INDIANAPOLIS — I’m trying to imagine the conversation in Ford’s boardroom several years ago when some enterprising executive lofted this nuggie: “Let’s take our Ford Escape crossover, replace its aft half with a bed, slap on the name of a sub-par compact from the ‘70s, and use it to replace our compact sedans. We’ll make it a hybrid too.” I’m sure eyebrows slanted askew, but 2022 Ford Maverick pickup is a pretty good idea.
It’s a smaller than the Ranger, but that’s not the important part. Maverick shares its unibody car-based architecture with the Bronco Sport and Escape crossovers – more of a crossover pickup. It rides on a tight four-wheel independent suspension planted with 18” alloy wheels and firm steering for engaging driving – a revolution for anything with a bed.
You can almost see the Bronco Sport’s blocky aero style in the Maverick’s sheetmetal, but it rides lower to the ground and seems better integrated with its crew cab body and flush LED headlamps. The single bar grille, gray lower cladding and tall bedsides project a strong look on the road. Get it with spray-in bedliner if you expect to do real work and choose from hard or soft tonneau covers for the largest trunk this side of a ’69 Cadillac.
Conjuring all of this for an affordable price, designers proved cost-effective materials can feel upscale. Sure, there’s a lot of plastic inside, but the contrasting brown and blue trim enhances diamond-formed door panels. Two-tone faux leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power tilt/slide moonroof and dual-zone automatic climate control add luxuries – as do keyless starting, ambient lighting and a power sliding rear window. Check deep door cubbies, flip up rear seats with storage beneath and rear seat armrest with cupholders to carry all you carry.
There’s a lot of standard equipment, too. An 8” touchscreen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all standard. 4G Wi-Fi is available through subscription. The 6-speaker audio system is surprisingly pleasing. And, safety is top of class given adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot warning and rear cross path detection systems.
The powertrain specs read more like a Prius than pickup. The Maverick’s standard hybrid system mates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission and electrical system to generate a combined 191 horsepower and deliver an astounding 42/33-MPG city/highway. All of that power goes to the front wheels to haul up to 1,500 lbs. of payload or tow 2,000 lbs. of boat or camper. Step up to the optional turbo-four to tow 4,000 lbs. and send power to all four wheels.
Last weekend, my family needed a Christmas tree, so we took the Maverick to the home store and chose a 7.5’ tree for our mid-century house. I thought we would need to raise the tailgate a notch as if loading in plywood, but the tree fit with the gate closed. Had we wanted to pick up a load of plants, mulch, or a snow blower, that would have been no problem too. F-150 pickups are nice, but the Maverick is also surprisingly capable.
The Maverick is the single smartest product move Ford made since the original Explorer thirty years ago. It sounds crazy, but an affordable front-drive hybrid pickup that’s appropriately sized and styled for urban living is a fantastically compelling formula. Given a $19,995 base price, or $29,340 as-tested, Ford will sell heaps of these to everybody from grad students to your grandma! Competitors include the Hyundai Santa Cruz, random vintage El Caminos and used Subaru Bajas.
Casey Williams is former auto correspondent for WFYI and the Indianapolis Star plus a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Auto Page. He has reviewed vehicles and covered the auto industry for over 25 years. He lives with his family in Broad Ripple. E-mail him at AutoCasey@aol.com; check his reviews on YouTube at AutoCasey.
2022 Ford Maverick Lariat
2022 Ford Maverick Lariat
5-passengers, FWD Pickup
Powertrain: 2.5-L I4, Hybrid
Output: 191 hp
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
Brakes f/r: regen disc/disc
Towing: 2,000 lbs
Must-have features: Style, MPGs
Fuel economy: 42/33-MPG city/hwy
Assembly: Hermosillo, Mexico
Base/as-tested price: $19,995/29,340