ lives much better. The 1931 Model A pickup only had a 750-pound payload, but for most tasks that was plenty.
The new Maverick’s bed is deeper than the old A’s and the payload is a stout 1500 pounds. Plus the bed can be configured a bajillion ways using lumber pieces cut to fit or hanging the tailgate at an angle to take longer loads. An F150 is too much truck for a lot of work and tough to get into many garages. The Ranger may be more nimble, but still more than what many of us need.
The America of 2021 is very different from that of 1931. But the Maverick may be just as necessary now as the Model A Pickup was back then. This is a machine built to work – Ford is going to sell scads of them painted white that will get small business logos painted on their doors. It makes so much sense.
And with a starting price of $21,490 – including a near-extortionate $1495 destination charge – an insane deal. Ford will have the plant in Hermosillo, Mexico it shares with the also-popular Bronco Sport screaming to keep up with demand. It makes too much sense.
Now watch to see how Toyota responds. It has even more experience than Ford with hybrids and has traditionally been dominant in the entry-level truck market. It’s hard to believe it will let Ford have this ripe, if not new, small truck market to itself.
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