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At first, it seems like an unusual comparison to say that the Ford Maverick and Golf GTI have anything in common. And while for the autocross enthusiast, the GTI is in a completely different category from Ford’s compact pickup, for anyone seeking a fun, functional vehicle, they share a philosophy that cuts across genres.

2023 Ford Maverick in orange
2023 Ford Maverick | Ford

The Soul of a GTI in a pickup

To understand why the new Ford Maverick turbo is in the same space as the Golf GTI, we must first look at what the GTI brings to the table. In short, it’s a four-door, five-seat hatchback that blends practicality with performance. The turbocharged power and sport suspension sit beneath a car big enough to put kids and a dog in the back, along with a stroller and some grocery bags. Alternatively, it’s fun and agile enough for autocrossing and track days for those so inclined.

All told, the GTI is a do-it-all performer that has been delighting wide swaths of the driving public for generations.

Modern driving culture in America

Golf GTI in green
Volkswagen Golf GTI | Volkswagen

The next time you go for a drive, take a look around. I all but guarantee that there will be a pickup truck within eyeshot at any given moment. The truth is, Americans love pickups, even if most of us never use one to even half of their stated capability.

In the 80s and 90s, the GTI was cultivating a reputation as a fun family car. And to this day, you see them in the hands of everyone from teenage hoons to retirees with grandkids in the back seat.

But car culture is changing. Cars are getting bigger, roads are getting worse, and more drivers are clamoring for a vehicle that can do more. Enter the Ford Maverick.

At first blush, a tiny pickup truck seems antithetical to a culture that is craving bigger and better at every turn. But for those who appreciate why trucks are popular, but don’t want a behemoth in the driveway, the Maverick provides an intriguing solution.

It’s the modern People’s Car, as it were, and the turbocharged version adds enticing performance to the more economically-focused model. Sound familiar?

That’s the precise formula that Anton Konrad and Hermann Hablitzel used to create the original Sport Golf in 1975. And by the time Herbert Schafer was putting the unique golf ball shift knob in place for the GTI’s world premiere in Frankfurt, the formula for the hot hatch was set.

The Ford Maverick and Golf GTI share a philosophy

Bed of the Ford Maverick, which makes it more practical than a Golf GTI
2023 Ford Maverick Bed | Ford

What you have in today’s Ford Maverick is nearly identical to the Golf GTI in terms of philosophy. Sure, the Maverick may never replace the hot hatch in the eyes of enthusiasts. But for anyone that wants a few extra giggles as they’re taking the kids to school, the Maverick with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivers.

Ford’s baby truck has a legitimate back seat, delivers 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, and goes from zero to 60 mph in less than six seconds, according to Car and Driver testing. The open bed affords immense practicality, and the Maverick can even tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Is it going to win any autocross events? Probably not. But neither will a GTI in its stock form. Overall, the Maverick EcoBoost is compromised in all the same ways as the Volkswagen. The price for comfort and refinement is weight, after all. But for a truck, 3,800 pounds is considered lightweight. Much like the 3,100-pound GTI is considered a featherweight compared to, say, a BMW 3 Series.

Rear hatch of the Golf GTI with seats folded flat
2023 VW Golf GTI open cargo area | Volkswagen

Directly comparing the Maverick EcoBoost and Golf GTI

There’s no getting around the numbers. The Maverick is 700 pounds heavier with 10 fewer horsepower than the current Golf GTI. however, torque is tipped in favor of the tiny truck, so it feels just as punchy. Throw on some aftermarket sport suspension and summer tires, and the Maverick could legitimately hold up next to the GTI on track.

The proof is in the pudding, too – the Maverick is just 0.8 seconds slower to 60 mph than the front-drive hot hatch. But with that slight performance deficit comes a 4.5-foot bed plus more head and legroom than the latest Golf. That blend of practicality and performance has been the GTI’s bread-and-butter for generations, but now it’s got some unexpected competition.

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