We did not expect that.
For years we've complained about pickup trucks. They've been too big and too expensive for years. When we were young, our 16- and 17-year-old friends would get new Chevy S10s or Ford Rangers for less than 15 grand. Those days were long gone, until today, when Ford finally revealed a new (actually) small pickup for the American market. It's called the Ford Maverick, and it somehow comes in at less than $20,000 (plus $1,495 destination). This is what we've been asking for, ladies and gents, and it's finally here. At least, it will be here by the end of this year, and did we mention the base model is a hybrid and gets 40 mpg?
"The Maverick product proposition is like nothing else out there. It features four doors with room for five adults, a standard full-hybrid engine with city fuel economy that beats a Honda Civic, plenty of towing and hauling for weekend trips or do-it-yourself projects, and it starts under $20,000," said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager. "Maverick challenges the status quo and the stereotypes of what a pickup truck can be. We believe it will be compelling to a lot of people who never before considered a truck."
Let's start with the powertrain, as it's probably not what you're expecting. Those base Mavericks get a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder hybrid making 191 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque when combined with an electric motor. A continuously variable transmission sends power, surprisingly, to the front wheels only. That gets you your 40 miles of range and 500 miles on a tank, driving gently.
That electric motor uses a harpin design for the wires as opposed to a round wire, which leads to better use of space, more torque, and reduced loss. It also allows for better cooling with more space for heat to exit. The in-house motor also weighs less than the outgoing one purchased from a supplier.
The Maverick has a payload of 1,500 pounds. Ford notes that's enough for an ATV or it can tow 2,000 pounds when properly equipped, "enough for pair of personalized watercraft or a good-sized pop-up camper."
Upgraded models come with Ford's 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine making a healthy 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. That comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive as standard. All-wheel drive is optional. That trim can pull 4,000 pounds with the company's 4K Tow Package. If, like us, you're wondering about the front-wheel-drive trim, the Maverick rides on the same platform as the Ford Escape. It's not a body-on-frame platform like Ford's midsize and full-size trucks. The underrated Honda Ridgeline works the same way. Drive modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul.
Ford sped up development of the Maverick by 20 months, and explained why it was important to get to market so quickly.
"The idea of creating a segment, this is a white space segment, so the idea of being the first mover to this segment was exciting to us," said Chris Mazur, Maverick chief engineer. "We're always, within Ford, trying to improve the way we operate. This was the right program to really pilot a new way of working together. Maybe drive out some of the bureaucracy in a company that's over 100 years old."
The front-wheel-drive hybrid gets MacPherson struts with coil springs in front and an old-school, but still used, twistbeam rear suspension with new "force vectoring springs" that are angled to increase the lateral stiffness, according to Ford. It came from the Fiesta ST.
The all-wheel-drive model swaps out the rear setup for an independent multilink trailing arm suspension with twin-tube shocks. FX4s get an even more robust version of that.
The Maverick fits five passengers and comes well-equipped, with just the basics we've been asking for in a small truck for a decade (besides a manual). It has an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It comes standard with FordPass Connect with an embedded modem, which means you can check your fuel level, unlock the doors and start it up, all from your phone.
"Maverick is all about thoughtful details executed well," said Barb Whalen, who led the team in choosing materials and colors. "We want this to have a straightforward, durable, honest, well-built feel. The interior was designed with function, purpose and ease of cleaning in mind to help make our customers' lives better. We strategically placed pops of color for functionality - creating an energetic space you want to be in."
Like the Subaru Outback Wilderness, the Ford Maverick features touchpoints in contrasting colors to let users know there's something to futz with. The vents, door handles and other spots are covered in bronze in the pictured model.
Smarter storage spaces fit one-liter bottles while others are made to hold tablets upright. Ford even added the classic spot under the rear seats with a bunch of extra cubic feet.
We asked Ford about that single, four-door crew-cab body style, and why it chose only that over the other options.
"Everything starts with the customer, so the idea of being able to offer four doors standard, and be able to comfortably seat five passengers, in addition to giving them functional benefits of the truck," said Mazur. "One of the things customers told us was that they really wanted versatility. A big part of that was being able to carry five passengers comfortably."
A cool new feature is the Ford Integrated Tether System or FITS, which is a little slot meant for owners to buy or 3D print a cupholder, storage bin, grocery hooks, or storage dividers. There's one slot at the back of the front center console and Ford will publish the slot geometry so DIYers can start building accessories for them.
The DIY hacker theme continues into the bed, which Ford is calling the Flexbed, with slots for 2x4s and 2x6s to create other things like bike or kayak racks or tool storage. If you slide a 2x6 in the slot you can attach a bike fork locker, and the truck will transport two mountain bikes with their wheels removed. It measures 4.5 feet by 4 feet above the wheel wells, which is enough to lay down sheets of plywood above those wells, as long as you also use the multilevel tailgate to even out your load. The tethers on that gate can be shortened so it works as a cargo box extender. Ford also notes that customers can scan the QR code in the bed to get ideas for new projects.
Taking a page from the Lightning EV, the Maverick features two available 110-volt outlets, one in the bed and one in the cab, as well as a 12-volt electrical lead under a cover for accessories. Base models come with tie-down hooks, while upgraded models get 10 cleats on a sliding rail.
"People have forever been hacking into their wiring harness to run things like lighting, air pumps and other useful accessories," said Gaby Grajales, electrical engineer for Ford. "This is a better solution - we're enabling customer needs while protecting the taillamp wiring and creating a fused circuit to avoid compromising the overall electrical system. With this, you have the option to select the factory available box lighting or install your own home-built lighting setup, or even invent a whole new use for the 12-volt access points."
On the safety side, Ford Co-Pilot360 includes standard pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and automatic high beams. Available options include adaptive cruise with stop and go, blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert, lane centering and evasive steering assist.
The Maverick is made from steel, except for the hood, which is aluminum.
The Maverick comes in three trims: XL, XLT and Lariat. It will also offer an FX4 off-road package for XLT and Lariats with all-terrain tires and suspension tuning, additional underbody protection, and off-road-focused drive modes like Mud/Rut and Sand, as well as hill descent control.
For 2022, the first model year, available this fall, Ford will only offer the Maverick First Edition package. It's built on the Lariat trim and adds unique graphics, a high-gloss black-painted roof, soft tonneau cover, body-color door handles, high-gloss black skull caps, and gloss black-painted and machined 18-inch wheels for hybrid or unique 17-inch aluminum wheels for the gas model. It comes in Carbonized Gray, Area 51 and Rapid Red, unique to First Edition. It will be offered in both hybrid and standard trims.
"Let's face it, there aren't a lot of options out there right now for the customer at the $20K price point. It was a rally cry, it was a wild and audacious goal," said Mazur. "A lot goes into being able to price and engineer at that level. And one of the great advantages we have at Ford is that we've been doing hybrids for a long time. We have a lot of experience and technology, and we keep getting better."