CHATHAM, Mass. – Just one look and there is no mistaking the new 2021 Ford Maverick XL as anything but a pickup truck. And Ford, one of the world’s leading producers of pickup trucks refers to it as such even though its small size and unibody design do not follow traditional pickup standards.

The Maverick, which can be had in front-wheel drive (FWD) gas-hybrid or gasoline fueled powertrain as well as all-wheel drive (AWD) with gasoline-fueled engine — thanks to its compact-SUV dimensions and fuel efficiency — is a pickup made for everyday suburban, urban driving as well as maneuvering through the tight confines of Cape Cod’s small towns and villages.

Priced to allow almost anyone into the pickup-truck universe

We spent time in a base Maverick XL FWD hybrid with some key option packages including Ford Co-Pilot360™ ($650) advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS), spray-in bedliner ($495), trailer-hitch receiver ($100), floor liners ($235), full-size spare tire ($155) and bed extender ($370).

These options, along with the $1,495 destination & delivery charge brought the as-tested price of the Maverick XL to $23,395 – a terrific value for a modern, well-equipped hauler (which has a base price of $19,995).

Couple the low price with the exceptional fuel economy of the hybrid powertrain – our average was 39.7 miles per gallon achieved even with a hybrid-detrimental ton of highway miles (the federal Environmental Protection Agency says 37 overall, 42 city, 33 highway) – results in solid ownership value.

Powertrain pieces for a modern world

Under the squared-off Maverick hood sits a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine which when combined with the Ford-designed and built electric traction motor provides 191 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. This power goes to the front wheels through an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

This might not be the most powerful pickup powertrain, but it allows the Maverick XL a 1,500-pound payload and the ability to tow a trailer of up to 2,000 pounds.

(For those who need extra grunt for greater payload capacity or trailer loads, opting for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder gas engine, eight-speed automatic transmission and FWD or AWD, brings 250 hp and 277 lb.-ft. as well as — with optional 4K Tow Package — the ability to handle a 4,000-pound trailer.)

The suspension features MacPherson-type struts with coil springs, twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks, stabilizer bars, aluminum control arms, steel sub-frame and cast knuckle up front and independent, twist-beam rear suspension with integrated stabilizer bar, Ford-patented “force vectoring springs”’ and twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressurized dampers.

Power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock (ABS) is supplemented in the Maverick XL hybrid with regenerative braking which both slows the truck and recharges the battery.

Completing the chassis pieces are 17-inch steel wheels painted sparkle silver with 225/65R17 all-season tires.

All these elements add up to a very reasonable ride, especially considering I always drove it with an empty bed (once the weakness of pickup-truck ride and handling). The power is more than adequate for everyday activities and highway maneuvers.

2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid XLT interior. Preproduction vehicle with optional equipment shown. Available fall 2021.

Base does not mean basic technology

The Ford Co-Pilot360 Package provides a comprehensive suite of ADAS including Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go; Lane Centering and Evasive Steering Assist available; Auto High Beams; BLIS® with Cross-Traffic Alert available; Intersection Assist; Lane-Keeping System; Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection and Forward Collision Warning; Post-Collision Braking; Rear, and Rear-View Camera.

The technology carries over into the cabin where an 8-inch center-stack color touch screen dominates. It is the heart of the infotainment system which in the Maverick XL includes AM/FM/Bluetooth streaming audio/Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The interior tech also features WiFi, fade-to-off interior lighting, manual air conditioning, USB-A and USB-C outlets and a 4.2-inch multi-function instrument-cluster screen.

Carrying stuff: a pickup strong point

Cubbies, bins and under-rear-seat storage provides numerous areas inside the Maverick XL to stow stuff, but it is cargo box, the bed which has all kinds of useful tricks, so Ford christened it FLEXBED™.

According to Ford, “FLEXBED gives customers organization and storage solutions to secure cargo, while accommodating Ford accessories and creative do-it-yourself solutions. The [Maverick] team developed its features after watching people at home improvement and furniture stores as well as college kids moving into their dorms, observing how they struggled to load things into small crossovers and cars while working around the cargo limitations they faced.

“People can create segmented storage, bike racks, and other DIY solutions by sliding 2x4s or 2x6s into slots stamped into the side of the bed. There are two tie-downs, four D-rings and built-in threaded holes in the sides to bolt in new creations.”

The 4.5-foot bed can carry 1,500 pounds of payload, the equivalent of roughly 37 bags of 40-pound mulch and has a six-foot floor with the tailgate down. Maverick can carry long and wide stuff too, thanks to its multi-position tailgate. It opens normally, but also has a halfway-open position – just unclip the support cables and hook them onto the latch pins.

The tailgate features tie-down clamps that double as bottle openers and is rated to hold 500 pounds of friends hanging out and taking a seat. The bed floor and sides are low, so almost any size adult can reach over and grab items off the floor.

Clever, value, efficient

The new Ford Maverick XL hybrid makes owning a pickup truck a much more reasonable proposition for those who do not want – or need – the scale of today’s full-size and mid-size trucks, but who do want the versatility the open-bed provides for their lifestyle.

It brings compact – or better – SUV fuel economy and a sticker price rivaling the least expensive vehicles sold in the U.S.

And its unique size and look means it makes as large a statement as the most impressive of its full-sized brethren. There is a lot to like about this little truck!

Next week TBR Drives the Range Rover Evoque.