Unbranded Steers (Part Two)

Continuing our exploration of Ford’s many and varied Maverick badged models.

Image: wroom.ru

After a compact saloon for the Americas and a rebadged Nissan Patrol for Australia, to what would Ford next apply the versatile Maverick badge?

Ford Maverick, 1993 to 1999:

Ford’s third model to carry the Maverick name was, like the second, a rebadged Nissan, albeit from Spain rather than Japan this time. The Nissan Terrano II was a compact SUV for the European market(1) manufactured by Nissan Motor Ibérica S.A. It was also supplied in very lightly modified form to Ford of Europe, who sold it as the Maverick.

Following the highly successful launch of the Land-Rover Discovery in 1989, Ford observed the growing popularity of SUVs in Europe but had nothing to offer potential customers in this segment. Moreover, GM Europe had stolen a march on Ford by building the Isuzu MU / Wizard SUV in the UK(2) and selling it as the Opel / Vauxhall Frontera.

Rebranding the Terrano II was a quick and expedient solution to this problem while longer-term plans were developed(3). It helped that the Terrano II had been styled by Ercole Spada at the I.DE.A Institute in Italy, so was more European than Japanese in flavour and sat reasonably well alongside Ford’s own contemporary European offerings. It was characterised by its shallow rectangular headlamps, smooth flanks and an upswept waistline over the rear wheels. The styling was, however, criticised by some for being insufficiently aggressive and macho for a ‘proper’ off-roader.

Image: Ford.co.uk

The Maverick(4) used traditional SUV body-on-frame construction and was supplied in SWB three and LWB five-door versions, the former with a wheelbase and overall length of 2,450mm (96½”) and 4,185mm (164¾”) respectively. The five-door added a substantial 200mm (7¾”) to the wheelbase and 480mm (19“) to the overall length. In traditional SUV fashion, it was rather tall and narrow, with a height of 1,805mm (71”) and width of 1,755mm (69”). This benefited its green-lane manoeuvrability  at the expense of some on-road stability. Engines offered were a choice between a 2.4-litre 122bhp (91kW) petrol and 2.7-litre 100bhp (75kW) turbodiesel. These were mated to a five-speed manual gearbox with part-time 4WD via a high and low-ratio transfer box.

In a feature titled The New Cult Cars(5) published in its September 1993 issue, Car Magazine highlighted the emergence of the fashion for SUVs amongst those who wanted rather than needed such a vehicle. The reviewer, Paul Horrell, was highly critical of the dynamic qualities of the Maverick, describing it as “about as responsive in its handling, as comfortable in its ride, as brisk in its performance and as secure in its braking as a Morris Marina.” Against similar vehicles such as the Discovery and Frontera, it didn’t fare too badly but, tested against a car, “the dynamics would have shown it up for the cart that it is.”

These criticisms applied especially to the SWB version featured, which was “hopeless over lumpy tarmac…the constant pitch-and-toss makes the Maverick wearying to drive.” It wasn’t all bad news, however: “Nissan’s engineers have done a good job refining the car. The diesel motor is tractable and quiet enough, the gearshift and pedals are light and the smooth Idea-designed exterior keeps wind noise down.”

Image: ford.co.uk

Horrell went on to criticise off-roaders more generally for being “aerodynamically challenged, slow and tragically thirsty.” In a conclusion that proves the utter folly of trying to predict the future, Horrell asked “What will happen when it’s no longer cool to be seen in an off-roader? These cars are like platform shoes: they are clumpy, but confer fashionable status on their owners. Before long, both the cars and the shoes will still be clumpy, but you’ll be able to substitute risible for fashionable. When they’re no longer à la mode, 4x4s used as road cars will be found wanting. Will the car makers have recouped their costs if demand dwindles? Perhaps Ford has been rather clever in getting Nissan to bear those costs in the Maverick / Terrano II project.”

Notwithstanding Horrell’s epic failings as a soothsayer, his assessment of the Maverick as an on-road vehicle was largely correct. The flipside of this was that it was highly effective offroad, with decent ground clearance, a wading depth of 450mm (17 ¾”) and good approach and departure angles of 35° and 37° (on the shorter-tailed three-door) respectively. This was thanks to the fact that the Terrano II was a Nissan ‘World Car’ designed to cope with difficult terrains.

