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Growing up, we had a 1990’s Ford Ranger XLT single cab with a 5-speed manual. To us kids, we called it “The Purple People Eater” but to my parents, it was “Pepe, the Family Mule.” It was the truck that practically built our house, twice – hauling every color of paint imaginable, dragging 2-tons of rock in its unlined bed every weekend for a year; it was the truck we learned to drive a stick in and failed our driving test with. But after a 10-year life, the house was built, the landscaping was done, and the old gal was traded for one of those crossover things everyone hyped about…

The thing is my parents always regretted getting rid of their Ranger, saying that the trucks nowadays are just like city boys who get manicures; they’re far too pretty and high maintenance to do any real work. While I may not 100% agree with that statement, they do have a point – cheap trucks felt like a thing of the past…

Going back to the basics, the all-new Ford Maverick reopens the concept of a compact, economy work truck. Sharing the same underpinnings with the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, the Maverick isn’t quite so truck-ish as its larger Ranger & F-150 brothers. Forgoing the body-on-frame structure for a uni-body design and front-wheel drive drivetrain, there is a sense of crossover feeling to its drivability. And as we learned with the Hyundai Santa Cruz, that’s not a bad thing.

Having some crossover DNA makes the Maverick much more likable to drive. Our sampled Maverick was equipped with the optional all-wheel drive system with terrain management and the FX4 Off-Road Package. If history has shown, like with the Ford Ranger, the FX4 package can ruin the ride quality; however, with the Maverick, that is not quite the case. The FX4 Package on the Maverick doesn’t change the suspension setup but only the tires with all-terrain beef making it a comfortable, smooth sailor down any road surface. The all-terrain tires do affect some of the road feedback to the steering wheel, but overall has a nice, hearty feel to the motions that maintains a lively connection.

The Maverick is officially one of the cheapest, most fuel efficient vehicles you can buy starting at $19,995 with its standard 2.5-liter hybrid four-cylinder engine. But if you prefer your truck to have four wheel drive, one will have to step up into the more powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged engine rated with a healthy dose of 250-horspeower with 277 lb-ft of torque.

Now the Maverick isn’t quite the quick little nugget, but seeing that it can achieve 60-mph in just over 7-seconds is still an impressive move from a small truck. Around town and on the highway however is where the EcoBoost engine really shines packing a hearty punch of acceleration. The eight-speed transmission paired with this engine is an ideal tag team that delivers both the thrills of driving performance with decent fuel economy in return. The shift points are smooth and linear with well-rounded communication from the accelerator finding the right gearing for the right moment.

The Maverick can’t be a proper truck however without the goods to tow, and luckily it has you covered – it can haul approximately 1,500lbs and when equipped with the FX4 off-road package and optional towing package, it can tow upwards of 3,000lbs. Those may not be significant numbers, but keep in mind; we’re not towing a boat here, it’s ideal for a small camper or jet skis, or a construction trailer.

Inside, the Maverick ticks all the right boxes of a practical, cheap truck. Gone away with all the fancy soft touch materials that can easily tear and scratch, Ford has kept the interior of the Maverick simple and basic. There is a heavy dose of hard plastics ready to take a beating from the weekend warrior. Keeping it different however, they used different colors and materials to elevate the cabin space from the original old 1990’s black and grey plastic interior. We even like a lot of the funky styling ques they did with the side door pulls and exposed screw heads – gives a masculine, industrial feel.

Having all the right tools of the modern age, there is a nicely sized 8-inch touch screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a single-zone climate control system. Our mid-grade XLT featured a little more on the safety side with Automatic High Beams, Lane Departure and Pre-Collision Assist with Emergency Braking.

Overall, the interior is a nice setting – our XLT featured a welcoming setting with nicely upholstered seats with orange contrast stitching that were surprisingly comfortable for a long journey. As suspected the rear seats a little snug but not unusable to a standard size passenger going a short distance. On the plus side, lift the rear seat up and you’ll find lots of storage space to go with all of the nooks and crannies of storage compartments the Maverick has throughout.

This might be telling of the times or maybe I am starting to face the hard truths of getting old, but while the Maverick is geared toward the younger generation with their Spotify and Apple Music accounts, it would have been nice to have satellite or HD radio considering the $30,000 sticker price our subject arrived with. We also experienced quite the hiccup with Bluetooth connectivity and the Ford system restarting randomly during our drives – I’m sure a simple software fix is in the works.

Having grown up around our Purple People Eater, the Maverick doesn’t come close to being its replacement; then again it’s not supposed to. The Maverick brings this whole truck world back down to reality and back to the basics of what a truck is and what it’s supposed to be by offering truck with trickster capabilities without having sell off a few limbs and work three jobs to afford the high monthly payments.

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