For the 2022 model year, the only passenger car made by the Ford Motor Co. is Mustang. Otherwise, FoMoCo -- purveyor par excellence of trucks, crossovers and SUVs -- is out of the car business.
Now, that may engender hand-wringing among long-standing Blue Oval fans. But, in 2022, those hidebound traditionalists can take heart: Ford has just introduced a new small "car;" it's just shaped like a truck.
All-new for 2022 is the Ford Maverick, a small pickup that, just like your typical 21st century small car, comes standard with four doors, seating for five, unibody construction and front-wheel drive. Oh, and to sweeten the deal, Ford has made it very affordable. The base price is $21,490, making it the brand's entry-level vehicle.
Sharing its basic platform with the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport crossovers, the small, crew-cab, four-door, five-seat Maverick stretches nearly a foot shorter than a Ford Ranger. It can be had with one of two powertrains. Standard is a gas-electric hybrid with a 2.5-liter I-4, electric motor, 94-kW lithium-ion battery pack and 191 total-system hp, all managed by a CVT automatic transmission. Optional is a 2.0-liter, EcoBoost I-4 turbo that lays down 250 hp through an eight-speed automatic. The hybrid is strictly front-drive while the blown four is compatible with front- or all-wheel drive.
We drove a hybrid in Maverick's toniest Lariat trim -- others include XL and XLT -- and found it carlike in the extreme: quiet, smooth and comfortable, with predictable steering, poised road manners, and a stable, very non-truckish confidence in hard corners.
In other words, like a quality small car.
Adding to the good vibes was its fuel economy. While the EPA rates the Maverick hybrid at a lofty 37 mpg combined city/hwy, we did even better. A lot better. Our Maverick returned a remarkable 43 mpg in 175 miles of city/hwy motoring -- 65 in pure electric mode, meaning the Maverick hybrid happily shuts down the gas engine for fuel savings when its grunt isn't required for the motoring needs at hand. We greeted 60 mph in the mid-sevens -- no race car, to be sure, but certainly competitive in the small crossover and small-car segments.
Regarding truck capability, nobody who needs a truck for truck-y stuff is going to consider a Maverick, but fans of small, affordable, fuel-thrifty cars are going to find Maverick's truck talents a plus. In FWD hybrid form, this guy boasts payload muscle of 1,500 pounds and a towing talent of a ton. (It's two tons in a tow-packaged Maverick with the turbo four.) Don't try that in your compact sedan. Also, the rear-seat cushion flips up for vertical interior hauling space.
Speaking of inside, room is fine up front, and head room is marvelous in back. A rear-seat perched six-footer looking for knee room behind a six-foot driver, however, is going to get his heart broken.
Cabin decor in our Lariat displayed lots of hard plastic -- no surprise at this price point -- but the interior's color accents on dash, doors and floor console were classy while the exposed bolt heads on the door armrest provided a cool, tough-guy look. Also, the very clever door-pulls show a grab-handle that is not horizontally solid, which not only provides more ways to grab it but also allows the door pocket below to accommodate a tall water bottle. Very nice.
Infotainment? Easy. Our truck's system, sans satellite radio or navigation, was the soul simplicity, made even easier with knobs for volume and tuning. And the dual-zone climate control was an unexpected plus.
Exterior styling is of the small-truck variety, with a neat nod to the Bronco Sport via Maverick's similar headlights.
With Maverick, Ford has managed to create a small truck that has some real truck capability but, at the same time, no real downside to fans of four-door compact cars.