Updates to the Maverick over its six-year lifespan were modest. In June 1996, it was given a revised front end with circular headlamps and a deeper and heavily chromed grille, intended to resemble Ford’s US trucks and SUVs, giving the Maverick more presence and distinctiveness. At the same time, the diesel engine was upgraded to deliver 125bhp (93kW). Production ended in the summer of 1998, but existing stocks remained on sale into the following year. Thanks to keener pricing and a more comprehensive warranty, the Terrano II always handsomely outsold the Maverick, compounded by the fact that Ford dealers often seemed disinclined actively to promote a vehicle that was largely alien to them.

Ford Maverick, 2001 to 2008:

The fourth Ford to bear the Maverick badge was another SUV, this time co-developed with Mazda, in which Ford held a controlling shareholding at that time.  The new model used a platform that was derived from the one which underpinned the Japanese manufacturer’s 626 mid-sized saloon. The Mazda version of the SUV was sold worldwide as the Tribute while the Ford version was sold as the Escape in the US and the Maverick in Europe and China.

Image : car.info

This time, the Maverick was rather more than a rebadged version of another manufacturer’s vehicle. Even though the difference in appearance was subtle, every external panel apart from the roof was unique to each version. DTW has previously told the story of the Ford Maverick / Escape and Mazda Tribute, including a (very) long-term test report from one owner, which may be found here.

Ford Maverick, 2021:

Image: mikemurphyford.com

Ford’s fifth and current Maverick is a North American and Mexican market compact five-seater crew cab pick-up truck unveiled in June 2021. It is a unibody vehicle based on the platform that underpins the Ford Focus, Escape and Bronco Sport. Uniquely for a Ford pick-up, it is front-wheel-drive in standard form, with a hybrid powertrain comprising a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor together producing 191bhp (142kW) paired with a CVT automatic transmission. A 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 250bhp (186kW) linked to a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission is also offered, with the option of 4WD. The Maverick is built at Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico assembly plant.

 

(1) It was also exported to Japan, where it was sold as the Nissan Mistral.

(2) At IBC Vehicles, a Vauxhall / Isuzu 60:40 joint venture operation in Luton, England.

(3) To this end, Ford would ultimately purchase Land-Rover from BMW in 2000.

(4) The history will refer solely to the Ford version from this point onwards.

(5) Hot estates, sports diesels, coupés, people carriers and SUVs.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

28 thoughts on “Unbranded Steers (Part Two)”

  1. Good morning, Daniel. One wonders just how far one can stretch a brand name. Another observation is I’ve been largely unaware of the fourth car wearing the Maverick name. I’m sure they were sold in my home turf, but the rather generic looks probably didn’t help in that regard.

    I have a bit of an irrational soft spot for pickup trucks, which is probably linked to driving through the snow in a Ram 1500 in Finland. I like the current Maverick. So far I haven’t seen it in the metal.

  2. Good morning Freerk. Likewise, I share your affection for pick-up trucks, having owned one, a Ford Ranger, for eight years. Like the fourth Maverick above, the Ranger I owned was another co-development with Mazda, who sold its version as the B2500. Mine was a 2002 double-cab 4×4 version similar to this example:

    It was immensely useful as we were renovating a large country house with extensive grounds at the time and it was used to haul great quantities of building materials and waste product around. It needed to be driven with caution when unladen , as the rear brakes would lock up far too readily, despite it nominally being equipped with ABS. Also, the rust-proofing of the ladder chassis was certainly not up to the standards of cars of the day and, according to its MOT history, its subsequent owner had to undertake extensive welding to keep it on the road. It again failed its MOT in November 2022 with extensive chassis corrosion, so I guess it has now been scrapped, a shame as it still had less than 80k miles on the clock.

  3. In Spain the Terrano II sold a lot better than the Maverick, in fact I can´t remember if I´ve ever seen a Maverick ad or commercial. It seems that Ford wasn´t very keen in marketing it.
    But also the Terrano II success was built into its predecessor popularity, the Patrol (also made in Spain) and the fact that Nissan had a very good reputation and an extensive service network in rural zones. If you were looking for a reliable workhorse to replace your faithful Patrol, the bland styling of the Terrano II could be forgiven. But urban cowboys wanted something more macho looking than “a Fiesta on stilts”, like somebody at Car Magazine defined the Maverick.

    By the way, Car Magazine ran a Maverick 2.4 for a long-term test in the hands of Phil Lewellin, and its biggest fan was the owner of the local petrol station.

