2023 Ford Maverick Tremor Review: Right Truck, Wrong Engine

  • Affordable Tremor pack adds off-road capability
  • Usable bed size and payload capacity
  • Roomy interior despite its small size
  • Turbo engine seriously hurts fuel economy
  • No hybrid engine option for Tremor
  • Tremor trim isn't available with max tow package

With midsize and full-size trucks ever embiggening, compact pickups like the new Ford Maverick have oodles of appeal. The Maverick is an efficient little runabout that's both a solid weekday commuter and useful weekend tool. And with a starting price of just $24,190, including $1,595 for destination, this charming little pickup is one of the least-expensive new cars on sale today.

For 2023, the Maverick gets a new Tremor trim designed to give this tiny trucklet a bit more off-road cred. Major enhancements include a 1-inch suspension lift, all-terrain tires, new springs and dampers, stronger half-shafts, a heavy-duty transmission cooler, and a unique all-wheel-drive system with a locking rear differential. The Tremor updo is offered as an option on the Maverick's XLT and Lariat trims, where it costs $2,995. Add an extra $1,495 if you want a carbonized gray roof and some black body decals, but don't worry, the spiffy orange accents are free.

Troublesome turbo

You can only spec the Tremor package on Mavericks equipped with Ford's 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine. With 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, it's a powerplant with plenty of punch, and the 8-speed automatic transmission is well tuned, smoothly downshifting when you dig into the throttle. Unfortunately, this engine is extremely coarse, with noticeable vibration and a harsh aural quality, both at idle and under acceleration. The stop/start system is also pretty rough, but thankfully, it's easily disabled via a large button just below the infotainment screen.

Another demerit: The Tremor upgrade hampers the Maverick's hauling capabilities, with a 1,200-pound payload rating that's 300 pounds less than other models. On top of that, you can't add the 4K Tow package that's normally available on turbocharged Mavericks. Elsewhere, this option increases the truck's towing capacity to 4,000 pounds. The Tremor, meanwhile, is capped at 2,000 pounds.

The worst problem, though? Fuel economy. Because of its unique all-wheel-drive setup, the Maverick Tremor is EPA-estimated to return a measly 20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined, and during a week of normal driving around Los Angeles, I only averaged 19 mpg. Meanwhile, the non-Tremor Maverick with all-wheel drive is expected to return 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. And don't forget, the base Maverick's 2.5-liter hybrid I4 engine boasts an impressive 40 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined — reliably, too.

Extra off-road prowess

The Tremor has Mud & Ruts, Rock Crawl, and Sand drive modes, in addition to Normal and Tow/Haul settings, all of which change the throttle, transmission, and traction control parameters to help this little guy excel off-road. This Maverick also has what Ford calls Trail Control, which is sort of like a cruise control specifically for off-roading, where the truck will mosey along at a set speed.

Arguably the biggest boons for the Tremor's go-anywhere abilities are its knobby 235/65R17 Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires and the revised all-wheel-drive system. The former can more aggressively claw into dirt and sand — though they add quite a bit of road noise while driving on pavement — and the latter has a torque-vectoring differential that modulates power across the rear axle.

Mind you, none of this will turn the Maverick Tremor into the sort of truck that can hang with a Jeep Gladiator out on the trail, but it still ups the pickup's off-road fun factor. The model-specific front fascia improves the Maverick's approach angle to 30.7 degrees, and there's a steel skid plate for added protection. Prominent orange recovery hooks adorn the Tremor's front end, too, just in case things really get out of hand.

A fine daily driver

During the course of daily driving on paved roads, the Maverick is nothing short of pleasant. Great visibility combined with its small stature makes the Maverick easy to parallel park on congested city streets, and the light steering and solid stability are helpful for quickly maneuvering through traffic.

When it's time to haul, the 4.5-foot bed is big enough to accommodate large-ish objects, with 33 cubic feet of volume. That's plenty of room for a few bags of mulch or an impulse appliance purchase from Home Depot, and while the bed itself doesn't have the same sort of innovative tailgate or underfloor storage features as larger trucks, it's super easy to step in and out of, with an power sliding rear window pass-through into the cabin.

For $650, you can spring for Ford's Co-Pilot 360 suite, giving you access to helpful features like blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, and lane keeping assist, all of which work exactly as advertised. If you spec the Tremor pack on top of the Lariat trim, a Co-Pilot 360 Assist option opens up that includes adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, parking sensors, and evasive steering assist, but you have to then add the standard 360 kit as part of the $2,610 Lariat Luxury group, and this adds amenities like heated seats, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, embedded navigation, and more.

Skip the leather in this durable interior

Despite its small dimensions, the Maverick is rather roomy inside. Even the rear bench has enough head- and legroom to house taller adults without too much complaining, and there are USB-A and USB-C charging ports for both rows, so everyone's devices can stay fully juiced.

Nothing about the Maverick's interior is particularly luxurious, even on the high-end Lariat trim. Honestly, the faux ActiveX 'leather' looks and feels cheap, and somewhat out of place in this obviously bargain-minded truck. Stick with the cloth seats of the XLT, which are seriously comfortable and look more at home against the durable plastic surfaces throughout the cabin.

All Mavericks come with an 8-inch touchscreen in the dash, and while there's a nice little cubby to the right of the display, it's not actually big enough to hold anything useful — phones included. Ford's Sync 3 tech is definitely outdated at this point, though I'll give it kudos for being immediately responsive to inputs and a cinch to navigate. Besides, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Just use one of those.

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor verdict

For now, the Maverick only has one main competitor: the Hyundai Santa Cruz. This Tucson-based pickup is a little larger and doesn't offer any sort of off-road trim. But Hyundai's offering is also nicer to drive on-road, with more luxurious accommodations and far better infotainment and driver-assistance tech. You pay for the privilege, though; trim for trim, the Santa Cruz is more expensive than a Maverick.

The cheapest way to get into a Maverick Tremor is to stick with the lower-grade XLT, where you're looking at a starting price of $31,665 including destination. That's not bad, all things considered, and the XLT really feels like the better buy of the two Tremor trims. All loaded up, a Maverick Lariat Tremor can crest $40,000, which kind of goes against this compact truck's ethos.

The truth is, the Maverick is really at its best in a mid-level spec with the excellent hybrid powertrain. Even the turbocharged non-Tremor models offer more capability with greater efficiency. The Tremor treatment looks cool and gives this pickup some added purpose, but it really belies the Maverick's inherent brilliance as a useful little truck that's super affordable and efficient.