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Auto review: Return of the compact truck: Maverick small on stature, big on versatility

Barry Spyker, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

For those who miss the older, smaller Ford Ranger pickup, it's back — except it's called a Maverick now. And it has some nifty tricks within its 4.5-foot cargo bed, plus a versatile tailgate. Oh, and the base version comes standard as a hybrid.

Would-be truck buyers apparently have been hungry for a compact pickup truck like this Maverick, judging by sales numbers. Demand has been so strong that Ford stopped taking orders last year to play catch-up on production. Don't worry, the order bank has reopened for 2023 models.

Already named North American Truck of the Year by a group of Michigan journalists, the Maverick this year adds a more hardcore off-road version, the Tremor. It has upgraded shocks, an extra inch of ground clearance, a heavy-duty transmission cooler and all-terrain tires.

Parked beside an older Ranger, it's easy to see the thought process for the new Maverick. Compact trucks have grown into midsizers, like the Ranger, Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier; the Maverick is just an inch taller and wider than the old Ranger.

The Maverick is part of a new segment that includes the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which costs $4,000 more but can tow more, too. It has a boxy, muscular look with a beam across a black mesh grille. It only comes in crew-cab configuration with four doors, and all Mavericks get the small but versatile 4.5-foot cargo bed.

Ford calls it a Flexbed, and it has slots stamped into the sides to position 2x4s to section off the area. Do-it-yourselfers can scan a QR code in the bed for other loading ideas, and video tutorials are available as well. Also, talk about futuristic: Ford offers blueprints for 3D-printed accessories that can be printed at home.


The tailgate can be positioned midway to support 4x8 sheets of plywood — 400 pounds' worth. Or a couple of kayaks or a kids' swing set.

Power starts with a hybrid setup comprised of a 2.5-liter engine mated to an electrical motor and CVT (continuously variable transmission). This 191-hp version is for those who want the function of a pickup but don't plan on doing any heavy lifting. It has a tow rating of 2,000 pounds and payload of 1,500.

But there's a payoff at the gas pump of EPA-rated 42 mpg city, 30 highway and a 500-mile range per tank.

Most, however, are opting for the turbocharged 2.0-liter four, which has more pep and power, and is available with all-wheel-drive ($3,305). It's a little sluggish off the line but still hustles to 60 mph in about six seconds. Part of the credit goes to a quick-shifting 8-speed transmission, rather than the hybrid's CVT.


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