Way back in 1997, a UK politician named Tony Blair coined the term “Mondeo Man” to represent the sort of apolitical middle class white male that the British labor party needed to win over in the next election. The Ford Mondeo was, itself, a boring, mid-range Ford sedan in the way that Mondeo Man was a pretty boring married guy who lives in Kent, owns a semi-detached house, 2.5 kids, and (of course) a Ford Mondeo in his driveway. Well, 1997 was a long time ago, and nobody’s buying sedans anymore — least of all the “normies” who bought Modeos or Camrys or Accords. In 2022, the normies are buying small crossovers … but that’ll change soon. Meet the new normal. Its name is Ford Maverick.
With a starting price of $19,995, the new-for-2022 Ford Maverick pickup is one of the most affordable new cars you can buy today. As a pickup, it’s also one of the most popular types of vehicles in the current market as well, and it’s significantly cheaper than anything else that’s even close to offering pickup functionality and 4 full doors. At that price, you get a fairly well-equipped, front-wheel-drive hybrid that advertises 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, but seemed to deliver quite a bit more fuel economy than that in my few, snow-packed days with the little truck …
… and, while we’re on the subject, we should cover this: the Ford Maverick is not that small.
It’s Just Right
I’ve already spilled more than a thousand words worth of ink on the subject over at TTAC, but the short version is that the “compact” Ford Maverick pickup, at 199.7″ in length, is actually two inches longer than a 90s-era Ford F-150 full-size pickup. The fact that it seems so much smaller than other trucks on the market today has much more to do with just about all vehicles getting progressively bigger and heavier in recent years, as Americans — well, get bigger and heavier.
Even so, there is a right size, and the Ford Maverick just might be it. Just as that 90s-era F-150 was a huge sales success, Ford has effectively sold out of not just its 2022 Mavericks, but the entire 2023 production run seems to be spoken for already as well. My local Ford dealer won’t even take my dirty money as a deposit — even though I may be out of luck, however, that doesn’t mean the thousands of people who have already bought their Mavericks are.
What they’re getting for that money is something very much like the Ford Mondeo (Ford Fusion, in the US) that Ford has simply stopped making. Like that car, the Ford Maverick is available as a hybrid or pure ICE vehicle. It’s primarily front-wheel drive, which puts the weight of the drivetrain directly above the wheels that are doing the most work in winter driving — which is how I got to experience the truck (thanks, Ford!). In the slushy stuff, my XLT tester’s more aggressively off-road tires and alloy wheels are pretty good, though I suspect the less fashionable base wheels and tires might be a touch more practical in everyday driving.
Oddly enough, some people have taken issue with the car-like Maverick’s unibody construction. Like so much of the conventional wisdom out there, the idea that body-on-frame construction is functionally tougher/stronger than a unibody is a few decades out of date, and comes from a time before computer-aided design gave engineers the ability to tweak and improve a chassis’ design in a virtual space before it was built — and that was probably more recent than you think. Today, bigger trucks use body-on-frame construction as cost controls, making it easy for upfitters to quickly adapt their products to new truck designs without the need to reengineer their entire production lines when a suspension hardpoint or sensor array gets moved within the unibody.
It’s great in theory, and even better in practice. The relatively compact Maverick is significantly quieter and noticeably stiffer than my old ’96 Bronco ever was — and its 1,512 to 1,564 lb. payload capacity (depending on trim level) is fully 100 lb. more than the 1,410 lb. rating of the base body-on-frame Ford F-150 … and that’s despite the cost-cutting.
A Study in Cost Controls
Ford spared no expense on paint and wheels — stuff that Mondeo Man would definitely notice. Inside the Ford Maverick, though, is another story. Don’t get me wrong, the Maverick is definitely as good as (if not better) than anything else you can buy new for $20K, but the plastics and seating materials are a far cry from what I’m used to. And, yeah, that’s a first-world problem if there ever was one (the heated steering wheel in my Volvo gets too hot), but even my 10-year-old Honda Civic EX-L winter beater feels like it had twice the the Maverick designers’ material budgets.
Under the hood, you can see that cost-cutting a little more clearly if you have the right kind of eyes. Look under the hood, itself, where other cars have a sound-insulating fire blanket on low melt-point pins, the Ford has sheet metal. Where other cars have padded, safety-enhancing cylinder head covers (or, at least, decorative plastics), the Ford Maverick has a tangled mass of fuel lines and electronic cables. It’s a blast from the past, for sure, but not one that’s likely to sway the normies one way or the other.
If the customer isn’t likely to notice or know about what they’re missing in some part of the truck, it seems like the Maverick bean-counters decided it wasn’t worth having in the truck at all, then.
That said, Ford’s designers did an absolutely fantastic job masking the hard plastics with interesting color choices and geometric shapes. The exposed screws are cleverly styled to look “Ford tough” instead of “super cheap and easy to build” as well. And, sure, the front seatbacks do seem a bit vulnerable to toddlers’ muddy feet …
… but there’s plenty of room for my own “Mondeo Man” brood of wife and kids. Despite the low price and adequate seating, though, I’m not sure I’d recommend the Maverick as a family sedan replacement unless you plan on getting some type of locking bed cover. Even the soft, lockable folder Ford offers would probably do the job, but leaving a bunch of sledding gear and backpacks with school-issued iPads in them in an open bed was, for me, a non-starter.
As a second car, or as exactly the kind of truck I would have loved to have for myself as a single, kid-free guy, however? The Ford Maverick simply can’t be beat. The fact that it already appeals to so many people who might have otherwise bought a much less efficient used full-sizer of V6-powered full-sizer is going to be a net positive for everyone, and the fact that it can provide reliable transportation to the lucky people who snapped up theirs quickly enough — at a price-point that is quickly becoming a thing of the past! — is just icing on the cake.
The new Ford Maverick is nearly perfect for what it is, and anyone in the market for a new affordable vehicle would be a fool to not at least consider this compact hybrid pickup. Sure, it’s not an EV, but until there’s a pure electric compact pickup, this may be as good as it gets for anyone who needs a $20,000 truck. Definitely buy.
Original content from CleanTechnica.