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car review

The 2022 Ford Maverick.Jason Tchir/The Globe and Mail

When Ford was hunting for a name for its new minitruck, it looked into its vault.

A few names from Ford’s past – Edsel and Pinto – weren’t in the running.

But Maverick – the name of a not-so-fondly remembered Ford compact sedan from the seventies – made the cut.

It wasn’t because both vehicles are, relatively speaking, compact; it’s because Ford sees this truck as, well, a maverick. (Full disclosure: My folks had a used Maverick sedan for about six months in 1978 and said it was the worst car they’d ever owned. Thankfully, times change.)

In a market dominated by massive, gas-guzzling, pricey all-wheel-drive luxury trucks, the Maverick, with its 4.5-foot-long (1.37 metre) bed, is the cheapest truck you can buy – and the base model is a hybrid available in front-wheel-drive only.

Why a city-friendly hybrid truck that can still seat five? Since Ford announced it would stop making sedans in 2018, it’s been looking to woo sedan customers.

“It’s meant to attract customers that used to drive a small sedan and hatchback but are missing the practicality of a small pickup truck,” said Mathieu Rompré, Ford’s Maverick vehicle line program manager. “They’re doers and makers – they have a lot of hobbies and do a lot of sports.”

It’s a truck for people who might not need a truck every day, but want one in case they finally decide to build that deck or clean out the basement.

Launching a small, front-wheel-drive hybrid truck in Canada may have seemed like a gamble, but the hybrid has been sold out since January and the turbo has been sold out since March.Jason Tchir/The Globe and Mail

Aside from the base-model front-wheel-drive hybrid, which delivers 191 total horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque, there’s also an all-wheel-drive version with Ford’s nonhybrid EcoBoost turbocharged engine that delivers 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque.

Built on the same platform as the Escape and Bronco Sport, both versions can carry up to 1,500 pounds of payload and tow up to 2,000 pounds – although a towing package that lets you tow 4,000 pounds is available on the turbo only.

Launching a small, front-wheel-drive hybrid truck in Canada may have seemed like a gamble, but the hybrid has been sold out since January and the turbo has been sold out since March.

Since Ford started taking orders last June, it has sold 4,116 Mavericks. (It won’t say how many were hybrids and how many were turbos). Orders for the 2023 Maverick will open “later this summer,” Ford said.

Ford said the main competitor is the Hyundai Santa Cruz and not mid-size trucks like the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.

A hybrid truck starting at less than $30,000 that uses about 6.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres in combined city and highway driving – for comparison, the base Toyota Corolla gets 7.1 – makes plenty of sense on paper, especially with gas prices as high as they are now.

After driving it on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island and winding highways on Vancouver Island, it makes sense on the road, too.

It’s relatively easy to park – compared with a Ford F-150, at least. It’s a capable truck but, size-wise, it feels like driving a car. It’s a truck for hatchback fans.

While both engines are capable, the hybrid makes more sense if you don’t need all-wheel drive. If you do, the slightly-thirstier EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive will add $1,600 to the price.

While Ford won’t comment on future models, it said an all-wheel-drive version of the hybrid could be a possibility if there’s demand.

While Ford won’t rule anything out, it said making a plug-in hybrid version of the Maverick would be an engineering challenge with this platform.

The Maverick can tow up to 2,000 pounds on the base version and up to 4,000 pounds with the EcoBoost version.Jason Tchir/The Globe and Mail

Tech specs

2022 Ford Maverick

  • Base price/as tested: $29,745 – $50,325; $38,770 (Hybrid XLT), $46,395 (EcoBoost Lariat). Prices include $1,995 destination and delivery fee.
  • Engine: 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder hybrid or 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost gas engine
  • Transmission/drive: Electronic continuously variable transmission (hybrid) or eight-speed automatic (turbo)/front-wheel drive (hybrid) or all-wheel drive (turbo)
  • Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): Front-wheel-drive hybrid: 5.6 city/7.1 highway; all-wheel drive turbo: 10.7/8.1
  • Alternatives: Honda Ridgeline, Hyundai Santa Cruz

Looks

It doesn’t look flashy or aggressive, but it doesn’t look cheap, either. It’s a modestly handsome truck, but it won’t turn heads. LED headlights are standard. The base XL version comes with steel wheels.

Interior

The Maverick doesn’t pretend to be a luxury truck. The no-frills interior is clean and simple. There’s a stretch of recycled plastic on the dash and in the doors. Some of the other plastic feels inexpensive. The doors hold a 1.5-litre water bottle. There’s decent storage in the middle cubby and the back seats lift up for storage underneath. There’s a hollow in the dash next to the display that could hold a wallet.

The interior of the Maverick features an eight-inch screen.Jason Tchir/The Globe and Mail

Performance

Both versions have plenty of power and are confident on the road. It may be small for a truck, but the Maverick is capable. While Ford said both versions can carry 1,500 pounds in the bed and tow 2,000 pounds, it used the EcoBoost to show journalists how it handles pulling an Airstream trailer and carrying plywood – it did both without struggling. Even with just front-wheel drive, the hybrid handled twisty roads, mud and gravel with no trouble.

Technology

The base Maverick is a conventional hybrid – the battery recharges as you drive so you don’t need to plug it in. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, automatic emergency braking, automatic headlamps, auto high beam, rear-view camera and an eight-inch LED screen are all standard on the base model.

Cargo

Unlike taller trucks, you can stand next to the Maverick and reach into the bed. The 33.3-cubic-foot (943-litre), 4.5-foot-long bed might not make sense if you’re hauling lumber every day – unless you’re willing to tie it down. But if you’re hauling bikes (you may need an optional bed extender), or a bunch of recycling, there’s more room than you might think.

The Maverick can haul lumber if you are prepared to tie it down.Jason Tchir/The Globe and Mail

The verdict

If you’re looking for a smaller, affordable truck that won’t bankrupt you every time you fill it up, the Maverick stands out in a market full of pricey gas guzzlers.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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