Of all the misconceptions that exist in the modern auto market, the one that has countless Canadians convinced they need to own full-size trucks is among the most outlandish.
Worse still is the qualifier that comes with it that suggests something smaller like the Ford Maverick somehow doesn’t count as a “real truck” – as if the antiquated construction of a bloated body-on-frame rig is the stick by which realness is measured. Then again, those same skeptics might be the reason why the 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor exists in this first place. This rough-and-tumble version of Ford’s modern-day minitruck is out to prove it’s as real as it needs to be – flaws and all.
Much is made of the way unibody trucks like the Maverick – along with the longstanding Honda Ridgeline and the Hyundai Santa Cruz – look, with the one-piece body panels that connect the cab and bedsides often chided by critics. However, the Maverick wears its weirdness well, while this tester’s Hot Pepper paint ($600) and anodized yellow details add a sort of youthful playfulness. In particular, the painted wheel pockets look great wrapped in the moderately aggressive all-terrain tires that come with the Tremor package ($3,400).
The cabin echoes the youthful vibe, although it’s not accompanied by quite as much class as the exterior. The mix of colours, shapes, and textures is nothing if not unique, but some of the plastics inside look like the same stuff that’s used to make the kind of portable hand-wash stations you might find at an outdoor music festival. And while the unique grey upholstery features yellow stitching, as well as Tremor wordmarks on the front seats, a few more accents to match the exterior would have been welcome.
The Tremor package tweaks the Maverick’s functionality as well as its form, with a relatively mild 25-mm (one-in) suspension lift and some steel skid plates underneath to protect vital components. (There’s also a pair of anodized yellow recovery hooks poking out of the front bumper, but none in the back.) It also includes the same twin-clutch all-wheel drive system from the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands that can split torque and send it to the rear wheel that needs it most.
More generally, the Maverick packs the kind of practicality that most truck owners might actually use. The harsh reality is that cruising around in a half-ton – or bigger – just because you can is entirely unnecessary, not to mention fairly inconvenient when negotiating tight spaces and city streets. That’s where the pint-sized Maverick shines, with impressive manoeuvrability, a reasonably roomy cabin, an open bed around back, and the ability to haul as much as 680 kg (1,500 lb) worth of stuff.
The biggest letdown when it comes to the Maverick’s usefulness is a puzzling one: the tow package that allows it to pull 1,814 kg (4,000 lb) can’t be added alongside the Tremor kit. Repeated requests for an explanation from Ford’s Canadian media relations team went unanswered, leaving us to speculate that it likely has to do with differing drive ratios or tire sizes – or both. That means the most the Maverick Tremor can tow is 907 kg (2,000 lb).
Beyond that disappointing bit of news, the Maverick’s size lends well to its overall usability, with the 4-foot-5 bed featuring an incredibly low lift-in height. Even the bedsides make accessing cargo easier than it is in just about any other truck on the market, including the similarly sized Santa Cruz. Now consider this Ford’s right-sized footprint that makes driving it as easy as loading it with stuff, and its user-friendliness really starts to shine.
Likewise, the cabin is easy to access, with a low step-in height and large door openings. Once inside, it’s easy to get situated behind the wheel, with good outward visibility afforded by the big windows and tidy overall proportions of this truck, while the space inside is used well. The door pockets are large enough to fit a couple bottles – and more – in each, while the centre console sits low and out of the way to add a sense of roominess but boasts more space for small items.
The rear seats aren’t especially spacious, but even adults of average height will fit with relative ease. Better still, there are twin storage bins beneath the back bench to stash tools or other valuables out of sight, although there’s no way to lift just one side or the other. As an added bonus, there are child-seat anchors in both rear outboard positions.
There are airbags galore inside the Maverick, including side curtains, but standard advanced safety kit is limited to forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, and automatic high-beam control. Lane departure warning and keeping assistance, as well as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert can be added to the XL and XLT trims for $700, while the same package plus adaptive cruise control and lane-centring assist is an $850 upgrade that’s reserved for the Maverick Lariat – but it can only be added alongside a pricey luxury package ($4,100).
That same package – plus a more affordable $2,200 one in the XLT – is the only way to get heated front seats in the Maverick, which verges on unforgivable in today’s auto industry. (The Lariat’s add-on also includes a heated steering wheel.) That means spending at least $41,895 before tax to get a Maverick Tremor with heated front seats, and $47,945 if you want a heated steering wheel, too.
Otherwise, a few good features are standard inside the XLT trim tester here, including an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system – although the display itself looks a little odd inside a housing that could easily accommodate a larger screen – as well as wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. (The latter was deleted from this tester, with a $25 credit applied to its price tag instead.)
