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June 8, 2021

Ford has been on a roll of reviving old badges for new vehicles recently. They brought back the Bronco as a family of off-road oriented SUVs and revived Lightning for the battery-powered F-150. However, both of those badges have roots in the same type of vehicle. Now, 45 years after the last Ford Maverick was built as a compact sedan, the name is back but it now adorns a new compact pickup truck for 2022 and Ford is not messing around with this product.

If anything, applying the Maverick badge to a pickup truck probably makes more sense than it ever did in its original incarnation. Unlike the Bronco, the Maverick name doesn’t have a particularly iconic stature in Ford history. The original was a one-generation product that replaced the Falcon in 1970 and was itself replaced by the Fairmont in 1977. 

 
 

The new Maverick is a very different beast and in many respects, a fascinating product in its own right. It’s now been just over three years since Ford announced it would discontinue all of its traditional cars in North America except for the Mustang and the limited run GT. Ford is still selling off the last of the Fusion inventory, but the Focus and Fiesta have been gone for more than a year and with them any Ford product with a starting price tag (before delivery) of less than $20,000. The Maverick is not only Ford’s smallest pickup, it will be the least expensive Ford-branded vehicle of any kind with an MSRP of $19,995.
Another big surprise in the Maverick announcement is that the base $20,000 model comes with a hybrid electric powertrain and is targeting an EPA city fuel economy rating of 40 mpg. The closest similar product to the Maverick in the US market is the upcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz which is powered by a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that delivers just 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with a starting price around $25,000. That makes the Maverick the most affordable and efficient truck and the most affordable hybrid of any kind in the American market. 

 

By 2021 standards the Maverick actually is fairly compact. It is built on the same basic C2 front-wheel drive unibody platform architecture as the Escape, Bronco Sport and Focus that is still sold overseas. It comes only in a four-door crew cab form and rides on a 121.1-inch wheelbase. At 199.7-inches long, it’s four-inches shorter overall than the last of the compact Rangers, the 2011 extended cab although it is 10-inches longer than the regular cab model of that era. 

Next to the current-generation Ranger which is very much a mid-sizer, it sits 11-inches shorter, so this is a genuinely compact truck compared to what is currently available. However, relative to its lone competitor from Hyundai, it is four-inches longer with almost three-inches of additional wheelbase. The Maverick does have seating for five in the cab with 100.3 cubic feet available, nearly 3 cubic feet more than the Ranger crew cab. Hyundai hasn’t published interior volume numbers for the Santa Cruz yet. 

Given its position in the lineup, it makes sense that Ford would prioritize passenger space over cargo volume although even there it appears quite respectable. At 54.4-inches long, the bed is 2.3-inches longer than the lower portion of the Santa Cruz bed and 6-inches longer than the upper portion. Hyundai doesn’t list a width for its bed, but you have to know that Ford would never offer a modern truck that couldn’t accommodate the proverbial 4x8 foot sheets of plywood so the Maverick has 53.3-inches available above the wheel wells. 

Ford will of course offer a diverse range of accessories for the Maverick, but the designers also wanted to provide options for customers that like to do it themselves. This led to what they have dubbed the FlexBed. As a unibody structure, the Maverick’s bed is integral with the cab, much like the Santa Cruz and the larger Honda Ridgeline. The steel that comprises the interior of the bed has been stamped with a variety of slots and divots to accommodate both aftermarket and homemade accessories.
One example shown was a bike rack which you can buy for about $200 but Ford has provided instructions on how to make one from a 2x6, a pair of fork mounts and some ratchet straps for about $45. The same goes for the $45 bed side rails. There are also 12 built-in tie downs in the bed to enable items to be secured. This is a smart approach for a product aimed at entry level customers that might well opt for the base $20,000 model. 

At four and a half feet long, the bed is comparatively short, but it is longer than the Hyundai and Ford has built in some useful accommodations for larger cargo. For example the width above the wheel wells is 53 inches so it will fit the proverbial sheets of plywood or drywall. Since these items won’t fit directly on the floor, there is a multi position tailgate. The cables can be unlatched and connected to hold the tailgate halfway open. At that position it can support 18 sheets of plywood across the tailgate and wheel wells without angling down. 

