- Photos: Kurt Bradley

The Ford Maverick Is The Perfect Affordable Little Truck For City Folk

Compact trucks are making a comeback, and Ford offers a great one.

2w ago

Imagine you live in the city, regularly go mountain biking and camping, don't have a big budget, but still need some practicality from your daily driver. The world's auto manufacturers have tried to push you toward a profit-making crossover for years, but you don't want to look like another soccer mom, and actually need a bed to store things. Options have been pretty limited, and have bumped up into prices that many modest incomes can't afford to buy new.

Trucks have gotten massive, and because of the proportions and feature lists growing, the price point has skyrocketed accordingly. Early in 2021, I reviewed the F-150 hybrid, and thought it changed the full-size pickup game, but that truck was nearly $80,000. Remember when small, practical, affordable trucks were all over the roads? Ford does, and figured out there's a wildly underserved market to pounce upon.

Introducing the Maverick, the Detroit marque brings a fresh little pickup to a world filled with crossovers and huge trucks. Even smaller than the Ford Ranger I've reviewed in the past year, the compact Maverick targets the driver who wants reasonable features and size at a price they can stomach. Having tested the nicely equipped midsized Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai's new--and somewhat funky--Santa Cruz, I recently had a chance to check out a smart little pickup thanks to the people at Ford.

The Useful Figures

Making this new small pickup affordable for a big variety of buyers, Ford ships the Maverick with three trim levels to choose from, in addition to two distinct engine and drivetrain options. All Mavericks are SuperCrew cabs, built on a steel unibody chassis, with four doors, and sport a four-foot bed. The standard engine package is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid that produces a combined 191 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque, and is hooked up to a CVT that drives the front wheels. The upper engine is a new 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder that pumps out 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, which is mated to an 8-speed automatic that can power either the front wheels or Ford's intelligent all-wheel-drive system.

Competing with the Hyundai Santa Cruz I just reviewed, the Maverick is slightly smaller than the Honda Ridgeline I tested not too long ago, and is a more compact offering than the good Ford Ranger I liked playing with over the summer. At just 199 inches long, 69 inches tall (nice), 72 wide (83 inches with the mirrors folded out), the Maverick has a 121-inch wheelbase and 63-inch front track, with a 62-inch rear track. Depending on which engine and drivetrain selected, the Ford Maverick has a curb weight between 3,563 and 3,731 pounds.

Depending on which spec you select, the Ford Maverick can be downright cheap to buy. The base model starts at $19,995, with the hybrid and FWD installed, making it several thousand less than the base (yet better equipped) Hyundai Santa Cruz and Honda Ridgeline. Opt for the loaded Lariat trim level with all-wheel-drive, tick the option boxes for the towing and off-road packages, and the total MSRP peaks at $36,000. Loaded Mavericks cost about $5,000 less than the competition, which quickly makes it attractive. In the Iconic Silver mid-level XLT trim I tested (which has Navy Pier cloth interior), Ford added the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, all-wheel-drive, upgraded interior, the 4K towing package, and 17-inch wheels, which had a total MSRP of $31,910 after destination.

A Pleasant Daily Driver

Bucking the reputation trucks get as city commuters, the Ford Maverick is actually great to drive. Because it's not huge, nor loaded down with a bunch of tough hardware, the Maverick isn't wildly heavy. Not as composed as the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which definitely feels like the crossover on which it's based rather than like a pickup, the Maverick is great for being built on a proper little truck platform, and is more nimble than the Honda Ridgeline I also like.

Don't expect sportscar cornering, but the Maverick is surprisingly pleasant to toss around city streets. Attribute some of its good driving characteristics to the AWD Maverick's multi-link trailing arm suspension that's an upgrade over the FWD model's twistbeam rear suspension, keeping body roll to a minimum, and ride firmness decently low. Its suspension is compliant and refined, making it easy to buzz around town, and providing remarkably sharp steering. Ride quality isn't compromised when equipped with Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires either.

Ford's 2.0-liter EcoBoost is a great small engine, offering plenty of flexible torque, great response when you apply the throttle at nearly any RPM, and has smooth shifts from its 8-speed automatic. Being equipped with all-wheel-drive and a punchy turbocharged engine, the Ford Maverick still achieves decent fuel economy. With EPA MPG estimates of 22 / 29 / 25 (city / highway / combined), the AWD Maverick is reasonably efficient. If you're concerned about saving fuel, the hybrid Maverick boasts MPG estimates of 42 / 33 / 37, which is wild for a truck.

To help keep costs low, Ford doesn't go nuts with refinement inside the Maverick. The cabin is a bit spartan, but still assembled with well-installed materials. Pretty basic controls and gauges are clearly presented, and Ford's last-generation Sync 3 infotainment system is installed in an 8-inch touchscreen that comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless mobile charging is an option, a wifi hotspot is standard, and there are USB-A and USB-C ports paired with a single AC outlet in the back of the center armrest.

Interior space of the Maverick is surprisingly large, considering the smart-sized overall dimensions. I took some friends for a spin, and even with two of them being over 6-feet tall, they weren't cramped in the Maverick's back seat. Storage options in the cabin are well thought out, with lots of spots to stash your goodies, and the rear bench seat easily flips up to offer more hidden cargo space. The four-foot bed isn't massive, but it'll get the job done for most weekend warriors.