    1. Hallo b234r.
      Very interesting your spanish contribution to the subject.
      I’ve only recently found out that the Nissan Navara got its nameplate from the northern spanish region.
      And also it is interesting that there is a substantial automotive industry that has to do with the Nissan company and not the VAG group.
      Are early Maverick parts -Patrol that is- still easy to find in Spain? I mostly have to outsource them from the UAE or straight from Japan.
      Any info would be welcome.

    2. You mean the Maverick/Terrano II or the 1981 gen Patrol?

      I don´t know if Nissan still suplies Patrol parts in Spain, although commercial versions were still built in 2000-2001, I believe. I can contact by email to my local Nissan dealer to ask them.

  4. It´s great to see DTW´s Top 50 #3 get another bit of time in the sun. We talked about it 2015. My, doesn´t time fly. I wasn´t aware the name was so often used. It clearly beats Seats Toledo in terms of wide application to disparate products.

  5. The Ford Escape had a not insignificant part in the 2008 US election. These were the years of excess withdrawal, remember the backlash of the Ford Excursion and Hummer? And the entrance of the Toyota Prius. Remember when the Prius became the hot car to be seen in and it was *the* car to arrive at the red mat of the Academy Awards? Ar the time, there was only one US domestic car with a hybrid drivetrain, and for many years it was the Ford Escape Hybrid. And thus it became the default choice of every politician that wanted to be seen as eco friendly but couldn’t be seen driving a foreign brand like Toyota. I kid you not, every American politician you ever asked what they were driving in 2008 said the same thing. I wonder if they ever drove the thing or only stored it in the backyard?

  6. The 1993 version was clearly pretty capable off-road. Its novelty / poseur value was also noted in this video fleet brochure from Ford. Odd to think that people would abandon GTIs as they were getting too expensive to insure and go for what is effectively the exact opposite in terms of road behaviour.

    I suppose we ought to think of SUVs as ‘normal’, now, although I still find it hard to do so. They still have a weird novelty value to me and I suspect it’s true of other people, too.

    1. “Odd to think that people would abandon GTIs as they were getting too expensive to insure and go for what is effectively the exact opposite in terms of road behaviour.”

      Hi Charles, I suspect that the vast majority of GTI-type car buyers chose them for their image and straight-line performance rather than their handling per se, so were not particularly concerned that their chosen replacement, a new and highly fashionable SUV, had all the handling prowess of a wardrobe!

    2. When everybody ask “where are the affordable GTIs and coupés we could buy in the ´80s and ´90s?”, the answer is: the “sporty ” SUVs are the new GTIs and coupés. Many owners bought them to look cool, not for the handling or performance, and now they´re buying SUVs for the same reason.

    3. Yes, I think you’re both right. The effective replacement for the Volkswagen Scirocco was the T-Roc, after all. It’s a funny world.

  7. One of my big disappointments was test driving an original Discovery in the early 90s. My abiding memory is of a pleasant enough environment, an uncouth sounding diesel (most were back then) and road behaviour that would have been put to shame by a decent Transit with a load over the rear wheels. Before the drive was half completed I’d already decided I didn’t want one. I imagine I’d have felt the same about the Maverick, with even more demerits for the cabin.

    1. Hi bristowfuller. Back in 1996, we changed my E30-generation BMW 325i convertible company car for a Discovery Tdi. Watching my partner attempting his first roundabout in the Discovery was hilarious as he was convinced it was going to fall over! Notwithstanding its alarming body-roll, the Discovery charmed us with its sheer usefulness and practicality. It was also 100% reliable and fault-free over the three years we had it, so much so that I arranged for a client of mine to buy it from the leasing company when the term was up. He also loved the Discovery, but his wife couldn’t get on with it, finding it too cumbersome, so he exchanged it for a Jeep Cherokee. Coincidentally, we also bought a Cherokee to replace the Discovery, having exited the company car scheme and taken the cash option instead.

      Amazingly, the Discovery is still going strong after 27 years and 165k miles, according to its MOT history. It passed its last MOT with no advisories, At some stage it has been painted black (probably matt, with a brush) over its original Epsom green.

    2. Daniel. I certainly agree with you about the Discovery’s undoubted merits. Possibly if the (slightly) more mature me returned to the vehicle now, I’d would see what I then saw as its shortcomings more as virtues. And you’re right about its ability to keep plugging on – coming across an apparently uncared for, but probably quite loved, Series 1 on a country lane is not uncommon. And a Discovery 3 is a fine thing.

