August 19, 2022

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Forbes Wheels Car Of The Year: 2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick Car of the Year
The Ford Maverick is Forbes Wheels’ 2022 Car of the Year. Ford

SUVs and trucks will make up more than three-quarters of new vehicles sold in the U.S. this year, and one in four new vehicles will be a pickup, more than 2.5 million of them if sales hold steady this month. Trucks have steadily grown in size and price for decades, but this year sees the revival of a long dormant segment: compact pickups. The 2022 Ford Maverick earns Forbes Wheels’ Car of the Year by blending crossover-like dynamics and economy with pickup style and utility. Best of all, its low price makes it a viable alternative to vehicles in many other segments. 

While electrification is the most important car technology for of the 2020s and this year also sees the arrival of the first all-electric pickup, the Rivian R1T, the Maverick plays to a much wider segment of buyers. It isn’t alone, however. 

Late 2021 also marked the arrival of the Hyundai Santa Cruz, a machine of similar dimensions with similar aims. Each is under 200 inches long with four doors, two rows of seats and cargo beds at least 48 inches long and 48 or more inches wide.  

In both cases, the Maverick, 199.7 inches long, and the Santa Cruz, 195.7 inches long, are closer to crossovers than traditional pickups. In the same vein as the Honda Ridgeline, they’re unibody machines that drive like crossovers. That might be anathema to some traditional truck fans, but consumers have expressed an undeniable preference for this type of vehicle.  

The Maverick and the Santa Cruz were the two top vote-getters in the Forbes Wheels Pickup of the Year segment, covering all sizes of pickups, combustion engine and electrified, in part because they have such broad consumer appeal.  

Unlike traditional trucks, it’s easy to see a potential shopping comparison between the Maverick and more typical entry-level cars like the Honda Civic. The Maverick boasts an outstanding 42 mpg rating from the base hybrid engine and a starting price of $19,955—$21,490, including the beefy $1,495 shipping charge. That’s almost $1,500 less than a base-model Civic. An almost fully optioned Ford Maverick runs $37,055 to buy or a 39-month lease of about $400 with 10% down. That’s about where the larger base-model Honda Ridgeline starts. 

2022 Ford Maverick Car of the Year
The Maverick’s interior doesn’t look like a truck, but it’s also meant to have broader appeal than conventional pickups. Ford

Maverick: A Far Cry from Classic Compact Pickups  

Compact pickups aren’t a new idea, but automakers grew out of them around the millennium. Auto enthusiast boomers will recall, perhaps at length, that tiny trucks were wildly popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, there were essentially two types: scaled down versions of traditional trucks, like the Chevrolet Luv, Nissan Hardbody, Plymouth Arrow and Toyota Pickup; and more car-based trucks like the Subaru BRAT, Dodge Rampage and Volkswagen Rabbit truck.  

The new breed of compact pickups is philosophically closer to the latter, but 1980s-era mini-truckers would not recognize them on the inside. Those old trucks were meant for working and doubling as a low-cost commuter vehicle, not coddling their occupants.  

1977 Ford Courier
Compact pickups aren’t new, or new to Ford. In the 1970s, it sold the Mazda-based Courier, which while largely bereft of creature comforts, did attract outdoorsy buyers. Ford
Ford Maverick Pickup
The 2022 Ford Maverick offers a world of comfort and convenience relative to its ancestors, but doesn’t skimp on utility, either. Ford

Instead of a bare-bones cabin with painted metal on the doors and only the barest of sound insulation, the Maverick looks and feel like a modern SUV inside. Both it and the Santa Cruz are based on familiar crossovers, sharing their platforms with the Bronco Sport and Hyundai Tucson, respectively. It’s worth noting that the old-time compact pickups eventually grew larger and plusher, evolving into today’s midsize offerings, but the Maverick feels distinctly more civilized than the dark confines of Toyota’s current Tacoma.

The target audience for these trucks isn’t just people who want a smaller Silverado or F-150, though no doubt a few people wouldn’t mind work-truck grade Mavericks. For 2022, the compact pickup demographic is about people who’ve been driving compact sedans or small crossovers but wanting something different—a pickup bed is certainly different—and also comfortable accommodations for four, maybe five passengers.  

If they’re outdoors enthusiasts, they like the ease of putting mountain bikes in the bed, not atop the roof, and tossing muddy tents and climbing gear in the bed rather than in the cargo bay of an SUV. If they’re worried about the safety of the cargo, a folding and locking metal tonneau cover keeps cargo safe in rest areas or left overnight in town if everyone arrives home too tired to unload on Sunday night.