Doing Truck Stuff

The "Built Ford Tough" tagline is upheld reasonably in the Maverick. It's not hardcore in any particular way, so before your fingers of fury go nuts in the comments section, remember that's not the point of the Maverick. This new compact pickup's purpose is to serve the city dweller that needs a bit more flexibility and capability than the crossover or sedan that they're used to. If a truck that's truly rugged off-road and can tow a massive trailer is required, the Ford F-150 has been the best selling full-size pickup for over 40 consecutive years for several reasons.

Any reasonable driver will be happy to know that the Maverick is more than capable of handling their weekend trek to the home improvement store or packing their gear for a quick camping trip. Ford was smart to include its tie-downs and sliders in the Maverick's bed, which also has a small enclosed storage compartment. My tester was fitted with an accessory power point and was treated with the optional a spray-in bedliner too. Sporting a decent 1,500 pounds of payload capacity, the Ford Maverick has an optional towing package that allows drivers to pull up to 4,000 pounds (bumping up from 2,000 pounds in standard trim), which is on-par with its slightly larger rivals.

For off-road adventures, the all-wheel-drive Maverick is decently capable. Offering 21º approach and departure angles, in addition to an 18º breakover angle, the Maverick has 8.6 inches of ground clearance. Definitely opt for the all-terrain tires if you're wandering away from paved surfaces more than a few times per year. Frequent explorers are smart to tick the $800 FX4 option box to add distinct 17-inch wheels and A/T tires, hill descent control, additional sand and mud & ruts off-road drive modes, skid plates, a heavy duty radiator and engine cooling fan, and exposed tow hooks. Crave even more off-road kit in a bigger package? You'll be spending $10,000 more to upgrade to the Ford Ranger Tremor.

The Pleasant Bits

Rather than designing an exterior that's polarizing (ahem, Hyundai), or a bit tougher outside than it is underneath (hey, Honda), Ford played it safe with the Maverick's looks. It's not too plain, has some clean lines and tasteful front and rear treatments, and it all works as a total truck package. The Maverick's exterior simply hits its marks, and the size is just right for a city pickup. Definitely opt for the all-terrain rubber to complete a sportier package. Of course Ford includes its exterior keypad, for safely locking your key inside the Maverick when you're out for a run at a local park.

There may be a lot of plastic throughout the Maverick's cockpit, but I was surprised how quiet it all held together. No squeaks nor rattles to be found. Cloth seats have the look of a blend of linen and denim, but they're actually soft to the touch, and I dig the contrasting orange stitching. Plastic door panels may seem cheap at first glance, but they're designed with a cool pattern that gives the Maverick a funky personality. I also appreciate how the door pull was designed to be easy to grip from any angle, featuring a rubbery texture on its backing. That same rubber is applied to the storage space under the center console, where I tossed my phone, keys, parking card, and lip balm.

Less Than Wonderful Things

I may have praised Ford for making the Maverick's cost-saving interior work, but there are some shortcuts I'm not a fan of. The steering wheel is an old model that's been in the Ford parts bin for a decade, and its audio switches, cruise control buttons, and wrap feel low-rent in your hands. The Maverick's instrument cluster is really basic too, with outdated gauges and a center data screen. There is an optional 6.5-inch data screen available, which honestly should have been included as standard equipment, as it would barely move the price up.

I'm not expecting a luxury car's slate of features inside the Maverick, but a basic single-zone manual A/C system doesn't cut it in 2021. A simple dual-zone climate control setup would give occupants a hint more comfort, but at least there are heated seats. These are all small complaints, as overall I'm really impressed with the Ford Maverick.

This Little Pickup Is Refreshingly Simple

Where the Hyundai Santa Cruz offers a bunch of cool features and styling that's quite unique, and the Honda Ridgeline is nearly as loaded with better looks and a more practical interior, the Ford Maverick is a reasonable pickup that isn't racking up the price by adding stuff that most people don't need. Ford came up with a seriously practical pickup for people who need a bit more versatility without having to deal with a massive truck that costs a fortune.

The Maverick is a no-fuss truck that fits any budget, gets the job done, and isn't trying to act tough. There's a new Ford Ranger coming soon, and it'll likely get a massive list of updates to bring it to current standards versus the one I tested last summer, and that may appeal to drivers who want a bigger package that's more capable. If you're looking for a simple, inexpensive, and effective compact truck, the Maverick is the little pickup to buy.

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Comments (14)

  • Mini truck :) longer and as heavy as an Audi A6. Universes apart - US and EU scale of car segments. Interesting.

      18 days ago
  • I like it, had mini trucks for years I was disappointed when they all grew larger

      18 days ago
  • Please to decode the 4 buttons on the console below the dial-a-shift and lift-a-brake; I don’t speak icon…. Gracias.

      19 days ago
    • Top left: Drive modes

      Top right: Traction control

      Bottom left: engine stop/start

      Read more
        19 days ago
    • Cool, works better than (clockwise)

      1. Racing on snow with leaves on the track mode

      2. Rewind the snail into shell

      Read more
        19 days ago
  • The market needs this - a small-ish utility focused truck. Too much size, luxury and price bloat in pickups these days

      19 days ago
  • Give it the option for an extended cab and a little more bed length and you have one heck of a little pickup.

      19 days ago
    • A 2-foot bed extender is available as an accessory option.

        18 days ago