Think trucks are portly and pricey? Ford’s $21.5K, 40-mpg Maverick would like a word

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It’s no secret that pickup trucks are the golden geese for the Big Three automakers here in the states. They’re big, cushy, ridiculously capable, and laden with more tech than your local Best Buy. People are buying them in droves. But sometimes, bigger isn’t always better. Although mid-size pickups do exist as a smaller alternative, even those aren’t exactly big-city friendly. Plenty of customers crave the usability of a pickup but feel that a Ford Ranger or a Chevy Colorado is simply too cumbersome for their urban lifestyles.

The Blue Oval knows this, which is why it’s introducing the Maverick, a compact pickup for, in Ford’s words, “people who never knew they wanted a truck.” Think everyone from weekend gardeners to small-scale DIYers to those with the occasional need for a bed into which they can toss belongings willy-nilly. From our standpoint, this isn’t simply the truck for those who didn’t know they wanted one; it may also be the truck for a swathe of people currently pounding around in full- and mid-size pickups as well.

Maverick Ecoboost front three-quarter action

Ford

As of this writing, there are three trim levels available: XL, XLT, and Lariat, listed in ascending order of standard equipment and price. Ford says the Maverick’s MSRP will begin at just $21,490 including a $1495 destination fee. If you’re part of the crowd wondering where the modestly-sized pickups with mid-$20K price tags went, here’s your answer.

Maverick Ecoboost rear bedside reach
Ford

The Maverick’s standard powertrain is a hybrid setup with a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle and a 94-kW peak power electric motor. Power figures are 191 combined horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. It should offer an EPA-estimated 40 mpg city, according to Ford’s targets. That’s impressive, and also telling of this vehicle’s urbanite audience. While estimated combined fuel economy is a targeted 37 mpg, this trucklet is built to thrive in cities.

That powertrain mates to a continuously variable transmission (yuck) that turns the front wheels exclusively. If you want a bit more oomph, there’s an optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder with an eight-speed automatic, 250 ponies, and 277 lb-ft of twist. Front-wheel drive is also standard on the turbo-four, but you can get all-wheel drive as an option. Opting for four driven wheels nets you a multi-link rear suspension setup to replace the torsion beam system found in FWD Mavericks.

Maverick Ecoboost hybrid front three-quarter
Ford

Truck-stuff time. Payload capacity rings in at 1500 pounds—that’s 37 bags of 40-pound mulch, for the landscapers keeping score at home. The hybrid setup sports a 2000-pound towing capacity, but if you opt for the EcoBoost engine and the $745 4K tow package, towing rises to—surprise—4000 pounds. The Maverick‘s towing figures lag behind those of the Hyundai Santa Cruz (3500 pounds and 5000 pounds, depending on engine choice), the only other competitor in this burgeoning compact pickup battlefield. Still, we don’t expect to see anything more than tiny teardrop trailers and maybe two-space dirt-bike trailers behind these compact Fords anyways. If you’re upset you can’t tow your 28-foot Sea Ray behind this, you already knew you’d need a truck, and the Maverick isn’t trying to sway you from a body-on-frame full-sizer.

Maverick Ecoboost front three-quarter camper tow action
Ford

The appeal here is the addition of a truck bed to something about as long as a Ford Explorer. The Maverick, with its unibody construction, should offer a more car-like ride than the body-on-frame Ranger or F-150 ever could. It’s sized within a few inches of the Santa Cruz, and it’s nearly a foot shorter than the Honda Ridgeline, the only other unibody pickup on offer besides those from Ford and Hyundai. The Maverick’s 4.5-foot bed is 6 inches longer than that of the Santa Cruz with the tailgate closed. Lay the gate open, and you have 6 feet of flat space on which to set cargo. Ford’s multi-position tailgate offers a halfway-open position that can support up to 18 sheets of 4×8 plywood without needing to angle any material. (Whether your lumber budget is up to the task is another matter.) Otherwise, that gate is rated for 500 pounds laid flat.

For those wanting to MacGyver their own lighting and electrical components into the truck’s backside, Ford included prewired 12-volt electrical circuits as standard. There are also two 110-volt outlets—one in the bed and one in the cabin—to power everything from laptops to small TVs to a cordless-tool battery charger. If you spring for the mid-trim XLT, you’ll get a storage cubby (or two, on the Lariat) for things like an air pump or ball hitch.

Inside, sensible materials keep costs down and durability up. Ford’s also included a host of standard tech. An 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto resides on the center console of every Maverick. Neat storage solutions promise to hold everything from large water bottles—such as those clangy metal HydroFlasks younger folks seem to have attached to their hips—to tools, rollerblades, laptops, and all other manner of small parcels. A new system, creatively named the Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS) will offer a host of accessories that fit into a slot at the rear of the center console. Buyers can opt for more cupholders, a trash bin, two hooks to hold grocery bags or purses, and more. Even cooler than the existing accessories: Ford is planning to publish the slot dimensions for FITS so that enterprising owners have the option of 3D-printing their own components to best utilize this system.

Ford says the Maverick will go on sale this fall as a 2022 model year vehicle. In addition to the XL’s impressive $21,490 price tag, the XLT will begin at $23,775 (including destination), and the top-trim Lariat will ring in at $26,985 (ditto the destination fee) before you go tacking on options. You can put the EcoBoost 2.0-liter in any of the trim levels for $1085. EcoBoost-equipped XLT and Lariat models can also opt for all-wheel drive for an additional $2220 (spelled out as a $3305 package on the configurator, but that price takes for granted the $1085 charge for the EcoBoost engine). For kicks, we went on the Maverick’s configurator and loaded up a Lariat with all the goodies we could desire, and found that a fully-loaded Maverick can climb to $35K–$38K with ease.

There’s no sign that pickup trucks will cease to be darlings of American roadways anytime soon. Ford seems to be taking massive strides to outpace the competition, ensuring that it’s equipped to meet the truck and trucklet demands of the changing automotive landscape, whether through the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning or the modestly sized, humbly priced Maverick compact. Expect this little fella to be a huge hit.

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