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The hybrid version gets 42 miles per gallon in the city and an off-road package is available with the all-wheel-drive version.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid gets up to 42 miles per gallon in the city and looks good doing it.If you're in the market for a truck, drop whatever you're doing, run down to the closest Ford dealer and buy whatever version of the 2022 Ford Maverick pickup you can find. You won't regret it. And if you do, you can sell it at a profit because demand is already exceeding supply.

The Maverick is the first American compact pickup in decades. Named after a compact Ford car from the 1970s, that's revolutionary enough, but only the beginning of the story. Unlike every other domestic truck, the Maverick is not body-on-frame construction but based on the unibody compact Escape crossover SUV, which means it handles more like a car. The standard four-door cab is surprisingly roomy and the 4.5-foot bed is up to most chores.

The base XL model starts at around $21,000 and is a front-wheel-drive hybrid rated at 42 miles per gallon in the city. An optional turbocharged 2.0-liter engine can be ordered with all-wheel-drive and even an off-road package for about $35,000 — which is less than some well-equipped economy cars.

COURTRSY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The 2022 Ford Maverick comes standard with a crew cab that can hold five people and a surprisingly practical 4.5-foot bed.

Why did it take Ford so long to figure out this is the truck many buyers have been waiting for? And why is only Hyundai offering an alternative with the Santa Cruz pickup, based on its Tucson crossover?

Small trucks were everywhere once upon a time. Japanese-made compact pickups made inroads into the domestic market during the gas shortages of the 1970s. Originally sold only by Japanese manufacturers, some were quickly rebranded as Chevys, Dodges, Fords — and even Plymouths — with only modest cosmetic changes. Dodge, Subaru and Volkswagen even produced smaller car-based trucks that could barely haul a couple bags of compost.

Dodge reinvented the market with its slightly larger midsize Dakota in the 1980s, prompting all the other companies to increase the sizes of their compact trucks, too. But then American manufacturers phased out their midsize trucks about a decade ago as relatively low gas prices and interest rates encouraged the sale of more profitable full-size trucks. Nissan and Toyota soldiered on with their Frontier and Tacoma pickups, eventually joined by the Honda Ridgeline.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The 2022 Ford Maverick can be ordered with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive with an available off-road package.

Chevy, GMC and Ford got back into the game a few years ago with all-new midsize trucks. More recently, Jeep converted its midsize Wrangler into the midsize Gladiator pickup to wild acclaim.

But today's midsize trucks are almost as large as full-size pickups used to be, and not everyone needs even that much truck — especially people living in cities or newer homes with small garages. Now, filling what has been an obvious market niche for years now, the Maverick is not merely a small truck. It is an extremely well-designed and built small truck that can easily handle most common chores and tackle moderate trails when equipped with AWD.

Upgrades include leather interiors and just about every advanced automotive technology — all for less than the average midsize or cheapest full-size pickup.

Those of us who remember the original Japanese small trucks will be amazed at the differences. They were capable work horses but had minimal suspensions and required manual transmissions to squeeze all the power out of their small but reliable engines. Front bench seats were standard, extended cabs added maybe a foot or two of storage space behind them, and four-door cabs were rare. Options include carpeting, AM/FM radios and crude but rugged four-wheel-drive systems.

The newer midsize trucks overcame those limitations at the cost of higher prices and worse fuel economy, although automatic transmissions worked well enough with their now-available more powerful optional V6 engines. The surviving few are still good choices for anyone who doesn't need a full-size truck, especially those with off-road packages for Pacific Northwest buyers who want to explore the outdoors.

But even the base Maverick comes well equipped with modern convenience and safety technologies, including an 8-inch center touch screen featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and standard FordPass Connect with an embedded modem and Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices. Standard FordPass even allows owners to easily find their truck, check the fuel level, lock and unlock the doors, and start or turn off the vehicle, all from their phones.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - Properly equipped, the 2022 Ford Maverick can tow up to 4,000 pounds.

Acceleration with the hybrid powertrain is surprisingly good and even better in the Sport mode. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable, and opting for AWD replaces the torsion bar rear suspension with an independent suspension that improves off-road handling.

Unlike the wildly styled Santa Cruz, the Maverick looks like a traditional truck — squat and boxy, with a blunt front end like the F-150. The interior is also simpler, with a display screen mounted high on the dash. The most modern feature is a dial on the center console that controls the transmission.

The Maverick hybrid can haul a substantial 1,500 pounds in its bed and tow 2,000 pounds. The towing limit increases to an impressive 4,000 pounds for all-wheel-drive versions fitted with the 4K Towing package.

Our test Maverick was a Lariat, which is the highest trim level and came with attract two-tone leather-like interior. It was a front-wheel-drive hybrid version that came very close to delivering the promised 37 miles per gallon in a week of driving, a remarkable figure for a truck of any size.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The top-of-the-line 2022 Fprd Maverick is available with a plush interior and practically all advamcved automotive technologies.

Of course some compromises were made to keep the Maverick as affordable as it is. There is a lot of hard plastic in the cabin, even in the Lariat models, including the door panels and grips. But at least the stereo has control knobs for both volume and station selections.

Ironically, the Maverick is so good it may hurt the sale of Ford's midsize Ranger and full-size F-150, which has consistently been the best-selling vehicle in the country. Many potential buyers are likely to learn that live with — and love — a compact truck again.

The complete Ford lineup will be on display ads the 2022 Portland International Auto Show from Feb. 24-27 at the Oregon Convention Center.

COURTESY PHOTO: FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The front bucket seats in the 2022 Ford Maverick are comfortable enough for long trips.

2022 Ford Maverick

Base price: $19,995 (XL)

Price as tested: $26,000 (Lariat estimate)

Type: Compact pickup

Engines: 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid (191 hp, 155 lbs-ft); turbocharged 2.0-liter (250 hp, 227 lbs-ft)

Transmissions: Continuously variable transmission; 8-speed automatic

Drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul

EPA estimated mileage: 42/33 (hybrid as tested); 22/29 (AWD)

Overall length: 199.7 inches

Curb weight: 3800 pounds

Final assembly: Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico


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