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Well, we bet you didn’t expect it to look this good!
Just unveiled to a very positive reception in the United States, it breaks with Blue Oval tradition by sidestepping the usual body-on-frame chassis treatment for a monocoque body.
Based on the C2 architecture that underpins a host of Ford products around the world – from the Focus and Escape in Australia, to the upcoming Evos crossover and Bronco Sport sold abroad – the P758 Maverick will go on sale in the USA as the 2022-model year replacement for the (previous-generation) Focus it has ousted from both the Mexican assembly plant and North American market.
Unfun fact: The Maverick will not be coming to Australia any time soon – at least, that’s the official line. Right now, it’s left-hand-drive only and primarily aimed at the North American market, just like its Bronco Sport cousin and larger, Ranger-based Bronco 4x4 answer to the Jeep Wrangler and anticipated Toyota FJ Cruiser replacement.
But here’s the really big question? For how long will Ford hold out at going global with Maverick?
As a result of that low starting price, the Maverick’s job Stateside is two-pronged: to lure consumers who find the medium-sized Ford Ranger too big, cumbersome and thirsty (in America most versions are V6 petrol powered); and sway small-car buyers wanting something different to traditional compact sedans and hatchbacks like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra (i30) and Kia Forte (Cerato).
It’s a bold move, and one that has never actually been tried before anywhere successfully outside of South America (think Renault Dacia Duster-based Oroch) – a five-seater car-based dual-cab ute at the cheap end of the new-car market. Yes, the new Hyundai Santa Cruz is conceptually similar, but it is more of an SUV-derived model and so is expected to cost considerably more, while the even-larger, also-monocoque-bodied Honda Ridgeline starts from almost twice as much as the Ford.
To recap, the Maverick will be offered in front-drive- or all-wheel-drive formats, with Ford’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. A 2.5-litre hybrid option will be made available, while a 1.5-litre three-pot turbo (as per Focus) is rumoured to be in the pipeline, along with a plug-in EV hybrid as per the related Escape PHEV that’s due in Australia early next year.
Add advanced driver-assist safety, independent rear suspension and Ford’s latest multimedia tech, and it’s easy to see how easy and user-friendly this comparatively lightweight four-door sedan with a ute body will be. Think of it as a modern-day Subaru Brumby with back seats and lifestyle appeal.
If the Maverick takes off in North America by stealing sales away from Corolla and co., it might persuade Ford to bring it to Australia to do the same here, giving the local Blue Oval outfit a leftfield contender in a class that it has not been able to crack since the halcyon days of the Ford Laser in the 1980s.
For all its positive reviews and advanced engineering, the existing Ford Focus struggles to stay above water in Australia. Only 520 units were registered in the first five months of 2021 locally (down 42 per cent), against the 11,664 Corollas (up 11 per cent), 10,808 i30s (up 36 per cent), 8045 Ceratos (up 16 per cent) and 6554 Mazda3s (up 19 per cent).
We love the Focus and do not want it discontinued (especially the brilliant ST hot hatch and appealing Active grades), but, clearly, its high pricing (all models are now sourced out of Germany) and low reputation for reliability due to the damaging Powershift transmission debacle has tainted the nameplate in this country.
Maybe it won’t happen with the current-generation Focus, but if or when a reskin arrives for the embattled small car, perhaps the option to go rogue with a maverick like this car-based dual-cab pick-up might not sound so absurd after all. Especially if it proves a success in North America.
This isn’t the first time nor the last time you’ll read this. The Maverick is the small-car disruptor Ford Australia needs right now!