Among us professional car reviewers, it’s standard practice to lump new vehicles into classes composed of similar models in order to help consumers make sense of everything. We group similarly minded, similarly priced family sedans together, and we do the same with SUVs, minivans, sports cars, full-size pickups and luxury sedans, too. Every once in a while, though, while still helpful, this type of classification process doesn’t really serve to put a vehicle’s attributes in proper context, let alone help figure out who that vehicle is likely to be purchased by. That may just be the case with the newcompact pickup, because it’s so jarringly different.
Ford’s new compact unibody pickup truck carries a rock-bottom manufacturer suggested retail price of($19,995 plus $1,495 delivery), and it features a standard hybrid powertrain. That’s right, America’s least-expensive full hybrid is actually also America’s least-expensive pickup. Said another way, that means the front-wheel-drive Maverick is priced like a rule-breaker, and with an estimated 40 mpg in city driving, it’s an absolute curve-wrecker when it comes to pickup-truck efficiency metrics, too.
Unibody pickups have traditionally been a very tough sell in the US, and today, the only other trucks on the market that aren’t traditional body-on-frame construction that are even vaguely similar to the 2022 Maverick are theand the larger . Neither model features an electrified powertrain, and neither line up all that cleanly in terms of size, capability and mission. We already know that the AWD-only Honda Ridgeline is much costlier and more powerful, starting at $37,665 ($36,490 plus $1,175 delivery), and while it hasn’t been priced yet, the -based Santa Cruz is likely to be thousands more, too. You can see how these trucklets match up and judge for yourself — this isn’t F-150 versus versus , these are all very different vehicles.
I’m here to offer an alternative way to look at this truck. I think the 2022 Ford Maverick will actually end up frequently cross-shopped against econoboxes like theand by customers who never thought they’d be interested in a pickup truck in the first place. After all, the Maverick will actually be less expensive and more efficient to run in the city than either of those popular compacts. Additionally, lower-end, FWD Mavericks will likely also be cross-shopped by people — especially young folks and first-time buyers — who might otherwise look to the used-vehicle market for a traditional passenger car that’s new enough to still be under warranty.
More than most new-car shoppers, entry-level vehicle buyers arguably tend to be much more pragmatic than consumers in other segments — often because their limited finances and credit status mandate such practical, focused decision-making. Rather than inherently limit themselves to a particular vehicle type, these shoppers disproportionately look at factors like monthly payment, fuel efficiency and where they can get loan approval as key factors to getting a spot on their shopping lists.
I can relate.
Back when I was in college, the above scenario described me to a “t” as a fixed-budget buyer hunting for my first new vehicle. The peace-of-mind promised by an affordable, new vehicle under warranty via low-interest, fixed monthly payment was preferable to buying a used car with a higher interest rate and the increased likelihood of variable monthly costs due to unscheduled repairs. Like many first-time new-car shoppers, I also found it easier to get financed on a new-vehicle loan than a used one, and I didn’t have the cash to buy a decent used car outright anyhow.
While budding-car-enthusiast me wanted something entertaining like a Dodge Neon and Ford Escort LX. I found that I could only afford base models with standard features like an AM/FM stereo cassette and a map pocket. I’m not even sure the Neon offered dual side mirrors, and I don’t believe air conditioning was included with either model.or a , my budget and an acute lack of credit dictated that I was consigned to shop leases on bargain-basement appliances such as the
My shopping took a left hook when I realized that I could get a mid-grade 1999 Ford Ranger XLT, complete with an extended cab, V6 power, A/C and — hold your breath — a CD player. The pickup truck’s significantly higher resale value helped keep the monthly lease price low, so even though its MSRP was thousands of dollars higher than a stripped-out economy car, the Ranger was actually going to be cheaper to own — even with its higher fuel consumption. Plus, with its useful bed, I figured the Ranger would be great for toting mountain bikes and saving me on rental vans when the time came to annually decamp from a dorm room or apartment.
Despite never having been interested in a pickup before, my choice was clear. I became a truck-drivin’ man and never looked back. All of the signs point to the 2022 Maverick having similar or even greater appeal over 20 years later.
In fact, the Maverick should be a much easier truck-shaped pill for traditional passenger-car shoppers to swallow than my Ranger was. For starters, the Ford’s unibody construction (there’s no heavy body on frame) means the Maverick should drive much more like a normal passenger car in terms of ride, handling and maneuverability, all of which should make this vehicle much easier to consider for buyers who have only driven things like a Civic or Corolla. Just as importantly, the Mav’s 40 mpg city fuel economy rating actually significantly outperforms today’s standard Honda Civic on the city cycle. Same for the Corolla. Ford has yet to release the base hybrid’s highway fuel economy number, but I’m guessing it’ll be significantly less impressive owing to its aerodynamic drag at higher speeds.
2022 Maverick: Ford truck ruggedness in a smaller package
What’s more, where my SuperCab Ranger got by with comically small, sideways-mounted second-row folding jump seats, the Maverick has four conventionally hinged doors that afford easy access to a five-seat cabin that’s larger than many compact sedans and hatchbacks. The low step-in height is even quite car-like.
Plus, at 33 cubic feet, the, although you’ll need to source a good locking tonneau to keep everything as safe as you would in a traditional trunk. This is to say nothing of the truck’s towing ability, which, while particularly modest in hybrid spec, is still a major benefit.
Now, it’s certainly possible low-end Maverick trims like the base XL will have interiors whose features and materials leave something to be desired compared to one of today’s better compact economy cars (I’ve only poked around awith options), especially as cars like the Civic and Corolla are can be surprisingly upscale inside. But many people will find the Ford’s added utility worth it, and even the mid-grade XLT Hybrid is a considerable value at $23,775 ($22,280 plus delivery), priced just under a 2021 Civic Sport.
It won’t just be ordinary individual consumers who take an interest in the Maverick. I can see the Maverick becoming a go-to favorite among fleet buyers, both government and private business. Ford used to sell hundreds of thousands of Ford Rangers back when that nameplate got you a basic, honest compact truck. The year I bought mine, the Blue Oval shifted nearly 350,000 Rangers, and a large percentage of those models were sold to municipalities, utility companies, rental fleets and so on. Boasting essentially double the urban fuel economy of today’s Ranger, penny-pinching fleet managers should love what the Maverick does for their bottom line.
None of this is to say that the 2022 Ford Maverick will be a particularly good choice for traditional small pickup buyers who plan on doing substantial amounts of off-roading and towing. Ford will offer the Maverick with all-wheel drive and even a modest FX4 off-road package, but if you’re into hardcore rock-crawling or overlanding, you’re likely still going to want to step up to the Ranger or F-150 if you need your truck to have a Ford badge on the grille.
While those hardcore customers will likely be better off with something else, in the end, I think the the 2022 Ford Maverick is going to play to a very broad, very eager audience. If this little truck is half as good to drive as it is at first impressions, I could see sales zooming past the Ranger to become one of the Blue Oval’s most popular offerings in a couple of years.