Maverick Hybrid is quick, agile — and secure

John Gilbert

 Near dusk, new Maverick hybrid pickup took on a mystical blue glow from Lake Superior – then automatically locked me out. Photo by John Gilbert.

There are so many elements that go into building a successful pickup truck, or vehicle of any kind, that it is fun to pull together your favorites list of elements and see how it stacks up with the pro evaluators before you make personal evaluations for your own decisions.

Last week, in discussing the enormous Ford F-350 with its 6.7-liter turbo-diesel engine that seemingly could pull a whole neighborhood behind it, the only logical conclusion we might all agree on is that it is simply – too BIG to get through a reasonably sized neighborhood. Huge pickups like the F-350, or the previously tested Ram Rebel that is similarly sized but lacks even the Ford’s power-sliding running boards, make it challenging to back off and not get lost amid a torrent of sarcasm.

Next to those, dropping back into the far more logical size and reasonableness of the Ram 1500 or Ford F-150 is an exercise in relief, for one thing. Going a step below “full-sizes” gets you into the Maverick, and that’s where we’re spending some time this afternoon.

But be prepared for an all-new surprise, just when you’d thought you’d seen everything! First off, I have test-driven several Mavericks since Ford brought out its most recent “toy,” which showed up about the same time as the Bronco, Ford’s application of a new-sized SUV that us filling Ford showrooms at about the same rate as it is filling coffers at Ford dealerships throughout the land.

Now, if you don’t need to haul heavy objects regularly, or tow gigantic trailers filled with who-knows-what, you probably can get by without anything near a full-sized pickup. And if you would prefer to get reasonable fuel economy and maneuver around town to find good parking places, you can save a bundle on the sticker price as well as the maintenance costs with something like the Maverick.

For openers, the new test vehicle had front-wheel drive, which gave it a distinct boost in handling and maneuvering compared to competitors. It is powered by Ford’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder, which delivers 191 horsepower and 155 foot-pounds of torque, both of which are more than adequate for such a small, quick vehicle

As Ford continues to roll out new models and variations on its highly successful scheme, it occasionally trips itself up. One example is that the front-wheel drive works very weekly in all circumstances, and you can depend on it when ut gets slippery out, with its traction control and stability devices.

All-wheel-drive would be even better, and you cn get AWD with the Maverick, but NOT with the hybrid model. Some other driver-control safety items are in place, too. That’s where it tricked me.

I decided to park the Maverick in a North Shore parking spot, and use Lake Superior as my favorite background. It’s always a good move to get some photos while the vehicle is still clean after delivery. So I parked next to Lester River, facing out at the big lake. I also like to try different views with the headlights on, just for effect, so I left the engine running at idle, and jumped out.

As I walked around to check how the fading sunlight was amplifying the rich, dark blue paint job, I chose my angles, and shot a few front corner, side and rear corner views. Then I decided to climb back into the driver’s seat for a few gauge close-ups.

Oops!  Big mistake, and big miscalculation. The door was locked! One of those wonderful, safety-oriented self-locking gadgets that locked me out. Now what? The test-Maverick was one of those rare, new vehicles that requires you to insert the ignition key into the ignition and turn it in order to fire it up. So I had no choice but to leave the key in the ignition when leaving the vehicle running.

There I was, on the outside looking in, and walking around the Maverick, shooting photos and pondering my fate. Finally, I thought I might as well try the rear door, out of inquisitveness, and it was open! I flung open the door and climbed in.

My plan was to climb between the front bucket backrests and sort if tumble into one if the front seats, but that would be a trick. So instead, I found the industrial-strength ice scraper on the floor off the back seat, reached dramatucakky between those seats and tapped the edge if the scraper on the tiny little box that encloses the switch for the power lock. “Click,” it said.

I didn’t wait for any more response, diving out the rear door and pulling the handle on the front door before it could change its mind. I was out and back in with a bound, and I drove home before attempting to experiment with all the possible alternatives that electronic gadget might select. I adjusted four or five of them, and I finished the week without ever challenging its vaguely stubborn choices. But I made sure to hold that key in my pocket for the remaining days of me week!

At a base price in the high $30,000 range and an option-loaded sticker of $52,000, I really enjoyed driving the Maverick Lariat Hybrid, with its 32 miles-per-gallon city driving range that veers up and over 42 mpg with judicious attention to the steering wheel and gas pedal.