Hybrid small-hauler
THE GOOD
  • Right-sized for the city
  • Functional interior
  • Hybrid fuel economy
THE BAD
  • No AWD on the hybrid
  • Towing capacity trails rivals
  • Extra-charge safety assist items

The Ford F-150 has been Canada’s best-selling vehicle for more than a decade now, but not everyone wants nor needs a truck that big.

If even the midsize Ranger is too much, you can now look at the compact 2022 Ford Maverick. It’s also available as a hybrid – and in a bit of an unusual twist, that’s the base powertrain. It starts in XL trim for $27,895, before tax but including a non-negotiable delivery charge of $1,995. I drove the next-step-up XLT, which starts at $30,795, while some options brought it to $35,665. Both trims can be optioned to a non-hybrid engine, which is the only choice in the top-line Lariat.

Styling: 8.5/10

The Maverick is based on the same platform as the Bronco Sport and Escape, but it looks more like a truck than a cut-down SUV – unlike its closest rival, the Hyundai Tucson-based Santa Cruz. The Ford comes only as a four-door, five-passenger crew cab, with 4-foot-5 bed. It looks well-planted, and rides on 17-inch wheels.

Getting inside, what you initially notice is the grey flecked plastic on the dash and doors. It’s mindful of the stuff in school bathrooms at first, but it quickly grew on me for its cool look and easy-to-clean nature. Rather than looking cheap, the plastic-heavy cabin seems fun and functional.

Safety: 7.5/10

The Maverick hasn’t yet been rated by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which reduces its score here.

Standard assist items include emergency front braking, automatic high-beam headlights, and the back-up camera that’s mandatory on all new vehicles. If you want more, you have to add an $850 package that gives you blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and hill descent control. Adaptive cruise control is only available on the top-level Lariat, as an option.

Features: 7.5/10

The Maverick is relatively basic. One up from the base XL, my XLT included 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a manual driver’s seat, eight-inch touchscreen, conventional cruise control, a storage bin under the rear seat, Type-A and Type-C USB ports, a locking tailgate, and turn-key ignition – which I prefer to a push-button start, although many drivers don’t.

Along with the aforementioned safety suite, my tester was optioned with an XLT Luxury package for $3,150. It added items including an eight-way driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, remote engine starter, heated body-colour door mirrors, a trailer hitch; and in the bed, a drop-in liner, LED lighting, tie-down rails, and a 110-volt outlet. If you opt for the gas-only all-wheel-drive model, you can also add an FX4 Off-Road package, or a higher-capacity towing package.

User Friendliness: 9/10

Full-size trucks have become so big that it can be tough to climb into them. The Maverick instead is accessible for entry and exit, and reaching into the bed. The low, straight hood improves visibility and gives it the feel of a bigger truck.

The simple-looking dash uses buttons and dials to operate the climate system and stereo. The infotainment screen looks a bit dated, but it’s intuitive and easy to use.

Practicality: 8.5/10

The Maverick’s payload is 680 kg (1,500 lb), and the bed can be fitted with dividers to carry bicycles. Towing capacity for the hybrid is 907 kg (2,000 lb), which trails the Santa Cruz and slightly larger Honda Ridgeline with their maximum of 2,267 kg (5,000 lb).

The cabin has virtually the same head- and legroom as the Santa Cruz. The rear seats flip up for extra cargo storage. The interior is designed for maximum functionality, including half-handles on the doors so you can stand a tall water bottle behind them; a phone holder in the centre console; and lots of small-item storage, including an open bin in the upper dash. I still haven’t figured out the point of the seemingly pointless little cubby in the centre screen’s bezel, though.

Comfort: 8/10

You won’t mistake the Maverick for the lushness of an F-150 Platinum, but it’s still a comfortable little truck – especially if you opt for the XLT Luxury package with its power-adjustable heated driver’s seat. I prefer these cloth seats to leather, and they provide an upright position and good support.

It’s not the quietest cabin, especially since the hybrid system can make some odd noises while driving, but the ride is smooth and composed. The climate control is only single-zone but has an automatic setting. Rear-seat passengers get relatively good legroom for the truck’s size, and a centre armrest with cup holders courtesy of the Luxury option.

Power: 8/10

The hybrid uses a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that makes 162 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque on its own, and a net 191 hp when working in tandem with the electric hybrid motor. It’s mated to an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT), and strictly drives the front wheels. It’s a full hybrid, automatically switching between gasoline, electricity, or a combination of both. Its acceleration isn’t swift but it’s smooth and linear, and should be enough for most in everyday driving.

Optional with the XL and XLT trims, and exclusive for the Lariat, is a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine, making 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque and with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, and can be optioned with an off-road package, or with a towing package to pull up to 1,814 kg (4,000 lb). It’s naturally thirstier than the hybrid, but if you want all-wheel drive, it’s the choice you have to take.

Driving Feel: 8/10

The Maverick may be based on an SUV, but it feels like a small truck, and that’s very much a compliment. The steering is nicely-weighted and not too light, and the vehicle is responsive and with a tight turning circle. The switch from gas to electric is mostly seamless. The brakes perform well, without the artificial feel you can sometimes get with these regenerative systems as the electric motor works in reverse to capture energy to charge the hybrid battery.

I ended up on snowy roads a few times, where I would have preferred all-wheel drive, given the truck’s lighter rear end. Moving up to the 2.0L with all-wheel traction adds another $2,500 to the XLT’s asking price.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The Maverick hybrid is officially rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 5.6 L/100 km in the city, 7.1 on the highway, and 6.3 combined. (Hybrids get better city mileage over highway because they can run more often on the battery alone.) In a week of bitterly-cold weather, I averaged 8.6 L/100 km, which seemed in line with realistic expectations.

If you choose the optional non-hybrid 2.0L, it’s rated at 9.6 L/100 km in combined driving. Both are better than the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which is rated at 10.8 L/100 km but with more horsepower and torque; and the 11.5 L/100 km racked up by the Honda Ridgeline.

Value: 8/10

At a starting price of $30,795 with delivery, and optioned to $35,665, my XLT felt reasonable. The tough part for many people will be getting past the idea of “buying by the pound” – if a truck is this much, it should be this big. Instead, it’s about paying for the size that’s right for you.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is much pricier, running between $40,424 and $46,624 with delivery. But it also has standard all-wheel drive, considerably more features, and a more luxurious interior. The other SUV-based truck option, the Honda Ridgeline, starts at $47,536.

The Verdict

Buyers will cross-shop the Santa Cruz, but I see the Ford as a truck, while the Hyundai is a sport-ute with a bed. They’re equally good at what they are, and it’ll likely come down to price, and whether you want a plain-and-simple Maverick, or a more upscale Santa Cruz.

Midsize trucks didn’t knock full-size ones off their perch, and this compact Maverick certainly won’t, either. But it’s a useful, good-looking, well-sized, and fuel-efficient vehicle that will suit a lot of people who want a small truck, and is definitely worth a test-drive.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.5L   Model Tested 2022 Ford Maverick XLT Hybrid
Engine Cylinders I4   Base Price $28,800
Peak Horsepower 191 net hp   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque N/A   Destination Fee $1,995
Fuel Economy 5.6 / 7.1 / 6.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $35,765
Cargo Space 943 L  
Optional Equipment
$4,870 – Alto Blue Metallic paint, $450; All-weather floor mats, $200; XLT Luxury Package, $3,150; Manual rear sliding window, $220; Ford Co-Pilot 360, $850