Meanwhile, the Lariat trim that the Tremor pack can also be added to gets extras like a power-adjustable driver’s seat wrapped in faux-leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, and push-button start (the ignition requires a key in the XLT trim), among a few others. It’s not an outstanding list by any stretch, but it covers the basics plus a bit more.
Ride quality suffers at least somewhat with the Tremor package added, with a stiffness that wasn’t noticed during our last test of the Maverick. It’s not necessarily uncomfortable, although it’s a little rickety over rough surfaces, as the stiff suspension can’t absorb imperfections as well as the standard setup. There’s also a bit more wind and road noise inside than there should be, but the driver’s seat offers reasonable comfort, support, and adjustability – even without powered mechanisms or heat.
Driving Feel: 7/10
If there’s one way the Tremor treatment is most noticeable it’s how this Maverick drives, with a properly truck-like feel from the driver’s seat. Turning the wheel, especially at low speeds, is met with a bit of resistance that extends beyond moving the squishy all-terrain tires. The throttle pedal also takes some time to grow accustomed to, with a slight touchiness that can lead to unexpected surges of speed that aren’t always asked for, while the eight-speed automatic transmission is prone to the clunky gear changes when accelerating from a stop.
This truck has all kinds of composure on the trail, however – not that the one traversed during this test was especially challenging, but the obstacles encountered were handled with ease. Climbing a short but steep, sandy incline with the all-wheel drive system locked to prevent the rear ones from disengaging, there was just a moment of wheelspin up front before the computer shuffled more torque to the back end, at which point the Maverick calmly climbed its way up the embankment and onto level ground.
While the Maverick is offered with the choice of hybrid or gas-only power, the former is front-wheel drive-only, and thus doesn’t jive with the Tremor image. (For what it’s worth, a Ford spokesperson said last year that the Maverick Hybrid could be offered with all-wheel drive if the demand for it existed.) Instead, there’s a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood of this truck that makes 250 hp and, more importantly, 277 lb-ft of torque. It sounds a little unrefined with a heavy foot applied to the throttle pedal, but there’s plenty of pull across the rev range.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Skip the Tremor package and the gas-powered Maverick is reasonably efficient next to the Santa Cruz, or even a similarly sized crossover; however, the combination of the unique all-wheel drive system and all-terrain tires pushes the official combined consumption rate from 9.8 L/100 km to 11.0 – and even that number was at first elusive during this week-long test.
After about 60 km of in-town commuting, combined consumption stood at 12.5 L/100 km. However, a good highway run – plus a brief trail test in the middle – saw that number drop to 10.5 L/100 km over the course of nearly 250 km. It runs on regular-grade gas.
The cheapest way to give the Maverick the Tremor treatment is to add it to the XLT trim tested here. That means a sticker price of at least $39,695 before tax (but including a non-negotiable freight charge of $2,095), which seems at least a little unreasonable considering that doesn’t even include heated front seats; to add them takes at least $2,200 more. Meanwhile, the Maverick Lariat is at least $43,145 before tax once the Tremor package has been added. But then this truck occupies a unique position in the market, with neither of its direct competitors available with packages like this.
All too often, half-ton fans go in on the price of smaller ones like the Maverick, citing the incentives automakers offer as justification to buy bigger trucks than they probably need. That’s still the wrong approach to take, although there is an argument to be made that the 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor is at least a little overpriced. But it has nothing to do with its size and everything to do with features like heated seats that cost far too much to add to an already expensive vehicle.
The bigger issue, though, is the fact the Tremor pack limits this truck’s towing capacity to just half of what the Maverick is capable of otherwise. To put it into perspective, the upcoming Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness that’s similarly adorned with off-road extras is rated to pull a claimed 1,588 kg (3,500 lb). That’s a subcompact crossover and this is a truck, size be damned.
If you can look past its shortcomings, the Maverick Tremor is a uniquely styled – and positioned – pickup that’s more spacious than it gets credit for, while offering reasonable real-world fuel efficiency and the kind of compact dimensions that make it more manoeuvrable than almost every other truck on the market. Its impressive abilities on the trail are just an added bonus.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||250 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||277 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.9 / 9.9 / 11.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||5'4" / 1,382 mm bed|
|Model Tested||2023 Ford Maverick XLT|
|Price as Tested||$41,780|
$5,385 – Tremor Off-Road package, $3,400; Ford Co-Pilot360, $700; Hot Pepper Red paint, $600; Spray-in bedliner, $560; Moulded splash guards, $150; Wi-Fi hotspot delete, -$25