Here’s Why The New Ford Maverick Pickup Is The Best Cheap Car You Can Buy

Here's Why The New Ford Maverick Pickup Is The Best Cheap Car You Can Buy

This is yet another case of, “What the hell did they take so long on.”

Aa pickup trucks have grown to epic proportions over the decades — some full-size models now ride so high they practically need a ladder to climb up and in — and so do their sticker prices.

While standard truck-configured regular cab models still exist, these are not the models shoppers will usually find in a dealership inventory. On the contrary, manufacturers and their retailers make the biggest profits on giant four-door Crew Cab models, which today can run well into the $70,000 and $80,000 range in their leather-wrapped tops. Mid-sized models are slightly smaller and less capable, but can still get pricey; for example, the GMC Canyon starts at about $27,000 and ends at $45,000, excluding options.

While Japanese automakers helped establish themselves in the US in the 1960s by selling small and cheap flatbed cars that appealed to the active younger buyers, the market has long since abandoned the concept.

Until now.

Enter the Ford Maverick that’s new for 2022. It’s a five-passenger compact Crew Cab pickup that starts at an affordable $20,000 — which is roughly on par with most small sedans — and that’s with a fuel-saving hybrid powertrain on gas / electric. Like the mid-sized Honda Ridgeline and the equally new compact Hyundai Santa Cruz, it is built on a car-like front-wheel drive unibody construction, as opposed to the rigid body-on-frame rear-wheel arrangement found on most trucks. While this configuration limits a vehicle’s towing, towing and off-road capabilities, it allows for true car-like driving and handling skills.

The Ford Maverick we recently tested is mechanically related to the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport crossover SUVs. Unlike the Santa Cruz, which adds multiple folds and curves to the basic three-bake truck design, Ford’s entry-level bears more than a passing resemblance to its bigger showroom sibling, the F-150, which allure should only increase. Ours came in an attractive Hot Pepper Red.

The Maverick’s 4.5-foot cargo bed may be on the small side, but it’s adequate for recreational use. Supplied with two tension straps and four D-rings, the bed accommodates segmented storage, bike racks and other accessories by sliding 2×4 or 2×6 pieces of wood into slots cleverly fabricated into the sides of the bed.

It’s refreshingly back to basics on the inside, especially compared to today’s cockpit dashboards. While cabin materials tend to be on the cheap side, it’s attractively designed with contrasting trim and numerous storage bins and cubbies. The seats are sufficiently comfortable, with generous front and rear seat space and a good view out.

There is, of course, the required high-mount touchscreen for Ford’s intuitive infotainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.

The top finishes feature all the expected comforts without going overboard with King Ranch, and a host of new cargo-carrying accessories are available.

The Maverick comes standard with a 2.5-liter gas/electric hybrid powertrain that puts a punchy 191 horsepower to the curb via a continuously variable transmission. It has an EPA rating of 42/33 mpg city/highway, which is impressive enough for a compact car, let alone a pickup truck. A side note is that the hybrid is only available with front-wheel drive. Those who need the extra traction of four-wheel drive will have to trade in for the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a livelier output of 250 horsepower, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. However, fuel economy suffers by 22/29 mpg in comparison.

The vehicle drives smoothly and handles easily, without suffering bumps and jolts from large trucks along the way. It is much easier to parallel park than most other pickups. But even with four-wheel drive and the optional FX4 Off-Road package, don’t expect it to be as capable off the pavement as low-range 4×4 truck-based models. The towing capacity is also limited compared to the large rigs, ranging from a modest 2,000lbs to 4,000lbs if properly equipped. Still, it’s enough to haul dirt bikes and other recreational gear to where the action is, and the Maverick can tow a small pop-up camper if needed.

Unfortunately, the Maverick’s low entry-level cost means the list of standard driver aids is small, although it does come with pedestrian-detection collision warning and automatic braking, which is arguably the most important of the bunch. Options in this regard include stop-and-go automatic cruise control, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic warning and lane departure warning with lane centering.

The truck remains affordable, even its top-of-the-line Lariat trim, which piles on amenities like push button start, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and mood lighting in the cabin, and rides on 18-inch wheels. It starts at about $25,500 with hybrid power and about $1,000 more for the turbo four engine. You can add the luxury package which includes remote start, heated front seats and steering wheel, an upgraded stereo, wireless device charging, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, a spray-in bedliner, bed lights and a tow bar and still drive off the lot for less over $30,000

All in all, the Ford Maverick is the proverbial breath of fresh air in what has become a size-relevant pickup truck market. It’s a great choice for active owners who want to tote sports gear and other gear without cluttering the interior of an SUV. An eminently affordable price and the standard money-saving hybrid powertrain help seal the deal.