2022 Ford Maverick Lariat First Edition Review: Compact Pickup Holds Up Fully-Loaded

  • Rapid Red Tri-Coat Metallic suits Maverick nicely
  • First Edition decal accents are eye-catching
  • Adaptive Cruise Control a big plus
  • A driving mode for nearly every daily situation
  • More down-to-earth than the Hyundai Santa Cruz in every way possible
  • SYNC 3 not the most aesthetically pleasing infotainment system around
  • Hybrid, front-wheel drive EcoBoost are the better options for fuel savings
  • Rapid Red Tri-Coat Metallic only available with First Edition
  • A front camera would make parking easier

Decades ago, small pickups were everywhere, handling the small daily tasks while the big rigs did all the heavy work. They were also the perfect platform for custom builds, from flashy paint jobs to turning up the power. Then, they all disappeared, and the big boys took over not only all the work and space on the SEMA Show floor, but also every aspect of life on the road and track.

Today, there are two new small trucks for consideration against the mid- and full-size giants: the Hyundai Santa Cruz and the Ford Maverick. Both are unibody rides with either front- or all-wheel drive, and both are oriented towards recreation and running errands in town. Recreation was the order of the day for the 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat First Edition, which I took to and from Louisville, Kentucky for my annual trip to cover the National Street Rod Association's Street Rod Nationals, the largest street rod gathering in the U.S., for my various freelance clients. Though SlashGear doesn't usually cover shows like the Nationals, this Maverick's appearance certainly caught the eye of more than a few street rodders in and around the grounds of the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Not your daddy's Maverick

The first Maverick was Ford's first attempt to fight the Japanese imports swooping into the U.S. in the early seventies, one that worked out well in the fallout from the 1973 oil crisis. It also wasn't planned to last beyond a single generation, its original replacement intended to be the 1975 Granada before finally passing the torch to the 1978 Fairmont. Still, the compact car was a hit for the Blue Oval, 578,914 copies sold between April 1969 and the end of the 1970 model year alone. A total of 2.1 million Mavericks — plus nearly 500,000 copies of its Mercury sibling, the Comet — left the factory over the majority of the seventies.

Fast forward to 2021. Ford brings back the Maverick name for its 2022 entry into the re-emerging compact truck category, which currently includes just the aforementioned Hyundai Santa Cruz. Unlike either the original compact car from the seventies, or the second- and third-generation Ranger from the nineties into the early new '10s (Ford's last compact pickup), the new Maverick is a unibody crew cab with a short bed based on Ford's C2 platform, shared with the Bronco Sport and Escape. And like the vehicle that wore the nameplate first, the new Maverick hit a home run in its first year. So much so that orders for the default hybrid configuration had to close early in 2022, leaving the front- and all-wheel-drive EcoBoost models – like our Lariat First Edition – as the only options available until the 2023 order book opened on August 1, 2022.

Styling and profiling for the crowd

Between the two new compacts — both of which have more in common with coupe utilities like the Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero than the standard cab-plus-bed-on-full-frame compact trucks of the past — the Ford Maverick looks more like a truck than the slick 'n' fancy Santa Cruz. From the broad face up front to the dramatic transition between cab and bed out back, the compact truck lives up to what Ford expects out of their full line of pickups, including the current Ranger (now a midsize truck) and the F-Series family of full-size rigs. The Maverick even has a little nod to the F-Series under the sideview mirrors: a curve in the door panels echoing the beltline cut-out for the glass on the F-150 and Super Duty's front doors.

How, then, can this styling and profiling be turned up to 11? If you were lucky enough to snag one while the 2022 order book was still open, you could get your Maverick Lariat with the First Edition Package. Said package includes special "First Edition" decals for the hood and sides, a black-painted roof with matching skull caps for the side mirrors, a power tilt/slide moon roof, and a soft-folding tonneau cover. If you were fast enough to sign up for the hybrid version, you also got 18-inch black-painted wheels; otherwise, 17-inch aluminum wheels would be mounted in a set of Falken Wildpeaks. Finally, you could get your First Edition in either Area 51 or package-exclusive Rapid Red Tri-Coat Metallic.

As I learned, though, you have to do some massaging of Ford's online configurator to get the exact ride I received for the week. In fact, I thought my ride was a one-off until I went through the configurator again, which amounted to checking off the EcoBoost with all-wheel drive first, then scrolling down to add the First Edition package (which defaults to Area 51 for paint color), and finally checking Rapid Red in the paint section. Once set, though, all was well in the world (and on the street).

Hybrid or EcoBoost choice depends on your wallet

Whichever way you configure your Maverick, two powertrain options are on the table. Those who got in early could pick the Hybrid with its 2.5-liter inline-four and CVT moving 191 ponies to only the front wheels (no all-wheel drive option for the Hybrid thus far). The other option is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo-four with an eight-speed automatic directing the 255 horses to either the front or, with the AWD box ticked off, all corners. Either choice can pull up to 2,000 pounds and haul up to 1,500 pounds in the short bed. 

However, only the EcoBoost with all-wheel drive can receive the 4K Tow Package (which my Maverick had), featuring upgrades to the powertrain cooling systems, plus a brake controller and a trailer hitch receiver with 7-pin connector to allow the Maverick to tow up to 4,000 pounds. The aforementioned combo is also the only one that'll let you pick the FX4 off-road package, adding all-terrain tires, front tow hooks, and drive modes for sandy, muddy and rutted surfaces.