  8. Vaguely tangential: I came across a first-gen Vitara yesterday, all done up in off road paraphernalia but impossibly small by today’s standards. That car shares a niche in my mind with the Terrano II/Maverick in that they were amongst the first SUVs to be styled vaguely car-like and tried to appeal to a broader market than their rugged predecessors. Manufacturers were still a bit reluctant to reflect the average use (shopping center) in the technical make up, though, with a full compliment of AWD gubbins. Nissan, of course, later hit that nail squarely on the head with the Qashqai, making it FWD and constructing it without a separate chassis.

    That Maverick pick up looks quite nice to me. Too big, no doubt, but nice. It seems to retain the slightly workmanlike look that I used to like in most pickups. Until fairly recently, I occasionally came across a GMC Typhoon, which would get dwarfed by a current generation Qashqai, let alone any current GMC model.

    1. “That Maverick pick up looks quite nice to me. Too big, no doubt, but nice.”

      This line made me laugh! No doubt the new Maverick is big by European standards, but here in the U.S. it’s now Ford’s cheapest offering and smallest pickup by a large margin. It is Kuga-based but gains 500 mm on the CUV by virtue of offering a bed. Here it is against the best-selling F150:

      I do like the overall look of the Maverick, but I am not a huge fan of the new corporate truck grille that Ford is using, also seen on the new Everest and Ranger; it just feels too vertical and upright, and I wish the bar for the Ford logo were centered on the Maverick instead of being pushed upwards. The base spec XL Maverick is pleasingly simple, though. I adore that it comes on those utilitarian steel wheels rather than some large and senseless alloy.

    2. Good morning Alexander. That’s a brilliant photo! The Maverick looks like one of those kids toy cars, a scaled-down model of the real thing.

    3. The way cars in general and in this case US pick ups have balooned is just incredible (hence my remark about the GMC Typhoon). The US size perspective is different than our European one, for sure, but the elephantiasis has struck on both continents. But my vote goes to the current Maverick for best vehicle to bear the name. It’s nice, especially on the steelies you highlight.

  9. Mr Horrell may not have been much good at predicting the future but I am struck by his correctness in assessing the qualities of the product in question.

    In a funny coincidence, the Nissan Terrano is the only vehicle I have ever driven off road. It was good at that.

  10. Maverick, the name that keeps on giving. Nicely told story, thank you, Daniel.

    I watched the video; aside from the serious faces (until the end when everyone wanted one) it way the hair styles that flummoxed me.

    Had a brief look on the American Ford website where the latest Maverick is Ford’s cheapest truck. Alto blue suits it rather well and it’s obviously doing well sales wise over the pond – they’ve ran out for this model year.

    1. I think it was the bull bars that really looked odd to me. Amazing that they were allowed in the first place.

  11. Funny how we all seem to have adopted the American ‘SUV’ tag for these sort of things. Most of them aren’t even remotely S, and some of the weird coupe-crossover type things are of questionable U. That just leaves the V. Vehicle I can agree with; they are that.
    Whoever thought up this tag for them, anyway? 🙂

    1. According to Car and Driver, ‘The term SUV was first used in brochures for the full-sized 1974 Jeep Cherokee SJ’.

    2. Good afternoon Peter and good morning Charles. I’ve always thought that the ‘Sport’ in SUV refers not to the characteristics of the vehicle itself, but to the fact that it was suited to outdoor pursuits, with bicycles or kayaks strapped to the roof and a boat-trailer hitched up behind etc. The ‘Utility’ refers to their suitability for pulling trailers and caravans, and their load capacity for carrying junk around.

    3. Good point, Daniel. Also, utility is probably relative to a hatchback or saloon (or even estate), however spurious that claim. It is advertising after all.

      Anyhow: what I really want to call them isn’t fit for print, so I’ll stick to SUV or crossover (or CUV, Crossover Utility Vehicle).

    4. Daniel – I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense.

      Tom – that’s hilarious. I want buy a Canyonero.

    5. Thank you Charles and Daniel. And Tom 🙂 . I thought this would be the right place to ask.
      Who ever would have guessed back in 1974 that these, along with dual-cab pickups, would become the dominant vehicle type within fifty years? I used to think it was just because I live in a rural area. But then reading of so many manufacturers discontinuing sedans, it’s clearly not just around here.

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