If given an unlimited budget, I reckon I could make a pretty good TV advert for the Ford Maverick. We’d open on a wide helicopter shot of the dusty, scrubby Mojave desert, near the famed Edwards Air Force Base in California. A plume of dust is being kicked into the air as we see a square-shaped pickup truck bumping its way across the dirt. It swerves through a fence gate and on to the runway of the air base, driving past a line of parked fighter jets as it does so. Drawing to a halt, the driver gets out and we see that it is none other than Tom Cruise, wearing aviator sunglasses in full Pete “Maverick” Mitchell style. He turns to the camera and simply says: “If you’re going to drive, why not drive me?”
The camera cuts to the tailgate of the truck, showing us that this is the Ford Maverick, and then pulls back showing it parked next to a vast Ford F-150 pickup, demonstrating that like Tom Cruise himself, the Maverick is almost comically small.
It’s almost as if Ford built the Maverick specifically as a riposte to all those who (rightly, for the most part) criticise the sheer bulk and weight of the full-size American pickup truck. Unlike the hulking F-150, the Maverick is small and car based — it uses the same chassis as the Ford Kuga SUV and is even quite closely related to the Focus. It’s even dwarfed by the Ford pickup that we do get on this side of the Atlantic, the Ranger.
Why no Maverick here, then? On the face of it, it seems like an ideal vehicle for the European market, mixing useful utilitarianism with Euro-friendly size and economy. You can even buy it as a hybrid, using the same 2.5-litre hybrid engine as the Kuga. That’s not the version we’re driving today, sadly — this one is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Production of the hybrid version is apparently fitful at the moment, a victim of the rumbling microchip crisis.
Mind you, even in this non-hybrid form, the Maverick is pretty frugal. A Ranger with a diesel engine will struggle to do better than nine litres per 100km on a long journey, but on a four-hour haul from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, this petrol-engined Maverick is averaging 35 miles per US gallon, which works out at about 6.7 litres per 100km. A few times on the journey, our average economy actually hits a peak of 6.1 litres per 100km, so in spite of its bluff, square styling the Maverick is pretty economical.
It’s also useful. Okay, so the load bay is obviously smaller than that of the bigger Ranger, and at 500kg its maximum payload is only about half that of the bigger truck, but then this is not really a vehicle aimed at hard-working tradespeople. A Maverick is more apt to be lugging mountain bikes than piles of timber, more likely to be carrying your rubbish to the recycling centre than the equipment and supplies to actually build that centre. In those terms, the Maverick is hugely practical and there are endless accessories for that load bed, from covers to power outlets and even a built-in bottle opener (soft drinks only, please).
It’s a pretty brisk thing to drive, too. This 2.0-litre engine has a healthy 250hp, and the Maverick will hit 100km/h in a little over seven seconds — knocking on for junior hot hatch pace. Because it’s Kuga based, it’s also good to drive. The steering isn’t quite so sharp as that of the Kuga, but it still has most of the sort of liquid precision that you’d expect from a Ford, and through the few corners that we can find along the California-Nevada border, it sweeps along very pleasantly. The only downside here is the ride quality, which can best be described as “awful”. If European sales ever were to become a reality, the Maverick’s suspension would definitely need a retune.
No complaints about the cabin, though. There’s a smattering of familiar dials, buttons, and screens from the Focus, Kuga, and Puma and it all works rather nicely together. Quality levels are more rugged than they are luxurious, but the interior is nicely styled and there’s lots of useful storage space. Our mid-spec XLT model came with a Bang & Olufsen stereo, a 7in infotainment screen, and part-leather trim. There’s enough space in the back for family use (enough, not masses) so it’s practical enough.
All of this makes the Maverick rather hugely appealing. Like its big US market rival, the Hyundai Santa Cruz, it takes a lot of the good stuff about bigger pickups — the utility, the rugged styling — and distils them down into a more compact shape, with far less of the bulk and weight that blight larger vehicles. It has some of the spirit of Ford’s early cars, such as the Model T and Model A, which were as much about being useful as they were about being stylish, and that seems ever more appealing in a world obsessed with empty marketing and valueless brand values. This is not a mere car, it’s an all-round useful device.
The shame of it all is that it’s just not coming here. Quite apart from the fact that the Maverick has been wildly successful in the US, and Ford is struggling to keep up with orders there, there’s the fact that the market for pickups has collapsed in Europe. Mercedes, Nissan, and Renault have all pulled out of the pickup market, as has Mitsubishi. Really, only the Ranger, the VW Amarok, the Toyota HiLux, and the Isuzu D-Max are left. No wonder Ford isn’t keen on dropping the Maverick into a retreating market. Hyundai’s not bringing the stylish Santa Cruz here either.
I’d argue that’s a mistake, though. The Maverick (and Santa Cruz) aren’t traditional pickups. They’re light, compact models, both available as hybrids which mix the best aspects of pickups and SUVs into a useful whole, doing away with the needless corpulence of the bigger trucks. It’s even well priced — the basic US price works out at €21,000. Even once you start adding Irish taxes to that, it’s not going to be unreasonably expensive. It’s a genuine shame that European customers aren’t even going to get the chance to buy a Maverick. Maybe Tom Cruise could convince Ford.