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The 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid XLT.Courtesy of manufacturer

The rumours were true. Ford is adding a third pickup line below the full-size F-150 and mid-size Ranger. Ford started to talk about it last week, and as of today the announcement is official.

Pitching it as “a truck for people who didn’t know they needed a truck,” Ford is also calling the 2022 Maverick a compact – but that may be a bit of a stretch.

At 5.07 metres long, its physical footprint – it comes only as a Crew Cab – is closer to a mid-size SUV (think: Ford Explorer) than an early-90s standard-cab short-box Ranger. The target is first-time truck intenders, Ford officials say, and the hook is affordability.

Instead of calling it small, let’s call it light. Based on the unibody architecture of the Escape/Bronco Sport, the Maverick is inherently lighter than a traditional body-on-frame pickup. That already gives it a big start in reducing its carbon footprint, but the clincher is a game-changing hybrid powertrain – standard

Ford is projecting a city fuel-consumption rating of 5.9 L/100 km for the base engine. Compare that with around 12 L/100 km for the most fuel-efficient conventional gas or diesel pickups, or 9.5 for the Ford F-150 Hybrid. The Maverick isn’t just light on the environment, it’s light on your personal worth, too: pricing will start at $25,900 when it goes on sale this fall.

As for capability, even the base front-wheel drive Maverick is rated to tow 2,000 lb – about the weight of two jet-skis on a suitable trailer. With the optional 2.0-litre turbocharged/all-wheel-drive powertrain, it can tow up to 4,000 lb (e.g. a typical 21-foot boat, Ford says) when suitably equipped.

Either way the maximum payload is 1,500 lb, and the nominally 4.5-foot bed has a capacity of 30 cubic feet (think: ATV). It can also accommodate 4x8 sheets lying flat, with the multi-position tailgate set appropriately.

The maximum payload is 1,500 lb, and the nominally 4.5-foot bed has a capacity of 30 cubic feet.Courtesy of manufacturer

This isn’t the only crossover-based crew-cab pickup on the way. Early info on the Hyundai Santa Cruz indicates it’s about 10 cm shorter than the Maverick, with a shorter bed. The Hyundai’s FWD 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated and AWD 2.5 turbo options promise higher tow ratings of 3,500 and 5,000 lbs. respectively, but nothing like the fuel economy of the Ford’s hybrid powertrain.

While the more stylish Hyundai seems more lifestyle oriented, the boxy “Ford Tough” look of the Maverick is big on function. The bed – or FlexBed in FordSpeak – is replete with adjustable tie-downs, and slots and brackets for inserting dividers or support beams; Ford envisages it appealing to makers who might, for example, construct a rack for attaching the front forks of bicycles carried upright in the bed. Two 110V outlets are available, and lidded cubbies built into the bed side can hide a ball hitch or air pump.

“The whole bed is a DIY fan’s paradise,” said Keith Daugherty, who helped develop it. “You can buy the built-in Ford cargo management system (or) you can also just go to the hardware store and get some C-channel and bolt it to the bed to make your own solutions.”

A similar approach guided the interior design that’s big on practicality and space. Passenger volume is about comparable with a large-ish subcompact CUV or a small-ish compact one.

The door pockets are huge and the armrests can accommodate a 1-litre water bottle. There’s also hidden storage under the lift-up rear bench. The gear selector is a rotary dial, and the dash has a stone-like finish, “like a super-durable synthetic countertop,” Ford says.

An 8-inch touch screen is standard and Ford’s usual broad selection of infotainment and assisted-drive features are either standard or available.

The standard hybrid powertrain is familiar from Escape, pairing a 2.5-litre gas engine with an electric motor for a net combined 191 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque, relayed to the front wheels through a continuously-variable transmission. Also from Escape, the alternative 2.0-litre turbo is rated at 250 horsepower and sends it to all four wheels though a conventional eight-speed automatic.

The Maverick will be offered in XL, XLT and Lariat trims with an FX4 package available for all-wheel-drive XLT and Lariat trucks adding all-terrain tires and suspension tuning, additional underbody protection, and additional drive modes like Mud/Rut and Sand and Hill Descent Control. The FX4 all-wheel-drive hardware, however, remains the base system, not the upgrade on the Bronco Sport Badlands.

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