Now that the 2023 order book is open, though, the choice is there again to opt for either the Hybrid or the EcoBoost. Which one should you choose? If fuel and financial savings are what you seek, it's no contest: the Hybrid's 42 city, 33 highway, 37 combined mpg rating and up to 511 miles on a single tank will cover most trips, including most of my drive to and from Louisville, a six-hour, 400-mile journey.

Alas, the EcoBoost with all-wheel drive hit my wallet hard, thanks to its 22 city, 29 highway, 25 combined mpg rating and up to 412 miles of range on a single tank. I managed an average of 26.5 mpg thanks mainly to the long-distance drives I made during the week it was with me. Good thing I had a few discounts to use to get back home to Virginia.

In the lap of (Lariat) luxury

The Lariat trim level of the Maverick is plenty fancy on its own. The First Edition package, though, also includes both the Lariat Luxury and Ford Co-Pilot 360 packages, taking things up several notches. Inside the cab, the front seats are heated, as are the steering wheel and side mirrors. Two smart-charging USB ports and a wireless charging cradle await any smartphones needing a fuel stop. 

Then, of course, there's the eight-inch center console touchscreen with the very tiny storage cubby on its right with SYNC 3 plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The aging SYNC 3 infotainment system isn't the most aesthetically pleasing system around (especially when systems like SYNC 4/4a and especially Android Automotive OS have since arrived), so it's best to keep your iPhone or Pixel at the ready for prettier interfaces.

The rear bench easily folds up to reveal the storage spaces underneath, including the one on the passenger side that would otherwise be occupied by the battery for the hybrid system in the Maverick Hybrid. Throw in the long all-weather mat, and not only will you have the perfect place to haul groceries, but also messier items. And since the Maverick is positioned for do-it-yourself types, the rear bench passengers can bring their own 3D-printed cup holders for whatever bottles or cups they have, attaching it to the slot in front of the rear USB and 12-volt outlet array. QR codes scattered around the cabin and bed lead to online instructions for those DIY projects. The seats are comfortable, too, whether draped in leather or fabric.

Working and playing in the Bluegrass State

For the week the 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat First Edition was with me, it served mainly as my work truck for covering the NSRA Street Rod Nationals for various clients. The Nationals is one of my favorite events to attend, though I'll need one of those motorized mobility rides or a golf cart to really cover everything in the years to come. If I had one this year, it certainly would've had a ride every day in the back of the bed with the tonneau cover folded up. The low loading area of the bed would also make it easy to load and unload such a device to cruise around the grounds of the Kentucky Exposition Center, too.

In some ways, though, the Maverick was that mobility scooter for me, carrying me between the NSRA Autocross in the massive rear parking lot and the rear entrance to the expo center floor where all the vendors hocked their wares to the thousands in attendance in an air-conditioned, storm- and sun-free space. It even fit right in with the many Ford F-Series tow rigs at the autocross, as seen above.

Thanks to the various weather conditions in Louisville during the week of the Nationals, I got a chance to test out all of the driving modes the Maverick had to offer, from Sport for punching it onto the interstate to Slippery for traversing between my dad's house and the expo center through the rain. I even gave Eco mode a go in order to save fuel, though I don't think it did as much as it should have. And I can't forget Adaptive Cruise Control, a feature I first tried out in a convoy of Ford Broncos on my way back from off-roading the Bronco Everglades in Northern Michigan. ACC is definitely meant for cruising more than anything, but it comes in handy during a slow-down in traffic. The power from the EcoBoost put a smile on my face more than a few times, too, especially when pulling out of my dad's driveway to start the day.

A hit then, a hit now

Like all of the street rods, custom pickups and muscle cars participating in the Nationals, the Maverick drew in many fans wherever it went. A curious driver of a Cyber Orange Ford Ranger looked all over the truck while I was eating breakfast at Sheetz in my Virginia home. A group of Ford dealership employees at the NSRA Autocross going over the truck on my way for the next part of my day. My dad and stepmom were impressed by the compact pickup. Nearly all of them asked one question: what did I think about the Maverick?

If I had to part ways with my 1997 Toyota RAV4, two of my choices would be either the Bronco Sport Badlands or the Maverick. Now that the Tremor package is available for the Maverick — which includes the Badlands' HOSS off-road suspension stability system, all-wheel drive system and torque-vectoring rear-drive unit — that decision is tougher to make. Compared to the Hyundai Santa Cruz, though, I would take the Maverick full-stop. For one thing, while the Hyundai looks as great as the Maverick, I'm not a fan of the haptic-sensor center console it shares with the Tucson. The Ford just feels more down to earth, especially with its pricing: base MSRP begins at $20,995 for the 2022 XL Hybrid; total MSRP for my Maverick Lariat First Edition was $36,295.

At the end of the sixties, Ford delivered one of its best compact cars with the Maverick. So far, Dearborn's done it again with the new '20s' take on the compact truck, also bearing the Maverick name. Will it, too, be a one-generation wonder like the seventies import fighter, or is a second generation down the road? Only time and consumer demand will tell.