Who knew that the secret to making a hybrid vehicle cool is to add a pickup bed? Certainly not us. When Ford first revealed that the base Maverick is a front-wheel-drive hybrid, we treated the idea with some skepticism. Now though, amid rising gasoline prices and skyrocketing prices, could the Maverick hybrid be just the right vehicle at just the right time?
The Maverick's $21,490 base price is low enough to qualify it as one of the cheapest vehicles on sale today. Even our nicely equipped midrange XLT model, which came with an optional sunroof, a spray-in bedliner, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, all-season floor mats, and Cyber Orange paint, rang in at a perfectly reasonable $26,645. That's about $20,000 less expensive than the average new car transaction price, which soared to more than $47,000 in December 2021.
Adjust Your Expectations of Performance
Ford's hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.5-liter inline-four augmented by two electric motors. Net output is 191 horsepower, and flooring the accelerator unleashes a crude grumble, but the naturally aspirated four becomes quiet and subdued when cruising. The powertrain switches from gas to electric mode seamlessly, with only the gas engine's low hum cluing you in when you're not running on electric power alone.
But there's no hiding the hybrid's power deficit on the road: It is noticeably pokier than the turbocharged 2.0-liter nonhybrid we tested. That all-wheel-drive truck hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, while the hybrid—which is only available with front-wheel drive and a power-split CVT—needed 7.7 seconds. The electric boost gives the Maverick a playful feel at lower speeds, but it quickly runs out of steam during highway passing maneuvers.
Ride quality over Michigan's springtime potholes ranged from choppy to downright punishing at times. And although the Maverick never bottomed out, the impacts were impossible to ignore from inside the cabin. On smoother, twistier roads, the Maverick's handling felt stable and confident but not outright sporty. We expected as much from this platform, which is shared with the Escape and Bronco Sport SUVs, both of which served up similar driving demeanors.
While the Maverick posts respectable performance numbers, its real value lies in its fuel efficiency. The EPA estimates that the hybrid powertrain is good for 42 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, big boosts over the 23/30 city/highway figures earned by the front-wheel-drive nonhybrid variant. In our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, we recorded 30 mpg for the hybrid, which is only 1 mpg higher than the nonhybrid Maverick. However, during everyday driving, where the hybrid system can take advantage of regenerative braking and more heavily lean on the electric side of the powertrain, we recorded 32 mpg. Comparing our observed fuel economy opens the door to a lot of caveats, but if you compare that 32 mpg to the most efficient Ranger we've tested, an XL 4x2 model that averaged 19 mpg back in 2019, there's some eye-opening arithmetic. If you drive 12,000 miles annually and gas is $4 per gallon, the Maverick hybrid will save you more than $1000 a year compared to the Ranger. If gas hits $5, then you're saving more than $1250.
Functional and Orderly Inside
Ford took great care to create a thoughtful cabin, dotting the Maverick's interior with storage cubbies and lining it with easy-to-clean plastics that have a surprising amount of personality. A textured plastic trim on the door panels and dashboard sports marbled coloring that contrasts nicely with the dark navy used elsewhere; orange accents provide a pop of color inside the center-console storage bins and on the backs of the door handles. The painted doorframes are visible in the interior, too, so our test truck brought a splash of Cyber Orange into the cabin as well.
The front seats, which were covered in a two-tone gray cloth upholstery in our XLT test vehicle, were comfortable, and the upright driving position and wide-open outward visibility are appreciated. The view forward is blocked by just enough of the Maverick's hood to help trick you into thinking you're driving a much larger pickup truck. That is, until you pull up next to an F-150 in traffic.
Rear-seat passengers will find enough room for short hauls, although the upright seatback and lack of legroom would exact a toll on long trips. With the back seat folded up, the Maverick can accommodate a bicycle inside its cabin. The utility of the bed is unquestionable, even given its stubby 4.5-foot length. Grocery runs mean using the rear seat as your trunk, something that traditional car or SUV buyers might find odd. For those not accustomed to this pickup-specific lifestyle challenge, we'd suggest a bed cover and perhaps a cargo organizer.
While drivers of full-size pickup trucks may scoff at the Maverick hybrid's paltry 2000-pound towing capacity and 1500-pound payload rating, those capabilities are still wildly unusual compared to pretty much everything else in this price range. The only direct competitor is the $25,385 Hyundai Santa Cruz SE, which has a 3500-pound tow rating and can carry 1753 pounds of payload. But not even the Hyundai, which earns a 23-mpg EPA combined rating, can touch the Maverick hybrid's efficiency.
Whatever the Maverick concedes to body-on-frame trucks in size, power, and ruggedness, it compensates for with its stellar fuel economy, composed on-road manners, and bargain price. If your use case involves regularly towing large trailers or hauling heavy cargo, the Maverick hybrid won't replace a half-ton truck (or even a Tacoma-size one). But for the sizable cohort of drivers for whom pickups are little more than a signal of their outdoorsy lifestyle, the Maverick hybrid gets the message across just fine.
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