The humble, unibody pickup is often overlooked in favor of its brawnier, pricier siblings. But thanks to this week’s reveal of the Ford Maverick, the segment is finally receiving some much deserved attention.
Today, we’re taking stock of how Ford’s latest truck compares to its two closest rivals — the Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz — as well as a few slightly larger midsize pickups that one might cross-shop against it. Like the Maverick itself, the category of “compact” pickup is pretty small these days, though if this truck’s sales are as hot as the interest is for it right now, don’t be surprised to see other brands get in the game.
First, let’s begin with a recap of the Maverick’s most pertinent specs.
- Price: The base 2.5-liter hybrid Maverick XL starts at $21,490, including a $1,495 destination fee. That rises to $22,575 for the 2.0-liter Ecoboost version. Then there’s the mid-tier XLT, at $23,775, and the range-topping Lariat, at $26,985. Both those prices are for the hybrid; the Ecoboost tacks on about $1,085 to each. Oh, and if you want all-wheel drive, you must get an Ecoboost, and that’ll set you back another $3,305.
- Length: 199.7 inches; 4-foot, 6-inch bed
- Power: Base hybrid 2.5-liter inline-four with 191 HP and 155 lb-ft torque; optional Ecoboost 2.0-liter inline-four with 250 HP and 277 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: CVT for hybrid; 8-speed automatic for Ecoboost
- MPG City/Average/Highway: 40/37/TBA for hybrid; Ecoboost estimates TBA
- Max Payload/Towing (lbs): 1,500/2,000; 4K Tow Package ($745) for Ecoboost raises max towing to 4,000.
- Standard Features: LED headlights; pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking; 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; FordPass Connect with remote start; Flexbed with multi-position tailgate, storage, electrical access and tiedowns
- Price: The base Ridgeline Sport starts at $37,665 including a $1,175 destination fee, but all trims feature all-wheel drive and the same 3.5-liter V6. The mid-tier RTL costs $40,645 and the top-line RTL-E costs $43,595.
- Length: 210.2 inches; 5-foot, 4-inch bed
- Power: 3.5-liter V6 with 280 HP and 262 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- MPG City/Average/Highway: 18/21/24
- Max Payload/Towing (lbs): 1,583/5,000
- Standard Features: Honda Sensing with emergency braking and road departure warning systems; 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; dual-action tailgate; in-bed trunk
The Honda Ridgeline is a unibody truck with a crew cab, and, well, that’s about all it shares in common with the Maverick. The Ridgeline has a bed that’s 10 inches longer, comes with all-wheel drive standard and its only engine, a V6, offers 30 more horsepower than the Maverick’s most powerful motor (though, interestingly, a little less torque). It can also tow more than double what the Maverick can from the outset.
The tradeoff to all this, of course, is a much higher base price than Ford’s offering, with the Ridgeline starting at over $16,000 more than the Maverick before you add any options. Though, if you’re interested in the Maverick in large part for its hybrid powertrain and excellent projected fuel economy, you’re never going to get that from the bigger, V6-powered Ridgeline, no matter what you spend.
- Price: TBA, but we know there will be four trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Premium and Limited. There will be two engines on offer and all-wheel drive will be optional. For what it’s worth, the 2022 Tucson on which the Santa Cruz is based starts at $24,950, so figure mid-to-high twenties for a ballpark estimate.
- Length: 195.7 inches; 4-foot, 4-inch bed
- Power: Base 2.5-liter inline-four with 191 HP and 181 lb-ft torque; optional turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four with 281 HP and 311 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic for base engine; 8-speed dual-clutch automatic for optional engine
- MPG City/Average/Highway: 21/23/27 for base engine; 19/22/27 for optional engine
- Max Payload/Towing (lbs): 1,748/3,540 for base engine; optional engine raises max towing to 5,000.
- Standard Features: Hyundai SmartSense with forward-collision avoidance, lane-keep assist and driver attention warning system; 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; in-bed trunk
Though it may look very different visually, the Santa Cruz is all but certain to be the Maverick’s closest competitor based on size and pricing expectations. It’ll be four inches shorter overall — with a bed two inches shorter than that of Ford’s pickup — though Hyundai’s towing capacity is more impressive across the board. The Santa Cruz’s base engine figures to match the Maverick’s in terms of horsepower, while at the top end, the Santa Cruz will best even the Ridgeline with similar power and roughly 50 more lb-ft of torque, an impressive advantage.
