Ford’s Maverick is the pickup you never knew you wanted

There was a time in my life when I dreamed of owning a Jeep Wrangler. But not just any wrangler: open-air, sun-bleached, doors ripped off, constantly waiting for trouble like this college friend who, decades later, still goes to the bar four nights a week. I imagined dumping everything I have on the hold for transport — the interior is in tatters anyway — and then driving off into the sunset.

[Photo: Ford]

As I look toward my driveway at the borrowed Ford Maverick, the company’s hyped little pickup, I find myself squinting to imagine what it might look like 10 or 15 years from now. Because while it’s a city-parkable hybrid that hits 40 miles per gallon and starts under $20,000, it’s also a five-seat truck that can carry your family along with £1,500 of whatever you want in its hackable open back can accommodate. The Maverick is a gorgeous vehicle that feels borderline responsible because it can be pretty much anything you want it to be.

[Photo: Ford]

The Maverick was designed to operate a voice in our heads that speaks to a million small tasks in our daily lives: “‘Boy, it would be a lot easier to do this in a truck,'” according to Jim Baumbick, VP of Enterprise product line management, strategy and planning at Ford – a surprisingly design-oriented vehicle manufacturer. Since Ford has abandoned making sedans to focus on trucks and crossovers, it’s betting on repositioning the truck as a product for young city dwellers who might otherwise have bought a small car, or as an option for families who want more Need flexibility than a crossover can provide.

I fall into the latter camp. After swapping my city-friendly Versa for a Toyota RAV4 a few years ago, I loved my crossover until I didn’t anymore. It’s comfortable to sit in and responsive to driving, but whenever I need to move something large (from Ikea flat-pack furniture to my gravel bike to my hyperactive golden retriever), the storage capacity of the vehicle never off. And with two kids in booster seats, I can’t just fold down the back row to make more room for cargo.

The result is that I drive a large vehicle with very little usable interior space, which admittedly is pretty stupid all round.

[Photo: Ford]

My first impression of the Maverick was how small its footprint is – at least for a truck. It’s 200 inches long, reportedly about a foot longer than a crossover and a foot shorter than a larger F-150. But there’s more usable space than in my crossover, thanks to the 4.5-foot open flexbed storage in the back. The rear seats are a little more comfortable.

[Photo: Ford]

As I do my first lap, I’m not kidding, I pass an F-150 driver who gives me a little salute. I was introduced to truck culture—phew!– but I’d say the Maverick feels more like driving a car, only higher, than an imposing F-150. In fact, the Maverick is the first vehicle I’ve driven that feels like it doesn’t have a learning curve. I squeeze into parking spots with ease (whereas parking an F-150 feels more like parking a Carnival cruise ship). The catch is that the hybrid engine option comes with front-wheel drive only. For four-wheel drive you have to go full throttle. And, for better and worse, the hybrid isn’t powerful enough to entice you into aggressive driving. It’s quiet and usable, but I wish it was a plug-in hybrid to save me having to fill up every day.

[Photo: Ford]

What about all that memory? That sweet, sweet storage? Of course, the weekend I rent the pickup is exactly the weekend when I don’t have anything big to haul. It’s still too cold to get soil and plants for the garden, and no one I know is moving. That’s a shame because the flexbed is really the star of this vehicle. It’s a pickup truck bed designed specifically for you to chop. With slots for a pair of two-by-fours, Ford wants you to build your own storage and shelving in the back. (The Maverick also has a huge aftermarket of Ford-compatible accessories, including a raised tent for campouts that I was dying to test.)

The Maverick has been on the market for a couple of months, and already you will notice several forums with owners showing off their customizations, along with how many odd items they’re able to stuff sausage in the back. Results range from 10 foot laminate countertop to music equipment to whatever all that stuff is.

[Photo: Ford]

As for my own testing, I tuck my kids in the back seat and lug them around on a few cursory errands. I’m surprised my 4-year-old daughter’s feet touched the back of the driver’s seat and wonder why Ford wouldn’t make this vehicle 6 inches longer (or the bed 6 inches shorter?) just to make the back seat feel less like my children fly economy.

After my first stop, I toss a 30-pound bag of dog food into the flexbed. It takes up little comedic space. What would take up most of my RAV4’s storage space looks downright silly all by itself in the back of the truck.

[Photo: Ford]

Then I go shopping. As we go to the store my wife asks if we need to take the dog food to the booth where it can be locked up and safe. I have no idea. Do people steal dog food? And if they steal dog food, don’t their pets really need it? Nevertheless, I drag the food to the back seat and lock the car. Yes, that means after I’m done shopping, I have to slide the dog food back into the flexbed to make room for the kids, and top that off with a dozen or more bags (plastic, ok? I forgot to bring my reusable bags). . Still, I hardly make a dent in capacity.

[Photo: Ford]

It’s at that moment that I realize I have to worry about food being thrown out of the truck onto the drivers behind me. But since being initiated into the Society of Pickup Drivers (remember, I got that salute!), I’ve been rolling the dice and just keeping the Maverick under 40 on my short drive home. Nothing seems to have shifted during the drive , but I also realize that this is exactly why so many people get covers for their truck beds.

As a final test after unloading my groceries, I throw a bike on my back (a Cannondale synapse I’ll be writing about soon!). Just loaded, the bike will not fit. Ford made a free two-by-four bike mount schematic for exactly this task, but this requires the front wheel to be removed. On a diagonal, however, the bike fits with half a foot of space. I’m considering how to design a diagonal stand to secure the bike in place. In any case, with enough imagination, it’s entirely possible.

And honestly, that’s what still excites me about the Maverick. Ford has created a vehicle especially for you that you can redesign, customize and make your own. It’s a fantastic knock-around truck and the best value (second?) car for a mid-size family. I can’t wait to see a sun-bleached Maverick on the streets in 20 years.

But I can’t help but think how much nicer this vehicle would be as a fully-fledged electric truck. Because when trucks are no longer beholden to gasoline engines, companies like Ford can really think not only about what trucks can be today, but what vehicles the future may become. Ford’s Maverick is the pickup you never knew you wanted


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