© JAMES TAYLOR
The American arm of the Ford company had a tradition of 4x4 building going back as far as 1965, but the European side of the company had never made such a vehicle before work began on the Maverick. Recognising that American 4x4 buyers have very different tastes from their European counterparts, Ford wisely decided against adapting an American vehicle for their first foray into this new market. Instead, they chose to develop a completely new vehicle in tandem with the Japanese Nissan company. Both companies would have the right to market versions of the new vehicle, and the Maverick was announced in 1993, at the same time as its Nissan Terrano II counterpart.
The Maverick and Terrano II were developed side-by-side at Nissan's European Technology Centre in Cranfield, and both vehicles are assembled on the same Spanish production lines at Nissan's Motor Iberica plant in Barcelona. Although Ford undoubtedly had an input and the Brighton-based IDEA design studio had a hand in the exterior styling, the major influences on the design were Japanese: the independent front suspension with torsion-bar springs; the tall, narrow body and the kick-up below the rear windows. The engines, too, are Nissan units. The main differences between Maverick and Terrano II are in fact in the front bumper, the grille and badging - and in the provision of a Ford radio in the Maverick!
The aim behind the joint project was to create a credible 4x4 with car-like handling; in other words, Ford an dN issan were following the lead set by Daihatsu with the Fourtrak and Suzuki with the Vitara. However, their aim was to cater for the family market with a long-wheelbase model, as well as for younger buyers who wanted a stylish short-wheelbase three-door. As a result, the Maverick was made available in two wheelbase lengths. Both petrol and turbodiesel engines are available, and Ford avoids a clash with Nissan in the UK by offering variants of the Maverick with specification levels and prices which are different from those of the Terrano II.
Although the Maverick was initially expected to sell three times as many examples as the Terrano II in Britain, in practice sales have been relatively slow. The problem may well have been in educating the public to think of Ford as a maker of 4x4s, but for whatever reason, the Maverick has not so far been the big hit Ford might have expected.
The Maverick name has been used on Fords before, most notably in the Seventies when the American Ford Maverick was one of the company's smaller cars. The name was also revived in Australia, where the Ford Maverick is actually a rebadged Nissan Patrol GR.
The Maverick was designed to feel like a conventional car, and it does. However, what that means is that the whole vehicle feels flimsy by the standards of other 4x4s, and that it lacks some of the essential character of a traditional off-roader.
The short-wheelbase models are the most car-like, and everything about them makes the former hot hatch driver feel at home; the biggest difference is that they are considerably higher off the ground. Even the long-wheelbase models feel most unlike other 4x4s to drive.
Both headroom and legroom benefit from the tall body, and the interiors are generally spacious. However, the short-wheelbase models are best considered as four-seaters, because a third passenger squeezed into the back is unlikely to be comfortable on a long journey. Similarly, the occasional seats in the rear of the long-wheelbase models do not offer enough comfort and support to make these vehicles into viable seven-seaters over long distances. Interior storage space for oddments is good in all models, but short-wheelbase models suffer from the usual failing of insufficient space behind the rear seats.
The most impressive aspects of the Maverick's behaviour are perhaps its car-like handling and impressively low noise levels. However, there are quite important character differences between short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase models. While the larger vehicles feel quite stable at all times, the short-wheelbase models can feel rather twitchy in bends. Similarly, the good ride of the long-wheelbase models is not reflected in the bounciness of the short-wheelbase types.
All varieties of Maverick are easy to drive, with well-weighted steering and progressive brakes, a smooth gearchange and a light clutch. The petrol-engined models are lively, while the turbodiesel engine gives plenty 0f refined power for motorway cruising.
Off the, road, the turbodiesel engine has a disappointing lack of bottom-end torque. However, in all other respects the Maverick gives a good account of itself and it is pleasing that Ford and Nissan did not compromise off-road performance for the sake of good road behaviour. Naturally, the short-wheelbase models perform better than their long-wheelbase counterparts in extreme off-road conditions.
Reliability, weaknesses, spares
No serious weaknesses have so far shown up, and all varieties have proved themselves to have the reliability normally associated with the Ford name. Spares should not prove a problem through the widespread Ford dealership network
So far, the Maverick seems to be holding its value quite well in the used car market. However, the majority of used examples are sold through Ford dealerships and it is therefore not easy to tell whether resale prices are being artificially inflated.
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