The new Ford Maverick ute caught quite a few by surprise when it was unveiled last night, offering ample payload and towing capabilities, mini-Ranger looks, standard hybrid power and a sharp starting price.
But would this compact (in both size and price) ute work in Australia? The CarAdvice team weighs in with their thoughts – including a go at specifying an example of their own.
James Ward, Director of Content
Everything about the compact 'pick-up' format, its affordable price, clever features and efficient driveline gets a big tick. I think it would go gangbusters here - and make shopping centres even more of a nightmare.
But that nose – I'm not sure about it at all. It looks awful in some photos, but OK in others. Here's hoping the next-generation Ranger wears it better.
I'll take a mid-spec XLT in Area 51, with the FX4 package, a sunroof, sliding rear window and the 2.0-litre AWD EcoBoost powertrain. The price? US$28,830 (AU$37,200).
Trent Nikolic, Managing Editor
Australians already love a dual-cab they never use for its intended purpose, so the notion that yet another option would work in our crowded market is a solid one. It's got a Ford badge, a legendary name, and a tray that is largely impractical for anything other than groceries or a gym bag, so Ford would be on to a winner.
The styling isn't perfect and it could use more F-Truck DNA, but that wouldn't dent sales. Imagine the aftermarket explosion in bull bars, winches, and spot lights that never see a dirt road!
The added bonus is we would get yet another 'truck' that Australians could incorrectly call a 'ute' and who wouldn't love that (but in the case of the Maverick, for once, it is actually a ute).
I'll take the most expensive Lariat, with a 2.0-litre engine and about $30,000 in the best aftermarket off-road gear. Then I'll drive it exclusively around town while retracting my decades of growling that only milk and juice come in 2.0-litre capacities.
Joshua Dowling, National Motoring Editor
I'm so excited about this car I'm almost hyper-ventilating.
And I really mean that, because I procrastinated over that first sentence for half an hour while looking up when the next Green Card lottery is, so I can move to the US to buy one of these (and an F-150 Raptor).
Unlike my learned CarAdvice colleagues, I've not been greedy. I opted for the base model with grey bumpers and steel wheels (US$22,375 plus taxes), and added the turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine, and all-wheel-drive ($3305) for slippery boat ramps.
For me, this thing only needs to tow a jet ski trailer. Sure, the jacked-up bros in their jacked-up Ford Rangers might look down on me, but my Maverick won't be scraping its roof in car parks, and I will have car-like braking and cornering because I'm not running hideous all-terrain tyres.
I've also specced the tow pack ($745) and the Co-Pilot360 system (which adds blind-zone warning, cross-traffic alert, etc).
My wish list: please, Ford, add a sensor key and push-button start as an option pack on the base-model Maverick. Some of us still want these luxuries but in a ute with steel wheels and grey bumpers.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the US embassy to fill out some paperwork. It will be easier to move to the USA than it will be to convince Ford to do a right-hand-drive one of these and bring it to Australia.
Glenn Butler, Comparisons Editor
Would it sell well in Australia? Yeah, even with that front end – probably because of that front end. I don't think it would be like the FJ Cruiser where everyone who wanted one, got one and then it struggled. I think for Ford it's more of a question of whether it would cannibalise Ranger sales.
I'm partial to the cop-spec steel wheels on a Cactus Grey XL, but I want lots of options so my Maverick doesn't look anything like the thousands of other Mavericks on the road. And I'll take the EcoBoost engine because I'm not an organic market farmer with an Akrapovic so it sounds like thunder and crackles on over-run.
Kez Casey, Production Editor
Ford could have either an uphill battle or a home run on its hands with the Maverick – but it's an untested market so there's no real way to tell.
While we've seen 'compact' utes before, Subaru Brumbys and Proton Jumbucks never set the world on fire with sales success, but they did spark devout cult followings. The Maverick isn't one of those utes, nor is it one of the highly popular ladder-frame tow, adventure, off-road dual-cabs that Australians seem to love – right or wrong.
If SUVs can run away with sales success at the expense of traditional large cars, surely a medium SUV-based ute can catch at least some of that success?
The downfall for Maverick may be its downmarket fitout. While you can option it with a few nice bits, the interior has been given a clearly utilitarian edge and the plain black grille pattern on all spec levels doesn't speak to the aspirational Aussie buyer. It's clear Ford has tried very hard not to step on the toes of Ranger and F-150 or insult the egos of owners of those vehicles.
Ford Australia's best bet might simply be all or nothing: two variants, base XL or fully-loaded Lariat, a choice of hybrid FWD or 2.0-litre turbo AWD, and not much in between. Keep it simple and see what happens.
Emma Notarfrancesco, Senior Journalist
Like Glenn I'm one for lots of options, so the price tag on my build slowly escalated. I specified mine in black, which actually does a good job at hiding the front grille that some don't seem to be a fan of, and makes those beefy headlights pop.
Aesthetically I think this hits the right mark. If I had a reason to buy a ute, this is the aisle I'd be shopping down. As a previous mid-sized SUV owner this extends that versatility without sacrificing dynamic appeal.
Sam Purcell, Off-Road Editor
I'm going to go against the grain here, and say that the ghosts of the Jumbuck's past will hold this back in the Australian market. If people want a ute, they will buy a real one.
The X-Class showed ute buyers are a bit parochial and sweat the mechanical details. The fact that this would probably be priced close to a Triton will limit its appeal.
Alex Misoyannis, Journalist
Front-end styling aside – which looks like someone placed the next Ranger's three-dimensional face on a photocopier, turned down the quality, and pasted the 2D image onto a Bronco Sport – I'm a huge fan of the Maverick, I really am.
But would it really sell in Australia? If priced well... yes.
While the cheapest dual-cab, automatic Ranger pick-up – the natural equivalent to a base Maverick – will set you back just over $40,000 before on-road costs, you can get into a single-cab manual Ranger cab-chassis for just over $29,000, so I can't see anyone buying a Maverick XL with a price before on-road costs starting with a '3'.
A top-spec Maverick, however, would be far easier to price correctly. If Ford could bring in my chosen spec – a flagship Lariat with the Luxury pack, Cyber Orange paint, the 2.0-litre engine and front-wheel drive – for around $45,000 to $50,000, it could be onto a winner.
But first things first, engineer it in right-hand drive...