The American pickup truck jumped the shark years ago—and just kept flying. These days, a heavy-duty Ram, Ford, or Chevy can easily cost $80,000 or more, with interiors that resemble luxury cars more than purpose-built tool haulers. And yet, pickups increasingly serve as city commuters for families that need a vehicle with a bit more capability than an SUV or crossover. The tiny percentage of those truck buyers who may ever actually need four-wheel drive explains the new Ford Maverick—a pint-sized unibody that simultaneously offers the lowest pricing and best MPGs of any domestic truck on the market.
With independent front and rear suspension, the Maverick definitely drives more like a car than a full-sized pickup. And while Ford does build an all-wheel-drive version, the more important truck comes with a 2.5-liter hybrid engine powering the front wheels only via a CVT gearbox—a trade-off that nets fuel economy ratings of 42 MPG in the city, 33 on the highway, and 37 combined.
Read that again. That’s 42 miles per gallon with a crew cab! And the numbers only get better, because the hybrid Maverick in basic-as-possible XL trim starts as low as $20,995 with seating for five, a 1,500-pound payload, and 2,000 pounds of towing. Okay, those last two figures actually leave a little to be desired, but optioning the turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-four adds all-wheel drive and better gear ratios to allow for 4,000 pounds of trailering.
The EcoBoost trucks come with a traditional, eight-speed automatic, and the all-wheel-drive system adds another $2,655 to that starting MSRP. Though still relatively efficient at 25 MPG combined, fuel expenses in the monthly budget will certainly swell compared with the hybrid. And really, affordability is the name of the Maverick game—so Ford leaned into modesty rather than shying away.
Economy Vibes, Thoughtful Design
Simplicity plays into the Maverick’s design at every turn. The boxy exterior takes a few cues from the F-150, but largely sticks to flat planes and unadorned edges. On the interior, injection molded plastics look straight off the assembly line, with nearly unfinished surfaces—actually a refreshing departure from the increasingly ubiquitous piano black plastic that so many manufacturers use to tart up economy cars (and which fools absolutely nobody). Tiny utilitarian infotainment and gauge screens get the job done—barely, but at least the Maverick comes with Apple CarPlay. Wired, of course. Wireless? Come on.
The combination results in something unique in today’s era of increased computerization, over-the-top long-travel suspension, and fire-breathing horsepower stats approaching the four-figure range. Instead, Ford splurged only where the dollar goes farthest, like high-quality cloth seats and excellent dash storage for smartphones, drinks, and more.
Does the Maverick go fast? With only 191 horsepower on tap, not particularly. But the CVT keeps that little engine right in the rev range, while highway speeds approach relatively quickly. Is it built well? A new truck already suffering from trim rattles suggests otherwise. Here’s an annoyance that’ll only worsen as the CVT keeps the little engine right in the rev range at all times. Does it fit a family comfortably and deliver better fuel economy than a Honda Civic? Oh, you betcha.
When Ford debuted a low-riding beach cruiser Maverick concept at SEMA last year, the style seemed perfect for the platform: toss a surfboard or two in the bed, grab a couple friends, don’t forget the cooler. More recently, a company called GoFastCamper unveiled an overlanding setup that costs under $29,000 all in—before factoring in dealer markups in today’s insane disconnect between MSRP and real-world pricing. Now imagine if a Maverick offered the hybrid engine and CVT paired with all-wheel drive. Ford could never build them fast enough to meet demand.
Alas, sending power to all four wheels would probably set the Maverick on a path to compete directly with the more rugged body-on-frame Ranger. So, instead, Ford has opted against such perfection—so far, at least. But anyone clinging to front-wheel drive as the main reason to root against this little truck needs to get their head examined. Ford somehow figured out how to equip ventilated headrests (similar to Mercedes-Benz’s famous hot air scarves) in the gratuitously appointed F-150 Raptor—a six-figure off-roading supertruck that gets approximately zero miles to the gallon. And yet, the same company now builds the cheapest, most fuel-efficient American pickup on the market.
Good Luck Finding One
Without exaggeration, and even taking into consideration the all-electric Rivian R1T (itself almost a six-figure supertruck), the Ford Maverick simply changed the game this year. Unfortunately, dealers already know that Ford scored a hit, which means nobody can actually buy one at MSRP. And the configurator on Ford’s website even launches multiple warning windows describing ambiguously long wait times, with the 2022 model year no longer available at all.
Patient customers placing orders for 2023 models will get the additional choice of adding a Black Appearance Package (which seems somewhat against the point) and a four-wheeling-focused Tremor Off-Road Package (clearly not on the hybrid). Expect more long wait times though—because this simple little truck earned a big following right from the start.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!