Trucks used to be affordable, practical things.
The new Ford Maverick resurrects that idea – and adds one more.
It is also easier on gas than most economy cars – none of them having a bed you can haul stuff in.
The Maverick is not a ‘70s spin-off of the Pinto/Mustang II – as the original Maverick was. This Maverick is a spin-off of the Escape, Ford’s compact crossover SUV.
It is also something else.
Because it’s a hybrid, it is capable of 42 MPG in city driving – and 33 on the highway. That averages out to nearly 38 MPG – which is some 15 MPG higher than the four cylinder (non-hybrid) version of the Ford Ranger, Ford’s next-in-line (and much longer) pick-up.
Which also starts at $25,500.
As opposed to starting at $19,995 for the Maverick.
That’s about $5,500 still in your pocket for gas – plus paying far less for gas, as you go.
Now, the Maverick – unlike the Ranger – isn’t a traditional truck in that it is not built around a rear-drive layout with 4WD and Low range gearing available. It is front-wheel-drive (with AWD available) and its body and frame are welded together, as opposed to the body being bolted to a heavy steel frame, as is usually the case with trucks.
But It can still pull as much as 4,000 lbs. – and it’s as useful for hauling stuff around as the compact-sized pick-ups it’s meant to emulate and which are no longer available.
Next-in-line pickups like the Ranger are now mid-sized and bordering on full-sized, if you go by their length, which is on par with the length of half-ton trucks made up through the late 1990s/early 2000s.
If you want something less huge, less pricey – and a lot less thirsty – this thing is apt to appeal.
As useful as the compact trucks you used to be able to buy.
More affordable than the compact trucks you used to be able to buy.
Much easier on gas than any truck you used to be able to buy.
What’s Not So Good
No two-door/regular cab version is available, so the only bed that’s available is less than five feet long.
No manual transmission is available.
4WD isn’t available.
The compact trucks you used to be able to get had a great weakness. They used nearly as much gas as full-sized trucks with V8 engines.
I know all about it because I have owned several small-but-thirsty pickups.
My current compact-sized truck is an ’02 Nissan Frontier. It has a little (2.4 liter) four cylinder engine that’s paired with a manual transmission. It gets 20 miles-per-gallon in the city and 23 on the highway. A same-year half-ton Chevy Silverado with a 5.3 liter V8 gets 13 city, 17 highway.
It’s not much of a difference – given the difference in displacement.
This Ford – which is about the same size overall as my ’02 Nissan – rates 42 in city driving and 33 on the highway. It is literally more than twice as fuel-efficient in city driving as my little truck and that is no small thing given that gasoline is now twice as expensive as it used to be, courtesy of Let’s Go Brandon!
Even on the highway, the new Ford goes ten miles farther down the road on a gallon of gas than my old Nissan. The overall/average difference is an astounding 17 MPG in favor of the new Ford. Which can also travel some 500 miles on just 13.8 gallons of gas.
How is possible – as Putin might put it?
Simple: By not burning as much gas. Sometimes, none. Literally.
The standard Maverick drivetrain is a hybrid drivetrain, consisting of a 2.5 liter gas engine paired with an electric motor/battery pack that – as in other hybrids – takes some of the load of propulsion off the gas engine, particularly when the Maverick isn’t moving.
Or not much moving much.
The truck can trundle along for a bit without burning gas to do it – and powered accessories such as AC continue to run even when the engine is off.
This is a big upgrade over ASS – the automated stop/start “technology” almost all new non-hybrids come standard with that simply cuts off the engine (and all powered accessories) at every red light – and by doing so improves the vehicle’s gas mileage by maybe 1 MPG.
The hybrid combo summons a total of 191 horsepower – easily overpowering the 143 horses my gas-guzzling ’02 Nissan’s engine manages. You can pull a 2,000 lbs. trailer with this combo. That’s not quite as much as my little truck is rated to pull – 3,500 lbs. – but it’s probably close enough for the majority of people who are looking for a new small truck that pulls less on their wallet.
And if you need to pull more than my old truck, the Maverick can do that, too – if you buy the non-hybrid version. It comes with a 250 horsepower turbocharged 2.0 liter four that doubles the pulling power to 4,000 pounds.
Part of the reason why the Maverick gets such great mileage with either engine is that it’s technically not a truck – as trucks have traditionally been defined. It has the shape, but under the skin, there’s no heavy steel frame onto which the body’s bolted – as is typical for most trucks – and there’s no four-wheel-drive option, as is almost always the case with trucks, as traditionally defined.
The hybrid Maverick is front-wheel-drive, paired up with a CVT automatic.
The Maverick with its optional 2.0 non-hybrid engine – which is paired up with a conventional eight speed automatic – can be either front-drive or all-wheel-drive. The AWD version does not have a truck-type two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing.
If anything, the FWD Maverick (hybrid or not) is the better ticket for snow-driving on paved roads (or driving on wet grass, off-road) than a 2WD – a rear-drive – pick-up like my old Nissan. Which is as inept when it’s slick as Joe Biden is without his cue-card talking points.
FWD – which pulls rather than pushes – also has the traction advantage of the engine’s weight pushing down on the drive wheels – vs. the light-in-the-tail RWD pick-up, which loses grip quickly if not offset by 4WD.
The Mav’s AWD system doesn’t have the geared-down leverage advantage of a 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case but it has the advantage of being able to vary the power split front-to-rear as much as 90 percent in either direction (vs. 50-50) and it’s designed to be engaged on dry as well as wet/snow-covered roads and in the curves.
