The 2022 Ford Maverick has captured our attention from the word go with the announcement last June that it would start at $19,995 and come standard as a hybrid with 40 plus mpg. Since then we’ve ordered one and have been following the story ever since.

More popular than the base model however is the XLT trim grade, the EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and AWD. The sweet spot as it were for equipment and package options is exactly where our FX4 tester this week falls.

With a sticker price of $30,235, this vehicle represents where most buyers will land. In Hot Pepper Red metallic it’s flashy. With the larger 235/65 R17 Falken Wildpeak A/T Tires courtesy of the FX4 off-road package, it looks aggressive.

In our week with the more powerful variant of the Maverick we were impressed with both the performance and the refinement of the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and its 8-speed automatic transmission.

With the FX4 package you do lose the Sport drive mode but gain a number of off-road modes like Sand and Mud & Ruts which adjust the AWD system to be more distributive of torque beyond the front wheels.

This is because there is no “lock” for this AWD system to command it to send power rearward from the default FWD operation. Torque and power is only sent to the rear axle when and where it’s needed based on wheel slippage.

With the help of an idle start-stop system, it is rated at 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. In spite of this annoying system we still only managed 21 mpg combined in our week with the Maverick. Facts and facts, Ford EcoBoost engines aren’t efficient.

Handling is tight and precise for a pickup truck, a benefit of its crossover based chassis. Even with the A/T tires we found grip and steering feel to be impressive around town. On the dirt, the level of bite is good and it was very maneuverable in our off-road jaunts.

The chassis seems well bolted together and solid with a feeling of quality that was beyond our expectations.

The cabin is built to a price and that should be everyone’s expectation. The only soft touch materials in the blue interior are the door arm rests and center console lid. Everything else is hard plastic, but the good news is that it is well done and designed to be of purpose.

The seating trim in the XLT is a handsome and comfortable two-tone denim style cloth with orange accent stitching that matches the orange touches on the dash vents and console cups. Across the dash and door panel are trims which mimic a speckled solid surface counter top. We loved it all.

Comfort from the manual adjusting front seats was better than expected in-spite of not offering a lumber adjustment. Rear seat passengers will enjoy a good seating height compared to the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. Room is surprisingly ample.

The base radio is an 8-inch touchscreen with AM/FM and Bluetooth connectivity as its main selling points. No SYNC 3 or 4, no satellite radio, no HD radio, etc. It does however offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a 4G WiFi hotspot and a decent backup camera.

Audio quality is flat and lacking, but this is a base radio. This would be more forgivable if an upgrade option were available without going all the way up to the Lariat trim grade.

In all, we came at this test with the perspective that this is a vehicle meant to be a value play which means it was designed to be the cheap seats. In that way it impresses with driving quality, charm and a lot of value where you least expect it.

It makes our I’d Buy It list for 2021 as it should, we have one on order ourselves.