Put the 1970 Ford Maverick next to a 2022 Maverick, and it’s nigh impossible to see any through line. The original is a strange mishmash of an archaic idea of what an economy car should be, floating in the stylistic space between the subcompact (and much-maligned) Pinto and the sporty (but portlier) Mustang. The successor? A compact unibody pickup that shares its bones with the svelte Escape and brawny Bronco Sport. In the sheetmetal, there’s not much to link them. But the ideas that birthed the original Maverick seems, to us, to be equally applicable to the new one.
Here’s the pitch: an affordable, practical compact car with some flair, serving to replace the Falcon in its role as the volume leader in the Ford range. The Falcon was in a sales slump for a variety of reasons, but mainly its derpy sheetmetal wasn’t moving the needle in the battle for buyer’s hearts. The Maverick wasn’t all that different under the skin, but its fresh sheetmetal gave it a trendier, more contemporary look.
In fact, it’s arguably a better-looking pony car from the front than the Mustang II that arrived on the scene a few years later. But more importantly, it was the right size for the moment, and weighed less than the bloated Falcon that preceded it. Initially, the Maverick sold like gangbusters, though the fact it was more a cosmetic reimagining of an old platform would come back to bite it when the gas crunches hit, and its aging line of inline-sixes and a low-powered V-8 option didn’t cut it. In the same vein, as personal luxury became the vogue and pony cars outmoded, even the more formal Maverick sedan didn’t sound the right note. But during its run, more than 2 million Mavericks were sold, which isn’t shabby by any stretch.
The 2022 Ford Maverick takes up a few of the same ideas as the original Maverick but applies them to a form factor that’s more appropriate to this era. For one, it’s a true compact pickup, something American buyers haven’t been able to purchase in a while. Whereas the Falcon became bloated in terms of weight and inspired a lighter, lither Maverick, the formerly compact North American pickups had become bloated in size—the mid-size truck class offers serious capability, but represents a real compromise for buyers with more modest needs, space, and budget.
With traditional sedan sales in a nosedive and pickups as broadly aspirational, think of the Maverick’s crew cab shape as the new normal. The pickup bed adds some welcome utility, sure, but it’s also the shape of the moment. More to the point, the 2022 Maverick is, for all intents and purposes, a direct replacement for the Focus as a compact sales leader. This makes its position in the lineup roughly analogous to the 1970 Maverick’s, with the subcompact EcoSport SUV slotting into the Pinto’s place. If the 1970 Maverick used quasi-pony car style to help sell its basic transportation proposition, so too the 2022 Maverick uses its truck profile to do the same thing. Put a hard cover on the little bed, and it’s essentially a sedan with a capacious trunk.
And compact pickups used to be basic transportation for buyers who needed a range of capabilities: an economical commuter that could also help out with the sort of residential and commercial work that small utility vehicles excel at. There’s probably a business near you still hanging onto its fleet of old Ranger compact pickups because they’re the right size and right capability for the job. The 2022 Maverick has an additional appeal because its base powertrain is a fuel-sipping gasoline-electric hybrid, the cheapest that will be on sale in America barring any surprises.
The Maverick’s combination of rock-bottom pricing and shockingly good fuel economy—in the same package—will surely interest fleet buyers, so perhaps this little pickup will supplant the old compact Ranger in a myriad of light-truck business duties around your town. And perhaps it’ll also fill driveways in your neighborhood, replacing aging compact sedans that are less practical and less fuel-efficient than this little trucklet.
One important difference, however, is that the 1970 Maverick, despite its name, didn’t buck any conventions. It was a new suit draped over old bones. The 2022 Maverick, however, turns the truck paradigm of “bigger, better, stronger” on its head, betting that “efficient, cheap, and right-sized” will appeal to a class of buyers otherwise turned off by the balance that mid-size trucks achieve. It’s a bold move. We’ll see if it pays off.