Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A yellow 2023 Ford Maverick is shown from the side parked at night.

Why Car Manufacturers Can’t Forget About the Compact Truck

It seems like for the last few decades truck manufacturers have been in an unspoken race to make the biggest, toughest, most intimidating pickup. Every year, a new, heftier truck hits the market with massive dimensions verging on monster truck rally territory. And if you’ve fought for a parking spot in a busy shopping center, you’ve noticed huge pickups jutting out of spots, barely fitting between the lines. Vehicle manufacturers apparently sent out a memo, “bigger is better,” but they seemed to have overlooked an important note that consumers tried to send: we still need compact trucks.

The message was finally heard loud and clear when the 2022 Ford Maverick came out. It was an instant hit. People flocked to dealerships to snag one of these neat pickups, with its modest 1,500-pound payload capacity and just as humble 4,000-pound maximum towing capacity. Who would have thought that this compact truck would go flying off of lots, seeing as trucks sized more like spaceships were allegedly all the rage for years? Now, the 2023 Ford Maverick is selling just as quickly. As someone who doesn’t personally drive a truck but regularly gets behind the wheel of my family members’ and husband’s (large) trucks, here’s an argument for why manufacturers need to keep putting out good compact pickups.

Getting in Doesn’t Require a Ladder

Unless you’re over six feet tall, then you know what most of us know: getting in and out of one of the larger pickup trucks is a pain. You can forget about doing it in one swift motion if you’re holding a single thing in your arms. You need one arm to stabilize yourself on the side of the truck while you hoist yourself up. I start every car ride in my husband’s lifted truck with a little disdain for his choice of vehicle because I am literally out of breath from climbing into such a tall ride. Compact trucks don’t pose this problem and are nice and easy on us height-challenged individuals. (And by height challenged, I mean totally average-sized people. Only giants can comfortably step into most large trucks these days). At just 68.7 inches tall, the Maverick is easy to hop into without any extra help.

Turning Is a Breeze

Whenever I have to drive someone’s massive truck, I’m always struck by how what would be a two-point turn in a sedan becomes a six-point turn. I go back and forth and back and forth, doing a simple maneuver while people stare at me, waiting for me to be done so they can move along. A turning radius on a full-size and even midsize truck is usually less-than-impressive and downright frustrating. Compact trucks have nice and easy turning radiuses, making getting in and out of tight situations easy (and meaning less frustrated drivers staring at me while I take forever to get out of a parking spot).

The tan interior of a 2023 Ford Maverick shows two rows of seating.

Parking Lot Courtesy

Some big box stores and similar retail establishments have parking lots ready to accommodate full-size pickups. But if you ever need to pull into a cramped strip mall parking lot that has all of five little spots for its seven businesses, then you know how obtrusive a full-size pickup truck is. I personally need to visit a variety of businesses––large and small––with size-appropriate parking lots (large and very, very small). Driving a compact truck makes it easy for me to do curbside pickup and actually park in front of smaller businesses with compact lots while still offering a nice size bed to throw my cargo into.

Sometimes, You Don’t Need All That Space

The race to make bigger and bigger trucks has placed an emphasis on serious DIYers, contractors, moving companies, and people who need to haul massive items. If you need to move grand pianos or couches on a regular basis, there are plenty of great truck options for you. But those of us who just want some space to toss a couple of bicycles or coolers in our truck have been short on options.

Compact pickups are ideal for weekend adventurers who really only need a modest-sized bed for items too large for most trunks. We don’t want to have to buy a spaceship-sized truck in order to make that happen. The 4.5-foot bed of the 2023 Maverick is just right for running errands and activities like these.

When Did Pickups Stop Being Affordable?

There was a time when the pickup truck was the great working (wo)man’s vehicle. It was a vehicle people used to make money, which presumed that drivers of trucks were not rolling in money. Somewhere along the line, that understanding went out the window. It became all about luxury trucks that feel like hotel lobbies on wheels with their fancy materials and huge dimensions. So, what about people who need a truck and don’t have a luxury budget? Compact pickups like the 2023 Ford Maverick are holding things down in what seems to be the dying category of truly affordable pickups.

I, for one, am not prepared to shell out the better part of $100K for a brand-new pickup. In my opinion, money like that should go into a car that won’t be worked as hard as a pickup. I’ll save the big bucks for a sports or luxury vehicle and want my trucks to be budget-friendly.

Getting Better Fuel Economy

There are, luckily, more and more full-size trucks becoming available in hybrid varieties. However, that’s pretty much the only way you’re going to find a large truck that isn’t a huge gas guzzler these days. If you aren’t ready to go hybrid or electric, a compact truck is the last option in the truck world for something that has a bed for lugging stuff but won’t cost you hundreds of dollars to fill up each month. That makes the compact pickup a big value add for the budget-conscious consumer, and it makes the Maverick, with a fuel economy rating of around 23 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway for its non-hybrid engine, a great truck.

An orange 2023 Ford Maverick is shown from the side during a tailgate party.

Height Concerns

I’m not talking about human height now, but truck height. I’ve suffered through enough sweaty moments of not knowing if the top of my husband’s tall truck was going to scratch the roof of a friend’s garage. Compact trucks aren’t much taller than regular cars, and I never worry that they’ll hit the roof of a parking structure.

Consumers Are Crying Out for More Compact Trucks

Other car manufacturers should take notice of the success of the 2023 Ford Maverick. So much attention has been given to making trucks bigger and heavier, but what about the little guys? No, not the drivers––the trucks themselves. There are clearly, as Maverick sales have shown, tens of thousands of drivers who need a compact pickup. Not everybody wants or needs to drive a massive truck, nor does every truck lover want or need a bed big enough to put a Jacuzzi in. Some people just need a little extra space in the back for some outdoor adventure gear, but still want a fuel-efficient vehicle that’s easy to drive and park just about anywhere.

I for one am going to start bringing a step ladder to my husband’s car for dramatic effect when it’s time to hop in. Maybe that will encourage him to opt for a smaller truck when it’s time to get a new car. We’ve never come close to filling up the bed, and I think our experience is representative of many drivers––we have more truck than we need. But, it’s only because there weren’t many great compact truck options out there when we bought it. Luckily, Ford is changing that.