“Wow, that’s pretty yellow . . .”
Well, Cyber Orange Metallic, to be exact
I could understand the comments I was fielding, courtesy of a colour resonating somewhere in a spectrum between taxi cabs and school buses. Add a surfboard and a light bar and you’d have a pretty good Baywatch vibe going on.
But it wasn’t just the paint colour that was making this 2023 Ford Maverick stand out.
Ford’s latest little “better idea” - the Ford Maverick - is a compact pickup slotted nicely below the Ford Ranger
and its even bigger brother, the Ford F150.
Actually, the Ford Maverick isn’t really all that small. It’s bigger than the original Ranger that debuted in 1983 but all manufacturers share one trait in common - each year they want to promote their products as “bigger and better”, so the Ranger has swelled over the years of its stop-and-start history to near mid-size proportions and pricing. Slipping the smaller Maverick into the bottom of the lineup just made sense. And, beyond its reduced size and starting price position, the Maverick is notable for being the first standard hybrid pickup in North America, which enables it to also boast the most fuel-efficient numbers in its segment, while offering car-like unibody user-friendliness and five-passenger compact accommodation blended with a pinch of pickup practicality.
Full-size truckin’ Bubbas might sneer at the Maverick’s minuscule pretensions, but how many big pickups have you seen rolling around full of attitude up front, but with empty boxes in back? The Maverick offers a commuter alternative for pickup fans looking for a practical driving solution with at least a bit of a trucker wanna-be esthetics and some box room when needed.
The 2023 Ford Maverick lineup, ranging from about $31K-$38K, starts with the hybrid model harnessing a 162 hp 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine blended with a 94 kW electric motor for a combined 191 hp, 155 lb-ft of torque and occasional electric-only drive through a CVT transmission and front-wheel drive (FWD) system. Five drive modes offer Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow Haul selections to match driving demands.
This powertrain earns a 2,000 lb (907 kg) tow rating along with a standard payload of 1,559 lb (707 kg) and just enough box volume to carry a standard ATV. The hybrid system allows for about an 800 km range on a tank of gas with an official fuel economy rating of 5.8L/7.1L/100km (city/hwy).
You’ll notice that the hybrid’s city rating is better than the highway rating, the opposite of regular gas-powered vehicles because low speed city driving is more conducive to electric-only power. But even making mostly highway mileage during our test, the Maverick managed a 6.1L/100km real world fuel economy average while returning 150 km of electric-only propulsion out of an 815 km trip total.
I tend to nerd out in any electric-assist vehicle and try for ultimate mileage but once in a while you have to mash the accelerator to determine that, yeah, there’s enough get-up-and-go to suit.
So far, Ford has not managed to blend the hybrid powertrain with all wheel-drive (AWD) in this C2 platform shared with the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport. But for more power and hauling mojo, a bargain $500 optional configuration swaps the hybrid system for a 2.0-litre EcoBoost gas engine making 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic tranny with AWD. Add an optional 4K Tow Package and the tow rating doubles to a more do-able 4,000 pound (1,814 kg) rating.
Both powertrain configurations of the 2023 Ford Maverick offer three trim level choices - XL, XLT and Lariat. Base trucks come well enough equipped but this hybrid Lariat tester has been pimped out with over $11K worth of extras - the Lariat Luxury Pkg ($4,100), the Black Appearance Pkg ($2,000) and Power Moonroof ($1,120) to name just a few, along with the Cyber Oranger Metallic paint job ($800), one of three extra cost colours from Maverick’s eleven colour palette.
All Mavericks come in CrewCab layout. Crack the front doors and you slip into a roomy enough compact cabin, spacious up front but requiring some forward seat racking to allow for any rear passengers larger than hobbits.
There’s no drama here, no oversized tablet screens or radical design touches, just a sensible 8-inch centre touch screen, an overall kind of utilitarian style with exposed screwheads, lots of slots and cubbies, an ergonomic equipment layout, good ol’ HVAC and audio dials, a simple rotary shifter and all the expected mod cons. This Lariat tester’s interior blended Onyx Black with contrasting dark blue and grey trim work, set against minimal metallic highlights and bits of chrome bling. In the second row, there are USBs and a 120V 400W outlet in the console back and the rear seat flips up for more interior storage.
Behind the power sliding rear window, the Maverick’s 4.5-foot FLEXBED stretches to a 6-foot length with the tailgate down. There are pre-stamped slots for load division, tie-down rings and clips, threaded holes to bolt in your own DIY cargo innovations, cab lights, an unlocked side storage cubby and, in this tester, adjustable slide rails, 12 V port and another 120V 400W AC outlet, as well as an optional spray-in bedliner. And, I kid you not, the tailgate tie-down clamps double as bottle openers.
And, yes, the default acid test of every pickup truck - up to 18 sheets of 4X8 plywood will fit in the box, resting atop the squared-off wheel wells and propped up by the angled multi-position tailgate.
This road test was based on a 2023 Maverick, but good luck finding one. There are still a few at some of the big city dealers and it’s worth noting that 2023 starting prices ($31,100) jumped by $3,500 compared to 2022 prices ($27,750), thanks to the inevitable law of supply and demand.
Ford will be opening the order books for 2024 Mavericks later this summer and following last year’s sellout, they have added 1,100 workers and a third shift to the manufacturing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico.
The Maverick’s success hasn’t just raised production targets, it’s also raised a lot of speculation and questions about possible competitors jumping into the fray.
Right now, it’s the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz. But will GM’s Chevy Montana make the jump north from South America? Could a Ram Dakota be revived? What about the Toyota Stout? The VW Scout? And, here’s a long shot, how about a resurrected Subaru Baja?
Anything’s possible when there are sales to be had but, getting back to our test subject, there are also questions and rumours about possible Maverick changes for 2024, including PHEV speculation, maybe a future EV? An ST-Line model? And hopeful questions about extending AWD to the Hybrid model (very pertinent to Canadians).
But I wouldn’t expect Ford to make too many changes when they’ve got a good thing going, especially after a sellout year.
We’ll see. Stay tuned.
2023 Ford Maverick Lariat Hybrid FWD
: two-row, five passenger compact crossover pickup
: eCVT, FWD
: 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine (162 hp) blended with a 94 kW electric motor for a combined 191 hp, 155 lb-ft of torque
: 5.8L/7.1L/100km (city/hwy). As tested 6.1L/100km (comb).
: 940 litres, 4.5-foot long cargo box
: 910 kg (2,000 lb) when properly equipped
: As tested $$47,405 (not incl $2,095 destination)