This week’s Daddy’s Digest car review takes us down the path of the compact pickup truck – and I’m talking an actual compact pickup – and not the bloated “compact” trucks that are closer to full-size half-ton trucks from twenty years ago. The 2022 Ford Maverick XLT AWD is a brand new offering from Ford, even though it uses an old nameplate from a compact sedan last seen in the 1970s.

Although many were perplexed by the idea of Ford ditching regular cars in favour of producing only trucks and sport utility vehicles, the Maverick happens to be one of the favourable by-products of this decision. Unlike many of today’s big honkin’ trucks, the Maverick is built on Ford’s unibody C2 platform, which underpins models such as the Escape and Bronco Sport compact SUVs. In other words, it’s built more like a car as opposed to a pickup truck – but that’s okay – it’ll be able to handle just about any sort of light duty that it was built to do.

Why Is the 2022 Ford Maverick XLT Important?

Up until just over a decade ago, the Ranger used to be a popular small pickup from Ford. In 2019, they brought it back, but to be honest, it’s really just an already-outdated existing overseas market truck that got brought to North America. Its pricing and capability get dangerously close to the half-ton F-150, to the point that one might as well get the F-150. The newer Ranger’s interior and powertrain refinement just aren’t there, either.

For plenty of people, the Ranger they wanted was the little regular or extended-cab Ranger that was sold up until 2011. A modest price combined with two or four-wheel drive and modest powertrain, interior, and equipment options, were what drew people in when they were looking for basic transportation that could do light-duty truck things. The 2022 Maverick is a return to this, and combines it with some smart packaging and design inside and out.

Easier on the Pocketbook

The base XL trim of the Maverick starts at $27,750 Canadian, which absolutely nobody else in the pickup truck market can touch. In fact, it’s the only choice that’s below $30,000 – everybody else is at $35,000 and up. The Hyundai Santa Cruz and Honda Ridgeline are the other two unibody pickups out there, and both start north of $40,000. Other “small” trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier can be much more than $40,000, too. To be fair, the cheapest Maverick is front-wheel drive and features a 2.5-litre hybrid four-cylinder powertrain, which means excellent fuel economy (rated at 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres combined) for those not needing as much power and hauling capability.

While the top of the line Lariat can surpass the forty-grand mark with options, the XLT tested here rings in at $40,070 as tested – and that’s with $9,070 in options. Standard equipment for the XLT includes automatic highlights and high beams, a power tailgate lock, cruise control, an 8-inch infotainment touch screen, forward collision warning with automatic braking, and remote keyless entry.

Among the extra-cost options in the aforementioned $9,070 include $1,120 for the FX4 off-road package (unique wheels with Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake rated all-terrain tires, unique suspension, front tow hooks, skid plates, trailer hitch with 4-pin connector, upgraded engine cooling), $1,115 for a power moonroof, $750 for the 4K Towing Package (upgrade to a Class III hitch with 7-pin connector, upgraded transmission cooling, shorter final drive ratio), and $3,300 for the XLT Luxury Package, which includes a power driver’s seat, 400W/110V inverter, drop-in bedliner, heated side mirrors, heated seats, a heated wiper park position, remote engine start, LED box lighting, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Inside and Out

The 2022 Ford Maverick isn’t a whole lot to look at on the outside. It’s plain, no-frills styling that isn’t offensive, but it also doesn’t try to be particularly daring. The Ford Canada test vehicle’s Hot Pepper Red Metallic paint and FX4 package with more aggressive tires do a lot to make things look better, and are definitely worth considering for any prospective buyer.

The inside of the Maverick is a reasonable stroke of genius. A pickup truck that costs this little is going to have a few more allowable exceptions on being cheap, but hear me out – this is good cheap, not bad cheap. In practice, this means that there are some corners cut in terms of material quality and a few creature comforts here and there, but it all makes great sense as a whole. Even so, the seat fabric looks and feels pretty good, and the hard plastics actually have some shape any styling to them. The orange accents are a nice contrast, and the ergonomics are generally good.

