New Englanders will tell you this year's fall colors have been disappointing. Too much rain throughout the summer, culminating in serious flooding in September, caused some leaves to develop brown spots, curl up, and drop early. The locals were downright apologetic that the brilliant burst of red leaves on certain maple trees, which tend to really excite the leaf peepers, was considerably muted this year.
Not a problem, we say. Even when they aren't having their best year for fall foliage, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts provide a dazzling light show this time of year, as you can see in the attached gallery from the past week.
We drove about 1200 miles in a front-wheel-drive Ford Maverick XL 2.5-liter Hybrid with a combined output of 191 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque—more than enough to confidently move this 3674-pound compact pickup through the peaks and valleys of the Northeast.
The hybrid system functioned without disruption on flat long highways, and on downhill stretches the Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine would shut down down while energy was regenerated to the battery. It was only on the uphill stretches, when the engine worked in tandem with the traction motor, that powertrain noise was more noticeable—and could be felt in steering wheel vibrations. But along the way, the CVT worked smoothly.
We started in Boston and ended in Boston and logged a most impressive 44.7 mpg, and only about a third of it was on expressways. The rest of the driving was on two-lane roads through quaint hamlets with colonial roots, charming taverns, and more than a few Dunkin' Donuts.
This tester was a '22 Maverick that would price today for just under $28,000 as a '24 model, including destination. The fabric interior was comfortable, but there was an awful lot of hard plastic on the doors, center console, and dashboard, which is understandable for the price.
This model didn't even have standard cruise control, and the lane-detection system onboard was more annoying than useful. I'm fully open to driver-assistance technologies, but during this drive the system was lazy, wanting to correct with steering inputs that were poorly timed and often too late. And oddly enough, there were several occasions when I wanted to steer closer to the center of the lane but the system resisted and I had to overpower it. Hey, who's in charge here?
Since the Maverick launched in 2022, Ford has offered a number of meaningful updates, including a Lariat Luxury Package, a Tremor off-road trim level, wireless phone charging, new exterior colors, and Ford Co-Pilot360, which integrates adaptive cruise control and lane centering. Those goodies drive up the Maverick's price, but this base model we tested seemed like a fantastic value.
The Maverick shares its unibody architecture with the popular Ford Escape, which explains this truck's car-like countenance and agreeable road manners. This ideal alternative to a full-size pickup (assembled at Ford's plant in Hermosillo, Mexico) has found its niche, selling 66,430 units through the first nine months of this year.
It's number two in the small pickup sector, behind only the Toyota Tacoma. It's so popular that the Maverick has been scarce in the Detroit press fleet. This is the first one I've driven, and I had to fly to Boston for some seat time. It was well worth it.
Have you been shopping for a compact pickup truck? If so, how do you think the Maverick stacks up? Please comment below.