Ford Maverick mini-truck hits all the right notes
If you're middle-aged like I am, you have a lot of memories of mini-trucks. From the late 1970s when I was in high school to the 90s when I acquired family responsibilities, small pickup trucks made by Datsun/Nissan, Chevrolet, Dodge, Mazda, Ford, Toyota, and even Plymouth were the vehicles of choice for young men.
There's no mystery why that was the case. You could buy a mini truck for a few thousand dollars, and I'm talking about the price of a new truck. My 1984 Mazda B2000 Sundowner cost about $4,000 new on the dealer lot. Then, these trucks were fun to drive, useful, and got great gas mileage. If you had a little more money, you could get four-wheel-drive, and there were a million accessories you could use to customize your ride.
Fast forward a few decades and the small trucks disappeared from the market. The new wave was mid-size trucks like the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier. It wasn't the same. Trucks got more expensive and fancier inside and out. But many of us have been waiting for the return of the small, inexpensive, and fun truck.
Ford has finally come to our rescue with the 2022 Maverick. It's different from the mini-trucks we loved in the 1980s, but it hits all the same great notes. The low price, great fun, usability, and mileage are all there.
The first thing to know is that the Maverick is a unibody design. The old mini-trucks were just smaller versions of the old full-size truck. They used a boxed-steel ladder frame with a body bolted on top. The Maverick uses a stamped sheet metal body like a small SUV. That means the Maverick also uses an independent rear suspension that handles and rides better than the old trucks ever could.
The Maverick is also available only as a crew cab with four doors. That's also an improvement because that back seat is a great place to keep small stuff out of the weather and secure under lock and key. When you need to carry people, you can seat four adults comfortably in the Maverick, so it works even after you start a family.
The engine options in the Maverick are great. You can choose between a 2.5-liter hybrid driveline or a more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. The hybrid offers 191 total system horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque from the gas engine, plus 173 pound-feet from the electric motor when needed. The hybrid comes in front-wheel-drive only with a continuously variable transmission, but it can tow up to 2,000 pounds. Best of all, the hybrid offers 42 MPG in city driving, and then 33 MPG on the highway.
If you upgrade to the 2.0-liter turbo, the Maverick is available with either front-wheel or all-wheel-drive. The turbo engine delivers 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, making it a much better performer than prior generations of mini-trucks. The turbo engine also comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. With all-wheel-drive, the Maverick returns 22 MPG in the city and 29 MPG on the highway. Bump those numbers up by 1 MPG if you get front-wheel-drive. With the turbo engine, the Maverick can tow 2,000 pounds, or 4,000 if you get the optional 4K tow package.
Regardless of your drivetrain choice, the Maverick comes with an eight-inch touchscreen that supports Apple and Android phone integration, plus Ford's own SYNC operating system. Two USB ports are standard, but more ports and a wireless charging pad are available. You also get two 12V power ports in the bed area, but 110-volt ports in the bed and cabin are available.
Speaking of the bed, it's 4.5 feet long, which is only 18 inches shorter than a traditional mini-truck. But the tailgate folds down to give you a full 6 feet, so you can use the Maverick as a pickup truck.
I spent a week driving the Maverick hybrid in the top Lariat interior trim, and found it useful, fun, and comfortable. That's something the original mini-trucks never were, even though we were young and didn't care very much about that. The hybrid engine offered plenty of power for around-town and highway driving, and with modern traction and stability controls, I didn't miss the all-wheel-drive. The Maverick is responsive to its steering and smooth over bumps, which is another improvement over the older trucks.
But the bottom line is that the 2022 Ford Maverick meets or exceeds all the qualities that I loved about my original mini-trucks. Starting at $19,995, it's among the most affordable new vehicles on the market, and a great choice for young singles or couples. The only thing missing for me was my old collection of cassette tapes.
The complete Ford lineup will be on display at the 2022 Portland International Auto Show from Feb. 24-27 at the Oregon Convention Center.
2022 Ford Maverick Lariat Hybrid
Base price: $19,995
Price as tested: $33,340
Type: Compact pickup
Engine: 2.5-liter hybrid (191 hp, 155 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: Continuously Variable Transmission FWD); 8-speed automatic (AWD)
EPA estimated mileage: 42/33
Overall length: 199.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,674 pounds
Final assembly: Hermosillo, Mexico
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