2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid Review: Return of the Great American Economy Car

Economical, comfortable, and still decently capable, the Ford Maverick hybrid is an efficient daily while retaining its pickup practicality.

byMar 11, 2022 12:04 PM
2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid Review: Return of the Great American Economy Car
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Coddled by the protectionist Chicken Tax, pickup trucks in the United States have become swollen symbols of decadence, used more often as lifestyle accessories than tools for work. Simultaneously, the decline of economy cars in favor of crossovers has left Americans with few choices for small, utilitarian vehicles. With the ongoing chip crunch sending new car prices skyward, the days of cheap cars and small trucks looked to be a thing of the past—until, that is, the arrival of the 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid.

Producing a vehicle like the Maverick is a perilous proposition, as it's antithetical to what most American truck buyers have shown they'll buy. At almost a foot shorter than the smallest Ranger, it's fairly small and not especially rugged, being adapted from the Ford Escape's light-duty unibody. Instead of four-wheel drive and a diesel engine with a name like a condom, it has only front-wheel drive that's linked to a hybrid engine by a CVT. It's less an alternative to a Super Duty than to a Honda Ridgeline, which hasn't exactly been a smash hit. In theory, the Maverick doesn't seem primed for success.

The 2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid is bluer than the sky, James Gilboy

In practice and over my week with the Maverick, though, it became rapidly apparent why this light-duty pickup is sold out until this summer. The Maverick melds the utility and driving experience of a pickup with the everyday suitability of a world-class economy car, giving drivers exactly the vehicle they need for all but the most extreme use cases. It's spacious, quiet, comfortable, economical, sturdy, and not even short on technology. I'm not sure everyone will like some of the styling, it's not what you'd call quick, the base model is sparsely equipped, and its capability is—naturally—limited. Even so, the Maverick is a terrific truck that's almost impossible to under-utilize, and it's made all the better by giving buyers more bang for their buck than a box of firecrackers on July 5th.

2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid Specs

  • Base price (XLT as tested): $21,490 ($27,295)
  • Powertrain: 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid | continuously variable transmission | front-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 191 combined @ 5,600 rpm
  • Torque: 155 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Cargo volume: 33.3 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds 
  • Payload capacity: 1,500 pounds
  • Curb weight: 3,674 pounds
  • Fuel economy: 42 mpg city | 33 highway | 37 combined (44 achieved in testing)
  • Quick take: The great American economy car has returned, and this time it's a truck.
  • Score: 9/10

The Basics

Being a relative of the compact Escape crossover, the Maverick is Ford's smallest pickup. As such, it has the second-lowest payload rating of any Ford truck (only the Raptor's 1,400 pounds undercuts it), and the least towing capacity, at 1,500 and 2,000 pounds respectively for the base hybrid model (though the turbo EcoBoost can tow 4,000). It also has the lowest price, not just among Ford trucks, but of the make's entire lineup. Yes, despite being a truck, it's the cheap option, whether or not you think it feels or looks like it.

That probably depends on how you feel about its headlights, which remind me of the cheap-looking wire-framed glasses worn by old men and fashionable Zoomers alike. I'm also categorically not a fan of black plastic body cladding, but it's not so obvious on the Maverick, which is quadrangular in the way American truck owners like. Its front, side, and rear profiles all look like they belong to a bigger truck, which does deceptive things to the eye on a constant basis. On its own, the Maverick looks monolithic; in traffic, it's not much bigger than the cars around it, and is dwarfed by a modern heavy-duty pickup. It maintains their higher driving position, though, which lets the driver meet other trucks closer to eye level without sacrificing much visibility.

The Maverick XLT's interior, being largely plastic and cloth, is likely not expensive to make, though its exposed bolts for mounting 3D-printed accessories and wildly varying textures and finishes prevent it from looking or feeling cheap. It reminds me of a recently renovated public school, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way; there's an ambiance of building the best future possible from what's available. It emanates optimism, and that's something we could all use more of in our lives. There's a sense of simplicity, which is to be found both in the truck's analog gauges and in its eight-inch central touchscreen. Its interface is mercifully uncluttered and accepts wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Powertrain options consist of an available 2.0-liter turbo engine or, as the tester had, the standard hybrid engine, headed by a 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder. This thrifty-but-shrimpy engine combines with an electric motor (which can move the truck by its lonesome) to produce a combined 191 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque that travel to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

Driving the Ford Maverick Hybrid

As you can probably guess, that kind of power doesn't make the Maverick quick, though the CVT does optimize for what power is there, delivering a... saunter forward when called on. Throttle and brake response are smooth, steering is neither too heavy nor too floaty, and it turned corners with modest, poised body roll. The Maverick tries to run on electric power whenever possible, which is part of why it scores nearly double the gas mileage of any other truck on sale in America. I averaged 44 mpg in my week with it—in a truck! That was a pleasant week, too, because the Maverick is remarkably refined for its price.

