The Ford Maverick Is The Small Truck Subaru Should Have Built

Test Drive / Comments

Not to mention GM and Ram.

Driving the Ford Maverick isn't like driving a midsize or full-size pickup truck. You quickly forget you're driving a truck. Traditional truck buyers probably won't find that appealing, but the Maverick is aimed at a different type of driver, and they're responding in droves. Folks, this is the compact pickup Subaru should have in its lineup but doesn't. It used to have one called the Brat decades ago. Years later came the Baja, but that was dropped in 2006 without a successor. Until now. Unfortunately for Subaru, that successor is from Ford.

CarBuzz was invited to drive both the 2022 Maverick Hybrid and Maverick 2.0-liter EcoBoost in Las Vegas earlier this week and, like our first time behind the wheel, we came away very impressed.

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Hybrid Is The Sweet Spot

The base hybrid might even be our preferred powertrain choice. With a starting price of just $19,995, it's powered by a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder paired with an electric motor. Power delivery was mostly smooth throughout the rev range. We never felt its 191 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque weren't good enough, whether driving around town or through the gorgeous scenic routes outside of the city. The 2.0 EcoBoost, a $1,085 option, produces a healthier 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of twist. The hybrid's CVT and the EcoBoost's eight-speed automatic, both controlled via a space-saving dial on the center console, work nicely with their respective engines. The hybrid will probably be just fine for most, especially if they live in urban settings.

In addition to its extra power, the EcoBoost offers something the hybrid doesn't (at least not yet): all-wheel drive. "It's something we're considering but no decisions have been made," said Chris Mazur, Maverick program chief engineer. "We need to see consumer feedback first."

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Built Ford Tough

Like the Escape and Bronco Sport, the Maverick rides on Ford's C2 unibody platform. There's no shame in that. Driving on wet pavement during a nasty desert rainstorm, we experienced some front wheel spin when emerging from traffic lights. It's not a big deal and switching into Slippery mode definitely helped. The AWD model is the more solid choice in these situations, particularly the FX4 off-road trim package's all-terrain tires. A serious desert runner the FX4 is not, but it can easily handle light to mild off-roading. Our sampler handled the wet pavement with greater confidence than the hybrid. We highly recommend AWD for regions with wintry weather. Steering is very precise but the brakes are perhaps a little too sensitive, more so on the hybrid.

Styling is simple and to the point, with no trace of the Maverick's distant Escape cousin despite their shared architecture. Ford knows how to make trucks. What's particularly clever is the Flexbox. Only four feet in length, it's still packed with smart cargo storage options, including two cubbies, eight bed tie-downs and pockets, and a pair of tailgate cleats that double as bottle openers. The tailgate itself can handle up to 400 pounds in mid-position.

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DIY Solutions Galore

Mazur explained that Ford did a ton of research and found that many owners perform (sometimes questionable) DIY projects when modifying the bed. "We discovered that some truck owners end up drilling holes into the firewall for whatever project they're working on. Obviously, that's not a good idea and we don't want people doing that."

Instead, Ford has created a list of dirt-cheap DIY utility solutions contained in QR codes in the bed. One example is a bike rack that requires a trip to Home Depot and a $20 investment. Some basic assembly is required, but in no way will you damage the truck itself (assuming you follow directions).

There will soon be 3D-printed DIY solutions for the eight interior slots too - one just aft of the center console and seven in the under-seat storage bins. These slots, aka the Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS), are receivers that enable matching mounts to slide in from the top. The sky's the limit in designing unique mounts for multitasking solutions.

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America's New Truck Bargain

Regardless of engine choice, the Maverick comes in three flavors: XL, XLT, and Lariat. The latter two begin at $22,280 and $25,490. Aside from the FX4 Package, there was the now sold-out First Edition. All Mavericks come with a host of standard equipment, including an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, WiFi hotspot, and five driving modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Tow/Haul.

The 2022 Ford Maverick is an extraordinarily clever and well-designed compact lifestyle truck America never knew it needed. The Blue Oval felt otherwise. So did Hyundai with its Santa Cruz, but it costs at least $4k more and lacks decades' worth of truck-building know-how. Ford is about to be rewarded for seeing what others - namely Subaru, GM, and Ram - did not. Fortune favors the bold.

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