Unlike larger trucks, loading the Maverick should be relatively easier thanks to its 30-inch liftover height and even the bed sides are low enough to make an easy reach. The bed is also prewired so that customers can add two 12V-20A outlets and the truck can be ordered with a pair of 120V AC outlets. 

 

The hybrid powertrain further evolves Ford’s fourth-generation system that debuted on the 2020 Escape. As Ford expands its hybrid offerings it is bringing more of the components in-house for production and the Maverick debuts a new motor design built at Ford’s recently renamed Van Dyke Electric Powertrain center north of Detroit. 

The new motor matches the performance of the previous design but is 20% lighter and costs less to build, helping Ford achieve the surprisingly low base price of the Maverick. Among the new features of the motor are the use of hairpin windings that provide a higher fill ratio of copper that improves performance and efficiency. The permanent magnets are also molded in place in the rotor core rather than glued in which allows for higher speed performance. The four-cylinder engine is the same one used on the Escape. The combined output of the hybrid is 191-hp and 155 lb-ft of torque. 

The hybrid Maverick will only be offered with front wheel drive but it will have 1,500 lbs of payload capability and 2,000 lbs of towing capacity. Those that want all-wheel drive will have to opt for the turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecoboost which will up the towing capacity to 4,000-lbs with its 250-hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. 

As you might expect at this price point, the suspension is relatively basic but should be effective for the task. Upfront are the usual MacPherson struts while the rear end varies depending on drive setup. Front wheel drive models get the same style of twist beam rear axle used on the current European Fiesta ST including so-called force vectoring coil springs. These are springs that are bent in a way that directs the forces during compression to provide extra lateral stiffness without compromising ride quality. All-wheel drive models use the multi-link layout found on the Bronco SThe Maverick will probably be used more often as a daily driver than a truck so the cabin gets some extra attention. It certainly isn’t going to come across as a luxury vehicle at this price point, but that’s not what this customer is looking for. It does get a standard 8-inch touchscreen supporting SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As with all other current Fords (and most new vehicles now), Fordpass Connect with an embedded modem comes standard along with a built-in WiFi hotspot. 

The door armrests have a unique split design with a gap in the middle that allows a 1-liter bottle to be inserted upright into the door pockets. The cantilevered door handles can be grasped in multiple ways to pull the door shut. 

The designers have incorporated a slot into the rear edge of the center console dubbed Ford Integrated Tether System or FITS. An accessory kit is available that can fit the slot with cupholders, hooks for bags, cable organizers and more. If Ford doesn’t offer what you need or want, it will be publishing the geometry of the slot so users can 3D print whatever they want to go into the slot. 

Driver assist systems are now an expected feature on all new vehicles, but since the Maverick’s starting price is relatively low, it doesn’t get quite as much capability with its CoPilot 360 package as pricier models. At the entry price customers only get Pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and auto high beam control. Features like blindspot monitoring and lane centering that come standard on many other current Ford’s are now extra cost options as is radar adaptive cruise control. 

 

Many people want the utility of a pickup truck but frankly an F-150 is way more truck for far more dealers than most personal use customers actually need. Smaller midsize trucks like the Ranger and Ridgeline are generally a far more suitable option, but if you drive in urban areas, they can often be too much as well, and they generally don’t offer much better fuel economy than a full size truck. 

From a purely rational perspective, compact trucks like the Maverick and Santa Cruz provide an option that should be far more appealing to many customers. How many customers will stop over-buying big trucks and choose these more reasonable options remains to be seen. But given how aggressively Ford has priced the Maverick, people may find it hard to turn away and many who simply can’t swing the payment on something larger may find this to be the just right fit. Like the Ranger, Maverick will be available in XL, XLT and Lariat trims with loaded AWD models getting into the mid-$30,000 range. On paper at least, the Maverick has some notable advantages over the Santa Cruz. Depending on how these two fare, we may end up seeing many more competitors in this current white space segment in the not too distant future.








Source: Forbes
Image Source: Getty Images