No axle bind here.
If you need the additional leverage – and physical toughness – a body-on-frame truck with a 4WD system and Low range gearing may suit better. But if not this Ford will fill the bill – without emptying your wallet.
On The Road
There is another big difference between the Maverick and prior small trucks – that arises as a result of the Maverick’s different underthings.
It rides easy.
The axle doesn’t reverb over the ruts because it’s not solid – nor hanging non-independently from a pair of bouncy leaf springs, like the pair underneath my truck and other old trucks.
Instead, all four wheels are independently sprung, allowing each one to deal with road irregularities individually, without transmitting the untoward movements to the axle opposite. In addition to making this truck ride like a comfortable car, it also handles like a car – which my old truck does not.
The Mav’s wheelbase is also much longer 121.1 inches vs. 116.1 for my Nissan) and very little of the bed hangs aft of the rear axle centerline, all of which enhances stability and endows this small truck with the ride feel of a larger truck even though it isn’t appreciably longer than my small truck.
Now, my truck – like other old trucks – has the advantage of ‘60s suspension technology. Its leaf/coil springs are 20-plus-year parts and the solid rear axle will last forever – whereas the MacPherson struts in the Ford will probably need to be swapped out for new ones at some point before then. But until then, you will be enjoying a much less bouncy ride and handling chops that will surprise the hell out of you, if you’re used to how old trucks “handle.”
The Maverick also rides big.
Because it is wider and slightly taller than old compact trucks like my little Nissan, you feel as though you are driving an almost mid-sized truck. Which it is, if you compare the width with the width of what used to be mid-sized trucks (now morphing into almost-full-size trucks). The wider hood that’s ahead of you adds to the sense of substance.
But it’s not so wide – hood-wise ad otherwise – that it makes you feel small. It also doesn’t make the road feel narrow – as most current half-ton trucks do, on account of their width taking up almost all the space in between the double yellow to your left and the white shoulder line, to your right.
It is easy to maneuver the Maverick through tight turns at drive-thru banks and such and it fits readily into almost any parking spot – including garage spots – meant for a car because it’s about the same overall size (and length) as a current mid-sized car.
One area where the Maverick is a lot like most new trucks is its cab/bed configuration – which emphasizes passenger rather than bed space.
It comes as a crew cab only – and only with a four-foot-six-inch bed. This is less bed than my old truck’s six-footer but then my truck is effectively a two-seater. It has a pair of hilarious fold-down jump seats behind the driver and front seat passenger seats that are usable by trained monkeys and very small kids only.
The Ford’s rear seats are usable by me – a six-foot-three dude – whose knees don’t rub up against the backs of the front seats. They are more than useable. They are comfortable and roomy enough for me to be back there for a couple of hours.
The same’s true up front – and it has to do with (again) the width. The Maverick has much more side-to-side as well as legroom than my old truck because it is almost ten inches wider through the hips: 77.9 inches vs. 67.7 for my old rig. This makes a huge difference in interior spaciousness. It makes this “compact” truck feel almost as roomy as full-sized trucks used to feel . . . before they got super-sized.
Another point of similarity – happily – between this Maverick and old trucks like mine is the accessibility of the bed. Or rather, of being able to easily get at whatever you put in the bed. Just reach in and get it. No need for a step ladder. The bed walls aren’t as high as walls of Jericho – as they are in all the new super-sized half-tons and the almost full-sized “mid-size” trucks (like the new Frontier) that render getting at stuff in the bed not easy.
The bed is shorter than the formerly usual six-footer, but it can be extended to functionally six feet by lowering the tailgate – which can be “multi-positioned” to accommodate different types of cargo, as opposed to the usual lay it down or raise it up.
The bed, itself, comes standard with two pre-wired 12 volt/20 amp power sources and you can order it with a pair of 110 volt outlets in addition. My old truck’s bed has none of these handy features. It also has drop-in, rust-enhancing plastic bed liner. The Ford has a sprayed-in liner that doesn’t trap water in between it and the metal bed floor underneath.
There are also numerous places to put things inside the cab, too. Ahead of the rotary knob gear selector, a spot for your phone (with available wireless charging) and house keys, small change, etc. Under the rear seats there are additional places to put other things.
If you put a camper top on the bed, you could put two people back there. With the tailgate down, there’s plenty of room to stretch out for a snooze.
There’s another big difference between this truck and old pick-ups like mine. It – the Maverick – comes standard with power windows and AC and a six speaker stereo – plus 42 MPG for less than $20k.
My truck – which came with manual roll-up windows and the AC and stereo extra-cost options – stickered for $12,799 when it was new back in 2002. That’s $20,777 today – without adding the almost $2k more (in today’s Biden Bucks) it cost to add AC and a stereo to the amenities list.
So, the new Maverick stickers for about $3k less in actual cost than what my truck cost when it was new.
It also stickers for about $5k less to start than any other new truck, including Ford’s next-up-in-size Ranger pickup. And easily $10k less than any new half-ton.
It is hard to find a new car that stickers for less than $20k – and this truck does.
It is also the only truck – ever – that uses less gas than any new car you can buy for less than $20k. It is for these reasons exactly the kind of truck Americans could used more of – because it is so much like the trucks Americans used to be able to buy.
And now they can, again.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a truck like they used to make ’em – that’s more for less – well, here you go!
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