On the Road Review: Ford Maverick Hybrid Pickup

A traveler heading Downeast on Maine’s Route 1 coastal route might be tempted to peel off at Waldoboro, the crossroads that leads south to the scenic Medomak River and Muscongous Bay, or follow the less-traveled Route 220 north. Meandering through farm country, this rural byway will lead to clever little settlements like Stickney Corner as well as the aptly named towns of Jefferson, Washington, Liberty and a serious little sign in Montville at Beans Corner.

Here you will find the destination and mileage markings for the other towns populated soon after America’s Revolutionary War, the villages settled by ardent patriots who named their new Maine towns after their ideals and their idols: Freedom, Union and Hope.

From this spot, our tidy little Maverick Hybrid pickup, a more than novel idea that is long overdue, pushed through the hills and valleys to Thorndike, where a standing order for fresh-milled cedar-deck planks awaited to be loaded at the Tweedie Mill. While the Maverick’s lined bed compartment is only 4.5 feet long, an optional cargo container helped restrain our small load from leaving during the remaining 50-mile ride home.

The first 160-mile day employed as a run-about mini-truck proved quite acceptable. The ride is very composed, the cabin is quieter than several new cars that shall remain nameless, while the 191-hp hybrid (2.5-liter gas engine, dual electric motors) powertrain proved more than capable of handling any acceleration request. Key to this innovative compact pickup: the day’s fuel mileage gauge reported 48 mpg.

Subsequent adventures during the week reinforced the Maverick’s fuel efficiency — two measured fill-ups gave the small Ford an impressive 45 mpg for its 450-mile visit, easily beating the EPA estimates of 42-city/33-mpg highway. Maverick, where have you been?

Buyers be aware — this thrifty powertrain is only available on the base front-drive models of the Maverick. AWD versions of this platform, which is based on Ford’s Bronco Sport crossover and built in Hermosillo, Mexico, will get a conventional 2.0-liter turbo Ecoboost gasoline-fueled four-cylinder engine with EPA ratings of 22/29 mpg. There is no word on an AWD version of the hybrid powertrain, however persistent showings of a high-performance ST model Maverick leave the door open for other variants.

Small pickups have been part of our driving fleet since the late 1960s when Toyota and Datsun (now Nissan) made their initial inroads to the American market with their compact, rear-drive, economical pickups. These vehicles stole the domestic automaker’s thunder, capturing huge fan bases and forcing GM to pirate the Chevy Luv from Isuzu, Ford to partner with Mazda to create the Courier and Dodge to share a small truck with Mitsubishi. This craze lasted until the early 1980s when slightly larger “compact” pickups debuted, and those models (Ranger, Tacoma, Colorado and Frontier) have been getting larger, thirstier and more expensive with each generation.

The Maverick is going to be a huge hit (perhaps just as important as the full-size F-series Lightning EV) for several reasons. The starting price is a veritable bargain in this market — only $21,490 for our base XL Hybrid, including destination fee. The fancier XLT is only $23,835, while the top Limited begins at $27,355 in hybrid trim. Jumping to the AWD platform adds several thousand dollars, and more equipment, while the turbo-motor is also $1,085.

Number two, the Maverick is a real workhorse. Only available as a four-door crew cab, the smallest Ford pickup can tow up to 4,000 pounds (2,000 pounds in front-drive hybrid trim) and carry over 1,500 pounds of payload with its standard lined pickup bed.

And unlike those early small pickups, which were basic transportation tools, the Maverick is efficiently packaged with equipment that will satisfy drivers on a budget, which Ford believes will be true as the Maverick will become the brand’s entry-level “car.” A tilt-telescoping wheel, air conditioning, power locks and windows, rear camera, pre-collision assist forward braking, FordPass Connect Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple and Android connectivity plus remote starting are all standard. The doors have huge pockets for oversize beverages (or tools) plus the console swallows tons of traveling gear. Even the backseat is adult-friendly.

But best of all, the Maverick is fun to drive. It handles well, the cabin is hushed, the ride is better than any of its so-called compact pickup rivals, and the ergonomics are spot-on. Easy to climb in and climb out, the Maverick hits lots of high points on its journey, reviving a once vital market segment.

The Maverick is fuel-efficient and still quick, smart yet strong and right-sized for the times we are in. Freedom and liberty in a Maverick Hybrid. How cool is that?

Next week: Chevy Equinox RS

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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