Once a staple on U.S. roads, compact pickups have vanished in favor of ever-bigger midsize and full-size models. But Ford is betting big that the compact segment is ready to come roaring back to life, and the 2022 Maverick shows why.
At first glance, you might confuse the new Maverick with Ford’s bigger Ranger model. But while it doesn’t stray far from classic pickup proportions, the all-new entry is an entirely different beast. It targets a completely different sort of buyer: younger, more diverse, and more likely to spend weekdays in an urban environment.
But come the weekend, it’s ready for adventure, whether you’re heading into the hinterlands or simply picking up a pallet of mulch.
Despite measuring nearly a foot shorter than the Ranger, the 2022 Maverick offers a cabin roomier than Ford’s old family sedan, the Fusion. And what it lacks with a mere 4.5-foot cargo bed it more than makes up for with a flexible and creative design, ready to handle anything from mountain bikes to 4 x 8 sheets of plywood.
The Maverick should also appeal to the DIY crowd, who Ford encourages to carve out more cargo space and 3D-print accessories.
If all that’s not enough to catch your attention, consider that the new pickup’s “base” engine is a peppy hybrid that can still haul a 2,000-pound trailer while delivering up to 40 mpg. The upgraded EcoBoost powertrain adds enough muscle to tow a 21-foot boat or 4,000-pound RV.
2022 Ford Maverick: Classic Design, Creative Features
The Maverick is one of only a small handful of pickups to use a unibody, or car-like, design. But you’d have to crawl underneath to tell the difference. And it has a rugged pedigree that suggests buyers shouldn’t worry about its capabilities. The platform is shared with both the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport models.
Unlike the wild styling of the Hyundai Santa Cruz — the other new, car-based pickup — the Maverick retains a more classic look, borrowing liberally from Ford’s bigger Ranger and F-Series models. That includes a drop-down beltline and broad front end that emphasizes the Maverick’s width.
At just under 200 inches, nose to tail, the 2022 Ford Maverick measures about 11 inches shorter than the Ranger and stands about 5 inches shorter, at 68.7 inches. Yet, thanks to some creative design work, you might not notice, especially when it comes to the surprisingly roomy cabin that can comfortably fit four — or five in a pinch.
The more diminutive size makes it easy to substitute the Maverick for a sedan or SUV. It easily tucks into a typical garage — or an urban parking spot. And it can turn circles in just 40 feet. Don’t try that with a midsize or full-size pickup.
Big Things in a Small Cargo Bed
Where the Maverick comes up short is its cargo bed. But that’s not a bad thing. Sure, it’s only 4.5 feet, but Ford designers made sure you can use every inch of it thanks to a “flex-bed” design.
For one thing, the tailgate can be folded flat or at a 45-degree angle. The latter lets you not only carry trail bikes but as many as 18 sheets of 4 x 8 plywood.
The pickup was developed through a new “customer-centered” design approach, with the automaker asking potential buyers to show it how they’d use a compact truck. You’ll see that in a variety of places, including the bed, where molded-in slots can be used to create a false load floor or carve out individual compartments using nothing more than 2 x 4 lumber.
If that’s not enough to encourage what chief engineer Chris Mazur calls “the DIY mentality,” you’ll find large QR codes in several places, such as the cover of a small cargo bed storage bin. Scan the codes for links to videos and articles offering creative suggestions on how to build your own bike rack or 3D-print a storage bin.
From Urban Centers to Backwoods Trails
The Maverick’s surprising level of flexibility should prove really useful for everyday needs. By carving up the cargo bed, you can carry everything from groceries to soccer balls and other sports gear. And if it’s muddy, you can easily hose out the bed — which can be outfitted with a near-indestructible composite liner.
The DIY focus should prove especially appealing to those who want to get out of town and back to nature. During a recent drive event near Nashville, I had the chance to test the Maverick’s off-road manners. It handled some moderately challenging trails as easily as it did the open highway.
For off-roaders, the new FX4 package is clearly the way to go. It provides additional underbody protection, a modest boost in ride height, all-terrain tires, and modified suspension tuning. It also adds Mud/Rut and Sand modes to the base Maverick’s drive mode selector.
And it has Hill Descent Control, which lets you creep down a steep climb at a steady snail’s pace without constantly jumping back and forth between throttle and brake.
Tow, Tow, Tow Your Boat
While you might never challenge yourself on anything rougher than a dirt or gravel trail, the Maverick has plenty of muscle for more routine chores.
When Ford announced plans to build the compact pickup, the real surprise was its decision to offer a hybrid as the base engine. It pairs a 2.5L Atkinson Cycle gas engine with a 94kW electric motor. Together, they produce a peak 191 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque.
Hybrids love stop-and-go driving. So, around town, you’ll get an EPA-estimated 40 mpg in the city. The engine is paired with a CVT gearbox and is available only in front-wheel drive.
For those needing a bit more muscle, the Maverick offers an upgrade to a 2.0L Ecoboost engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic. This package punches the pony count up to 250, with torque rated at 277 pound-feet. The turbo-four package can be ordered in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Both engines are rated to carry up to 1,500 pounds of cargo. The hybrid barely seemed to notice when a full pallet of mulch was loaded into the cargo bed. Even with a 1,000-pound trailer hitched up, the hybrid Maverick was able to not only maintain but increase its speed on a moderately steep freeway grade.
The gas-electric package’s maximum tow capacity is 2,000 pounds. The turbocharged EcoBoost engine doubles that and, with all-wheel drive, made simple work out of a trailer weighing close to its 4,000-pound limit. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go with the upgraded engine if you want all-wheel drive.
Cheap Doesn’t Have to Look Cheap
With a starting price of $19,995 — before adding delivery fees — the 2022 Ford Maverick is a surprisingly affordable option for budget-minded buyers. And it starts about $4,000 below the base Hyundai Santa Cruz. (At the high end, a fully loaded Maverick Lariat will nudge $38,000.)
As you’d expect, Ford’s product development team had to cut costs wherever possible. But the Maverick’s cabin doesn’t look like it was outfitted from a remainder bin. Instead of chintzy plastic trim, the truck features creative alternatives, such as stucco-textured panels and “technical” graining, rather than faux leather.
As part of the customer-centered design strategy, Ford came up with creative ideas like the split armrest design that allows room for oversized beverage bottles. And for those who don’t have a 3D printer at home, the Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS) lets an owner snap in a variety of accessories, including storage holders and a waste bin.
The rear seats even lift up to reveal additional storage nooks that can — by now, no surprise — be divided up into smaller compartments.
The Maverick offers some useful high-tech features, like an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard, even base models. The truck also has FordPass Connect to remotely unlock doors, check fuel levels, and perform other functions via a smartphone app.
Niceties like a Wi-Fi hotspot, a 400W 120V outlet in the cargo bed, and a 660W eight-speaker B&O audio package are also available.
The Maverick comes standard with a number of digital safety systems, such as Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking. Others, such as Blind Spot Detection, are optional.
The Competition Is Likely to Take Notice
Back in the ’70s and ’80s, those looking for a compact pickup had plenty of options. Now, the small truck segment is ready to return from the dead. Buyers will have two distinct choices during the 2022 model year with the debut of the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.
Both target young urban and suburban dwellers, though they’re likely to each draw from a different crowd. Hyundai’s offering is more stylish, and Ford’s more traditional-looking but able to handle more challenging tasks.
Together, they seem certain to not only revive the small truck segment but encourage other manufacturers to get in the game.
Potential Maverick buyers can now check out their options — including a special “first edition” model — and place orders. The 2022 Ford Maverick is just starting to roll into U.S. showrooms.