Hyundai’s biggest deficit here, as far as we can tell, will be fuel economy. Without a hybrid option, the Santa Cruz and its most efficient, base powertrain is only projected to muster a combined 23 MPG — 14 MPG fewer than the Maverick.
- Price: As a body-on-frame truck, the Colorado comes in a several different cab and bed configurations. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll center in on the crew cab, short bed version that starts at $30,895 for the mid-tier LT, factoring in a $1,195 destination charge. (The cheaper WT comes with literally nothing, not even steering wheel controls.) To step up to the optional V6 from the standard four-cylinder, it’ll cost you $32,380 before options. Four-wheel drive is only available on the V6 and turbodiesel.
- Length: 212.7 inches; 5-foot, 2-inch bed (extended cab and 6-foot bed also available)
- Power: Base 2.5-liter inline-four with 200 HP and 191 lb-ft torque; optional 3.6-liter V6 with 308 HP and 275 lb-ft torque; optional diesel turbocharged 2.8-liter inline-four with 181 HP and 369 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic for four-cylinder engines; 8-speed automatic for V6
- MPG City/Highway: 19/25 for base engine, 2WD; 17/24 for V6, 4WD; 19/28 for diesel, 4WD
- Max Payload/Towing (lbs): 1,380-1,435/3,500 for base engine; 1,504-1,543/7,000 for V6; 1,430/7,700 for diesel
- Standard Features: 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; EZ Lift & Lower tailgate; 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat
Obviously the Colorado is quite a different truck than the Maverick. But there aren’t many compact pickups out there, so it stands to reason someone might entertain a midsize, body-on-frame workhorse like this, as an alternative to what Ford’s just introduced. The base WT trim (that stands for Work Truck) isn’t really geared toward regular consumers, so the LT crew cab, starting at a shade under $31,000 if you forgo the larger engine and 4WD, is the closest counterpart to the Maverick.
For that money, you’re getting a truck with a longer bed and more interior space, that can tow a little more, too. On the flip side, you’re once again missing out on the Maverick’s fuel economy. The Colorado also doesn’t include a safety suite on par with the previous trucks in this list as standard; that’ll set you back another $700 if you want it.
- Price: TBA, but the current Frontier S crew cab starts at $29,450 with destination included.
- Length: 210.2 inches; 4-foot, 11-inch bed (extended “King” cab and 6-foot bed also available)
- Power: 3.8-liter V6 with 310 HP and 281 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- MPG City/Average/Highway: TBA, though the same engine was introduced to the outgoing Frontier last year, and is rated at 18/20/24.
- Max Payload/Towing (lbs): 1,610/6,720 for 2WD
- Standard Features: Intelligent forward collision warning, cruise control and driver alertness system; 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; 7-inch configurable instrument cluster display; trailer sway control; hill start assist
Finally, we have the new Nissan Frontier, set to arrive later this summer. Another bigger, body-on-frame truck in comparison to the Maverick, the 2022 Frontier’s real appeal lies is in its power and, to a lesser extent, its techy amenities.
The 310 HP, 3.6-liter V6 here is actually the same as the one you’ll find in the existing Frontier, and it also contributes to a healthy maximum towing capacity and payload — more than tripling what the Maverick can pull sans towing package, and beating the Maverick with the towing package by half and then some. Don’t expect phenomenal fuel efficiency, of course, though it shouldn’t be very far off the Ridgeline or turbocharged Santa Cruz, if the existing Frontier’s numbers are any indication.
If this comparison highlights anything, it’s that you really can’t compare the Maverick to much. It’s so cheap, and supposedly so efficient in hybrid form, that there’s really nothing like it on the market that serves as a direct alternative on paper. The Ridgeline is unquestionably better equipped, with a more robust powertrain and all-wheel drive as standard, but it’s also a hell of a lot more expensive and considerably larger. The Santa Cruz looks to be closer in price, but a combined 23 MPG is a tough pill to swallow for a truck with the shortest bed of any here and one of the weakest base engines.
That puts the Maverick in the sweetest of spots, potentially with a little corner of truck world all to itself. If you’ve been patiently waiting for the triumphant return of the small truck, the future is looking very bright.