Segment-buster: Ford unleashes compact Maverick pickup
Putting an exclamation point on its aggressive transition to all-SUV/truck brand, Ford Motor Co. debuted its Maverick compact pickup Tuesday — based on the unibody chassis shared with the Escape and Bronco Sport SUVs.
Slotted below the midsize, ladder-frame, $26,015 Ranger pickup, the entry-level Maverick starts at just over $21,000 including destination fee, $19,995 without. Its compact size and bed-full of tech features are aimed at urban buyers who want a “ute with a bed.”
Along with the Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup introduced earlier this year, the segment-busting Maverick further expands sub-$25,000 SUV offerings.
“Since 2009, the car market share in the U.S. has decreased 56% while at the same time, truck/SUV has increased 73%,” said Ford Global Chief Marketing Officer Suzy Deering. “Three years ago, Ford made the decision to stop producing sedans. It opened up an incredible whitespace opportunity for us (that) combined the best attributes of cars and utilities.”
Ironically, Ford first used the Maverick nameplate on a Japanese compact-fighting car in the early 1970s, but the badge now fits the brand’s off-road adventure vibe. It's "the truck you didn't see coming," crows Ford's YouTube ad.
While taking its conservative, bold design cues from Ford’s flagship F-series pickup, Maverick’s nimble unibody chassis, youthful interior, and clever tech will be more familiar to buyers of the Ford Escape and red-hot Bronco Sport, The Detroit News’ 2020 Vehicle of the Year.
“The unibody design gives the truck better ride and handling from an overall maneuverability perspective," Maverick/Ranger marketing manager Trevor Scott said in a vehicle walkaround. "And it gives the truck more of the characteristics this customer is looking for. Five passengers. Tons of cargo space.”
Contrary to traditional, rear-wheel-drive trucks, the unibody Maverick will be front-wheel-drive-based with an all-wheel-drive option. It will be made alongside the Bronco Sport at Ford's plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. Maverick power-train options are shared with the Escape. A gas-electric hybrid, 2.5-liter four-cylinder comes standard. A more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-4 is optional.
Indeed, Maverick will be the first pickup on the market with a standard hybrid powertrain.
Ford has aggressively priced the Escape Hybrid for volume sales to meet fuel economy regulations, and the Maverick appears determined to make hybrids mainstream with pickup buyers as well.
They will be rewarded with a significant mpg boost as the hybrid Maverick boasts 40 mpg city and 500 miles of range compared to the Ranger’s 21 mpg/414 miles.
“It’s actually stronger fuel economy than a Honda Civic,” said Scott.
Though priced on top of Ford’s cheapest SUV — the India-made Ecosport (and well below the $28,710 Bronco Sport) — Maverick is much more robust. It eschews Ecosport’s somnolent, 123-horse, three-cylinder and 166-horse 4-cylinder egg beaters for four-cylinder mills making 191 and 255 horsepower. Maverick engines can also tow a healthy 2,000 pounds (think two jet skis) and 4,000 pounds (think camper), respectively.
“It’s definitely intended to serve the entry-level price point for the Ford showroom — but also for the Built Ford Tough lineup," said Scott. "We’re going to be looking at a lot of first-time truck contenders."
Similar to Ranger, Maverick will start with Ford’s core XL, XLT, and Lariat trims with the loaded models topping out at $35k. Ford's rugged FX4 package will be available on top trims. “We anticipate that a lot of the volume will be in the XLT series, which is closer to that $23,000-$24,000 price point," said Scott.
The interior is a departure from the critically-panned, cheap plastic designs of Ecosport and Ranger. Adopting a youthful, blocky look — think IKEA meets LEGO — Maverick bristles with storage cubbies and clever details.
“Cut-out” front armrests allow more vertical space for tall Thermoses. In the rear, speakers have been moved to the c-pillars, opening room for, say, a computer tablet.
To keep costs down, the base XL model will offer basic tech amenities like auto high beams and emergency braking. Popular safety features like blind-spot assist and adaptive cruise control are available. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, however, as does Smart Pass app connectivity so owners can start the pickup remotely in frigid Michigan winters and check details like tire pressure.
Like Bronco Sport, the interior is decorated with bright orange trim while the console mimics a desk organizer with ample storage bins. More storage is under the rear bench seat — courtesy of moving the gas tank aft of the cabin.
Also aft of the cabin is the heart of the Maverick, a 4.5’ long x 4’ wide bed. “Flexbed,” Ford calls it.
Like Bronco Sport’s creative hatchback, the bed can swallow two bicycles with front tires removed. Maverick embraces the Do It Yourself trend with a bed-based 12-volt outlet, 10 tie-downs, and optional rails with cleats and 110-volt outlet. A QR code is even stamped on the bed wall to offers suggestions on how owners might configure the bed for more utility (DIY slots can be found inside for customer add-ons, too). Useful 8” x 8” side bed cubbies can store, say, two-liter soda bottles or bike pumps.
“You can go to your local lumber store, purchase a couple of two by fours, and create bed dividers," noted Scott. "We’ll give (customers) instructions on how they can create their own bike rack.”
Maverick is not as radically designed as Santa Cruz (which channels Tesla’s Cybertruck with a sliding bed cover), but the Ford pickup’s flanks are notably clean like the Hyundai’s, thanks to a single-option bed. Ladder frame trucks like Ranger and F-series, by contrast, have a clean break between cab and bed in order to offer different bed sizes.
The wee Ford pickup’s front fascia bear signature F-series elements like a power-dome hood and C-clamp headlights. Out back, C-clamp taillights and Maverick-stamped tailgate are familiar as well. Maverick distinguishes itself with an off-center license plate holder — in order to make way for the tow hook.
Expect Maverick to ride into dealerships this fall.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.
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