Cruising around Colorado's Front Range, I found its interior very quiet at all speeds, with almost no road or wind noise to challenge an over-performing stereo with solid bass and Bluetooth compatibility. The seats were comfortable and the ride pleasant, and because the Maverick is a crew-cab, it's spacious enough in all dimensions even for six-foot-five Giga Chads. I'm speaking, of course, of our Trucks Editor Caleb Jacobs, whose thoughts on the Maverick can be read here, and who has confided in me he is considering buying one. [Ed. note: I don’t know what a "Giga Chad" is, but that’s my height, title, and name, so I must be one. And yeah, I think I’m placing my order later this year! -- CJ]

That's how much room the Maverick has for people, never mind their belongings, which can be stowed in plentiful interior storage including a compartment under the back seat. Or the bed, whose low tailgate relative to other modern trucks made it comparatively easy to load. It only measures 4.5 feet long, but that's plenty for someone who only needs a pickup bed on occasion: for hauling branches to the dump, or retrieving bulky car parts from their dad's garage—like I did. It's just enough of a truck to come in clutch when you need one, but not enough of one to be a bear to live with.

Highs and Lows

The Ford Maverick Hybrid's good points greatly outnumber the bad. It's a pleasant way to travel the roads, affordable to buy and operate, compatible with DIY accessories, and on account of its truck bed and efficiency, hard to under-utilize. Whether it's fashionable is up to you, as I don't love its exterior but am fond of the interior, yet could understand why anyone would feel the opposite. 

It's on the slow side and I'm skeptical of its luxury Lariat trim because, in the Ranger, I didn't consider it good value on account of its high price and awful leather. Finally, the Maverick's capability isn't a strong suit relative to other pickups, though the pickup bed and towing capacity still set it apart from competing crossovers and sedans.

Ford Maverick Hybrid Features, Options, and Competition

There are three Maverick trim levels: The base XL, mid-level XLT (which is the trim the test car came in), and the top-tier Lariat. The XL Maverick may have manually adjusted seats and steel wheels, but it doesn't skimp on big-ticket items like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights, or a 4G wireless hotspot. Its 54-inch bed includes tie-downs and two power outlets, and can be ordered with a bed liner, tonneau covers, and body-color-matched (or contrasting) bed toppers. Mavericks are hybrids by default, but have available turbo engines that increase towing capacity to 4,000 pounds (that's more than the Bronco), as well as optional all-wheel drive for turbo models. Ford Co-Pilot360 with blind-spot warnings, rear cross-traffic watch, lane-keeping assists, and driver alertness are an available option on all trims.

2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid in Colorado, James Gilboy

Only Hyundai offers a real competitor to the Maverick in the form of the Santa Cruz, which I have previously compared to the Maverick in depth. In short, the Maverick starts cheaper at $21,490 MSRP and gets far better mileage, standard LED headlights, and a marginally larger bed. The Hyundai, on the other hand, includes more technology on its base model—such as standard ADAS and wireless CarPlay, respectively—which are either optional or unavailable on the Ford. The Santa Cruz also offers greater payload and towing ratings, cheaper AWD, and a more powerful top engine, though that sends its price skyrocketing to over $36,000. The XLT-trimmed test car cost $27,295 MSRP. Lastly, Hyundai produces its truck domestically, whereas the Ford is imported from Mexico.

The Chevrolet Colorado bears mentioning, as it's only slightly more expensive than the Hyundai, though it's a different class of truck with greater capability but poorer mileage, not to mention a far older vehicle. The Honda Ridgeline, while also unibody, has the same problems as the Chevy: it's even more expensive to buy and run.

Sustainability

The Ford Maverick's greatest claim to ecological responsibility—a hybrid drivetrain that can run on electric power alone—is a pretty small one. Beyond that, Ford makes no claims regarding the Maverick's sustainability, and seeing as it's produced abroad, it requires more fossil fuels be burned just to get it to showrooms. Once it's in your driveway, though, its hybrid drivetrain starts to make a difference, especially with what gas costs these days.

2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid fuel economy versus competitors, Environmental Protection Agency

Value and Verdict

The Ford Maverick Hybrid is everything an economy car buyer could want, and then some. It's affordable, pleasant, highly modifiable, fashionable in some circles, and despite being light-duty, still offers more utility than most American families will ever use. It's what people need, when they need it, and the fact that it's all of these and one of the cheapest vehicles on sale in the United States just makes me want to kiss it. (And maybe I did, so what?)

In an era where American automakers are going all-in on trucks that are getting endlessly bigger and more expensive, the Maverick is a surprising reversal of course in more ways than one. Not only does it challenge the body-on-frame pickup's hegemony, but it also does so as an earnest economy car the likes of which we haven't seen from an American company since the Model T. In being no more truck than most Americans need, the Maverick is never under-utilized, and therefore fulfills the American ideal of a pickup: A tool to be used. The Ford Maverick is a marvelous truck, and one that I hope to see produced by the millions as soon as the chip shortage abates.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com