For the avid do-it-yourselfer, Ford has released aided design (CAD) files so that consumers can 3D print their own interior accessories with the Ford Integrated Tether System (FITS). These accessories can attach to the rear of the centre console, as well as the under-seat storage bins. Brilliant!

The 8-inch infotainment touch screen is larger than more expensive trucks, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity are much better this way. The base six-speaker audio (Bang & Olufsen is available on the Lariat) is actually pretty good, although plan on taking it a bit easier on the volume if rear seat passengers are on board – the speakers will be right in their ears.

Under the Hood

While the base front-wheel drive hybrid Maverick features a 2.5-litre inline four tied to a hybrid powertrain (making 191 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque), the uplevel engine tested this week is a 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged inline four. As the default engine for all-wheel drive models, it’s practically the same as what’s seen in the Escape and Edge SUVs. Power output is bumped up to a healthy 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque and is enough to make the Maverick boogie pretty well.

Although the 2.0-litre EcoBoost does have plenty of power on tap, it’s a bit of a wheezy engine that doesn’t sound incredibly good, especially when still warming up in cold weather. It also doesn’t feel too fast  – but rest assured, prominent automotive publication Car and Driver managed a 5.9-second sprint to 60 miles per hour (96 kilometres per hour), which has the potential to surprise some sports cars when going from stoplight to stoplight.

In terms of transmissions, front-drive hybrids get a continuously variable automatic (CVT), and all-wheel drive EcoBoost models get an eight-speed automatic. It’s a smooth-enough unit that does its work in the background and makes the most of the available power – anything better would cost a lot more money, and that’s not what the Maverick is about.

Truck Things – Towing and Hauling

First things first: if you have to tow and haul a significant amount, this little truck isn’t for you. But, like many pickup truck drivers, the bed and trailer hitch is empty most of the time, and the biggest workout it’ll ever see is a trip to the local hardware and home improvement big box store. For this – the 2022 Ford Maverick is great.

Payload capacity in the small four-and-half foot bed is 680 kilograms (1,500 pounds), which is in the same ballpark as the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Honda Ridgeline. This applies to both the base hybrid and up-level EcoBoost turbocharged engine. When equipped with the 4K Towing Package, the Maverick can tow 1,814 kilograms (4,000 pounds), and buyers without the package will have to make do with 907 kilograms (2,000 pounds) for either powertrain. That’s not a crazy amount, but it’s more than enough for a reasonably sized utility trailer, jet skis/snowmobiles, or a small boat.

For Dads and Families

Many pickup trucks are available in an extended cab body format, but that’s not the case here. The 2022 Maverick is equipped with four full doors, and can actually accommodate adults in the back seat reasonably comfortably. There’s a bit of storage underneath the rear seats to keep valuables out of sight.

What’s more, rear-facing child seats are also easy to do and don’t eat into front seat passenger space too badly. LATCH anchors exist on the outboard rear seating positions, and top tethers are available at all three rear seating positions. The rear seatback isn’t of the split-folding variety, however. Parents of children who need more than one forward-facing child seat may find it a pain to access the top tether mounts if they have to swap one or two seats in and out of the car regularly. See the photos below showing the top tether locations.

2022 Ford Maverick XLT AWD – Bottom Line

The 2022 Ford Maverick XLT AWD, as well as all of its other trim levels, represent the meeting of a demand that’s existed for a decade after truly compact pickup trucks started disappearing from the market. With shortages over the last year or two due to the global pandemic, getting your hands on a 2022 model might be pretty difficult – dealers may not even be taking orders for this model year anymore. There shouldn’t be any major changes for 2023, and that might be your best bet if you’re looking to secure one. The Maverick is a victim of its own success – and for good reason – it’s one of the best new vehicles to come out this year.

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About Jerry Vo

Jerry Vo cut his teeth in writing as an automotive journalist and is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Having reviewed cars since 2015, he takes pride in providing relevant and technically savvy consumer advice and is extending that over into reviews in various other categories at Daddy's Digest. He is a proud dad of one and is letting the wonderful journey of parenthood teach him new things every day.