There are two kinds of pickup that will likely never make a comeback - the car-based, two-door ones like the El Camino and the regular-cab compacts like the 1990s Ford Ranger.
Still, new options are coming to market if your lifestyle could use a crew-cab pickup, but without the size, price, gas bills, or the climate-change guilt of a traditional full-size pickup. Enter the Ford Maverick, which joins the Hyundai Santa Cruz in a new breed of smaller-footprint (both literally and figuratively) pickups based on unibody, car-like platforms.
Smaller, however, is a relative term. At 5.07 metres in length the Maverick is a hands-width or so longer than, say, a typical midsize SUV like the Ford Explorer (and similarly longer than the Santa Cruz). So, it’s not really compact, not like the aforementioned 1990s Ranger. But it needs about 30 cm less garage space than today’s traditional crew-cab midsize trucks like its current Ranger stablemate and the GM, Nissan and Toyota alternatives.
The Maverick’s ace in the hole is its affordability – not just to buy, but to keep it fuelled. The base model is a hybrid, and starts at just $25,900. That won’t get you 4WD, but it will get you a claimed 5.6 L/100 km city fuel consumption, as well as the ability to tote 1,500 pounds of people and their stuff and tow a 2,000-lb. trailer (though not all at the same time).
Nothing else in its class offers hybrid fuel economy; and while Hyundai U.S. does offer base four-cylinder versions of the Santa Cruz, we only get higher-trim turbo models in Canada.
If you need more capability in a Maverick, the alternative 2.0-litre Turbo engine energetically drives all four wheels and can tow up to 4,000 lbs when suitably equipped. The 2.0T/AWD powertrain is standard on the top Lariat trim, or a $2,500 option on the base XL and intermediate XLT trims.
The only body configuration is full four-door crew cab, so in a package this size that means the box length (4.5 feet) is a little less than the five-and-a-bit feet of traditional midsize crew-cabs. Then again, the best city fuel consumption of any alternatives is around 12 L/100 km – twice the thirst of the Maverick Hybrid’s 5.6. The Hybrid rates 7.1 L/100 km on the highway, while the 2.0T’s numbers are 10.7 and 8.1 respectively.
The opposition do have higher tow ratings, ranging from the Hyundai’s 5,000 lbs to the Ranger’s 7,500. Still, Ford says the Maverick Hybrid can handle a pair of PWCs or a good-size pop-up camper, while the 2.0T’s 4,000-lb rating equates to a typical 21-foot boat/trailer combo.
Ford is pitching the Maverick at buyers who’ve never considered a pickup before, including first-time new-vehicle buyers. “Research showed target customers having to compromise into small cars or SUVs at the expense of space and versatility,” said Trevor Scott, Ford of Canada marketing manager for the Maverick.
Ford also expects the Maverick to attract “makers and doers who embrace DIY,” Scott added. Handy-persons can take advantage of slots in the cargo bed to hold 2x4 or 4x6 lumber as dividers or to support brackets for securing cargo, and pre-wired 12V sources for DIY electrical hook-ups. There’s even a QR code you can scan to view how-to videos.
We don’t think Ford will struggle to find buyers who are new to pickup ownership (in fact, at time of writing the Hybrid was almost all sold out). Even better, though, would be if the Maverick – and especially the gas-stingy Hybrid – could replace some of the existing untold millions of carbon-spewing traditional pickups currently driven by people who don’t need a large truck, but drive one just because they want one.
Ford Maverick Lariat 2.0T
Price: $34,450 base/$36,700 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre, 250-hp turbo four-cylinder
Transmission/drive: 8-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
Fuel consumption (L/100 km): 10.7 city/8.1 highway
Alternatives: Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Hyundai Santa Cruz, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma
You wouldn’t guess from its boxy, function-before-form shape that under the skin the Maverick has the same genes as the Escape crossover.
Passenger volume of 2,840 L is comparable with traditional midsize rivals. Rear legroom isn’t generous but in practice the high seat, and ample foot-room below the front seats, make it more adult-friendly than you’d think. For the driver, a power 6-way-plus-lumbar seat is available, but even the standard 6-way manual seat enables a comfortable - and relatively lofty for those who need it - posture, with good visibility. The free-standing 8-inch screen, and the physical controls for audio and HVAC, are easy to access, the rotary-knob gear selector leaves generous stowage on the centre console, and there’s hidden storage under the rear seat. The door bins can securely accommodate 1-litre water bottles.
We’d have preferred the fuel economy of the Hybrid, but that said, the 2.0-litre turbo on our Lariat test truck remains one of our favourite four-cylinder engines. Smooth and punchy, with negligible turbo lag, it should be good for a 0-100-km/h time in the high-six-seconds. The stiff ride attests to the truck side of its dual personas, and while the handling is more car-like, it’s not as agile or responsive as its shorter-wheelbase Escape and Bronco Sport platform siblings.
Above-and-beyond infotainment assets include available wireless charging, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot. Standard assisted-drive features are limited to a backup camera, auto high beams and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and emergency braking. Ford Co-Pilot 360, optional on all trims, adds blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts plus lane-keeping assist. The Lariat alone adds adaptive cruise with stop and go, evasive steering assist and lane centering as part of the comprehensive $4,700 Luxury Package.
As already observed above, what the “Flexbed” lacks in size, it makes up in versatility. To carry 4x8 foot plywood, which fits atop the wheel housings, the tailgate can be locked half-open at the same height to support the rear of the materials. Options include storage cubbies in the bed sides, a 110V outlet, and spray-on bedliner. Multiple tie-downs and threaded bolt-holes are standard, and countless other accessories are available from the dealer.
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The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.