Remember as a kid you used to pull around that cute, red Radio Flyer wagon?
You loved it because it carried stuff, was easy to maintain, it shook-off knocks and scrapes, and for your parents, it was as cheap as chips to buy.
Fast forward to adulthood, and maybe it’s time to play with the big-boy version of that Radio Flyer, the 2022 Ford Maverick pick-up.
Let me start with this one little factoid about the Maverick: This four-door, five-seat hybrid compact truck with an EPA rating of 42mpg in the city, has a base sticker of just $19,995.
That’s pretty astonishing. Astonishing in that the Maverick’s price tag compares to the $47,000 average transaction price we’re paying for a new vehicle these days.
Of course, I hear you saying that no one in their right mind would want a $19,995 truck. Too stripped out, too basic, something that would make a ’70s Yugo feel like a luxury car.
I’ve just spent a week piloting a basic, battleship-gray Maverick XL, with steel wheels, hose-it-down cloth upholstery, and a key to start it – remember those? – and loved every second.
And it’s not because of the bargain-basement sticker. What Ford has so expertly done, is design and build a vehicle that is a blast to drive, super-practical, super-versatile, well-built and just so darned cool.
As Ford so rightly says, this is the truck for people who never knew they needed a truck.
Of course it’s not Ford-tough like an F-150. It’s based loosely on Ford’s front-wheel-drive Escape and Bronco Sport SUVs and built at the Blue Oval’s massive Hermosillo plant in Mexico.
But it’s been beefed up to carry 1,500 pounds in its 4.5-foot-long pick-up bed. In case you’re wondering, that’s equal to 37 40-pound bags of mulch. Or 18 sheets of 4-by-8 plywood.
Two different engines are of offer. The entry unit is arguably the most interesting in that it’s a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder coupled to a CVT transmission featuring a electric motor/generator. Yes, it’s a hybrid.
The engine packs 160 galloping horseys with the electric motor kicking-in an extra 31-hp to the party for a combined 191-hp. This is the one that’ll give you 42-to-the-gallon in the city.
Need more power? There’s a 2.0-liter 250-hp Ecoboost four-banger mated to an eight-speed automatic. The package will set you back an extra $1,085, but it’s worth it for its 4,000-pound towing capacity – the 2.5 pulls 2,000 pounds – plus you can only get four-wheel drive with the 2.0.
In addition to all this, there’s a choice of three trim levels, kicking off with the base XL, moving up to the XLT and topping off with the nicely-equipped Lariat model, which boasts “premium” vinyl seats.
I was totally happy with my honest-to-goodness base XL tester with its 2.0-liter engine and spray-in bedliner for a grand total $23,900.
I actually loved the retro feel to the cabin, with its wipe-down cloth upholstery, manual-adjust door mirrors, and big knobs to control the stereo and climate control. The key start never failed to make me smile.
And it’s hard not to smile when you drive the thing. The turbo engine has plenty of punch for zippy acceleration, and is Teflon smooth and refined.
Through the twisties it has a lovely solid and planted feel, while the steering feels precise the nicely-weighted. The pinch-tight turning radius whips you into parking spot with ease.
It’s no wonder then that this little Maverick has already won more awards than Kenny Chesney at the CMAs. The 2022 North American Truck of the Year was the biggie.
As new vehicles continue to become ridiculously expensive, and way-too technically complex, this no-frills Ford is just a breath of automotive fresh air.
Of course, the only problem these days is actually finding a Maverick, any Maverick, on a dealer lot. They’re flying off the shelf.