NASHVILLE, Tenn.—If you have ever bemoaned the increasing size and cost of a new pickup truck—and Ars’ comment threads are bursting with such like-minded individuals—then today’s truck might pique your interest. The new Ford Maverick comes with a highly efficient hybrid powertrain capable of more than 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), a simple but stylish interior with a can-do attitude, and a starting price of just $19,995.
Unlike the rest of Ford’s pickup truck lineup—which all use body-on-frame construction—the Maverick shares its unibody platform with the Escape and Bronco Sport crossovers. It’s compact for a pickup: at 199.7 inches (5,072 mm), it’s more than 10 inches shorter than a Ford Ranger and nearly 3 feet shorter than an F-150. However, that means the Maverick makes do with a 4.5-foot (1,372 mm) bed. Although, as we’ll see, bed size hardly impedes this truck’s utility.
The Maverick bucks the big-truck trend under its hood, too: there is no V8 or even a V6 option. Instead, the default powertrain is a hybrid that combines a 162 hp (120 kW), 155 lb-ft (210 Nm) 2.5 L four-cylinder engine that runs the Atkinson cycle and a 126 hp (94 kW), 173 lb-ft (234 Nm) electric traction motor, with a combined output of 191 hp (142 kW) via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the front wheels.
A front-wheel-drive hybrid pickup truck might not score well on the toxic-masculinity chart, but it is highly efficient. Although Ford is still waiting on an official EPA rating for this powertrain, I averaged 40 mpg on the first day driving a mix of city streets, country roads, and some highways. I also clocked 45 mpg (5.2 L/100 km) on rural roads on day two despite carrying 1,000 lbs of mulch in the bed. The Maverick’s total payload is 1,500 lbs (680 kg), with a tow rating of 2,000 lbs (907 kg).
AWD is an option
A more powerful engine is also an option. It uses a turbocharged 250 hp (186 kW), 277 lb-ft (375 Nm) 2.0 L four-cylinder engine (coupled to a CVT), with the option of either FWD ($1,085) or all-wheel drive ($3,074). The latter mostly drives the front wheels but will also send power to the rear as required by drive mode and available traction. For an extra $800, you can add the FX4 offroad package as well. It’s a less efficient powertrain, rated at 26 mpg (9 L/100 km) combined, or 25 mpg combined (9.4 L/100 km) for AWD> In sport mode on a twisty road, you might only get 20 mpg, but driving it sedately allowed me to average 33.3 mpg (7 L/100 km).
Ford helpfully set up some Mavericks with trailers so we could see how hauling a heavy load affected things. I chose an AWD Maverick fitted with the $745, 4,000 lb (1,814 lb) towing package and hitched to the heaviest trailer. Loaded with a pair of ATVs, it tipped the scales at 3,650 lbs (1,656 kg). Although I was conscious of the extra mass hanging off the back of the truck, it was no chore to drive, although fuel efficiency did drop by about 50 percent.
Simple, not plain
I knew I’d like the Maverick’s efficiency; I wasn’t expecting to be quite so smitten with its cabin, which feels cheap and cheerful in the best way. Ford’s designers have been unapologetic with their use of tough plastics that look and feel like plastic, giving the cabin an honest charm. For me, the sweet spot is the $22,280 XLT trim, since I’m a sucker for bright orange accents. But you get the same array of cubbies and nooks regardless of whether it’s the cheapest XL or the most expensive $25,490 Lariat trim.
Even the cheapest XL hybrid Maverick gets a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems as standard. They include automatic headlights and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. For an extra $540, you can add adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping, blind-spot monitors and cross-traffic alerts, emergency steering assist, and hill-descent control.
There’s only a single infotainment option. An eight-inch touchscreen has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, with USB-A and USB-C ports for connecting your devices, and a 4G LTE hotspot.
Everywhere you look, you find evidence that Ford’s design team paid attention to how people would use their Mavericks. The forward-most part of the center console has places to put both the driver and passenger’s phones, including a recess that allows the phone to be plugged in. The door cards can store 1 L water bottles, big insulated mugs, and even laptops and tablets. Lift the rear seat and you’ll find more storage bins.
Forget buying accessories; just make them yourself
Ford is clearly targeting the maker crowd with the Maverick. There are eight mounting slots (one at the rear of the center console, the other seven in the underseat bin) that Ford is calling the Ford Integrated Tether System. You’ll be able to buy accessories that use these slots, but you can also scan a QR code in the bed which takes you to CAD files and videos that tell you how to 3D-print your own mods like storage dividers, cup holders, and bins.
Ford has taken the same approach with the Maverick’s bed. Although the bed is just 4.5 feet long, you can still load it with 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood by putting the tailgate into an intermediate position and using the provided tie-downs. There’s a storage cubby behind one of the rear wheels, and slots built into the sides allow you to make your own bed dividers.
The XLT and Lariat trims come with a bed liner, as well as a 110 V AC power outlet and built-in bed lighting. But the XL contains all the wiring to install your own power and lights, with helpful video instructions just a QR code away. Ford will also show you how to build your own bike rack for $40, with new DIY videos showing up regularly.
Those needing a hardcore work truck might still prefer the bigger F-150 hybrid, which can power 240 V tools and comes with a larger bed. But the total payload rating on the big F-150 isn’t actually that much greater, and you’re going to have to pay two to three times as much as a Maverick would cost. For drivers who don’t need a giant bed and 7.2 kW of AC power, or who want Prius-rivaling fuel efficiency in a pickup truck, or who just want a cheap truck that they can customize themselves, the Maverick is worth the time.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin