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Ford Maverick’s biggest rival might just be the Honda Civic or a used car


Among professional car reviewers, it’s industry-standard practice to lump new models into classes composed of similar vehicles in order to help shoppers make sense of what’s best. We group similarly minded and similarly priced family sedans together, and we do the same with minivans, full-size trucks and SUVs, too. Every once in a while, though, while still helpful, the classification process doesn’t really serve to put a vehicle in a proper context. That may be the case with the new 2022 Ford Maverick compact pickup, because it’s just so different.

This compact unibody pickup carries a rock-bottom manufacturer suggested retail price starting at $21,490 ($19,995 plus $1,495 delivery), and it features a standard hybrid powertrain. That’s right, America’s least-expensive full hybrid is actually a truck. 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. 

The only other pickups on the market that aren’t traditional body-on-frame construction that are at all similar to the 2022 Maverick are the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz and the larger 2021 Honda Ridgeline. Neither of those models feature electrified powertrains, and neither line up 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 Hyundai Tucson-based Santa Cruz is likely to be thousands more, too. You can see how these trucklets match up in our spec comparison and judge for yourself — this isn’t F-150 versus Chevrolet Silverado versus Ram 1500, these are all very different vehicles.

I’d like to offer an alternative scenario. I think the 2022 Ford Maverick will actually end up frequently cross-shopped against econoboxes like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla 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.

Perhaps more than most new-car shoppers, entry-level vehicle buyers tend to be a lot more pragmatic than those in other segments — often because their limited finances and credit status mandate such practical, focused decision-making. Rather than inherently limit themselves to vehicle type, such shoppers 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 in college, I was just such a fixed-budget buyer looking 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 fun like a Honda Civic Si or a Volkswagen GTI, my budget and an acute lack of credit dictated that I was consigned to shop leases on bargain-basement appliances such as the 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. 

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.

The 2022 Ford Maverick’s appeal will likely extend far beyond truck buyers.


Ford

Furthermore, 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 Mav’s bed offers a lot more cargo room and flexibility, 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 a mid-level XLT cabin with 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.

Not too shabby.


Ford

Beyond ordinary individuals, I can see the Maverick becoming a new favorite among fleet buyers, both government and private business. Ford used to sell hundreds of thousands of Ford Rangers back when it was a basic, honest compact truck. The year I got 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. 



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