Ford Maverick vs Hyundai Santa Cruz: Compare Pickup Trucks

Looking for the utility of a pickup truck but don’t want the size or fuel economy penalty of a full-size truck? The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz fit the bill. They both seat five and ride like compact crossovers, and their small beds and modest length mean they easily fit into garages and parking spaces. Launched in 2022, they’ve also proven to be successes for their brands. 

Ford sold nearly 100,000 Maverick in 2023, and now that supply has caught up with greater-than-anticipated demand, the small truck with the optional hybrid powertrain sold nearly three times as much of the midsize Ford Ranger. It’s still a fraction of the bestselling F-Series, but Ford proved with the Maverick that the market wants a useful, value-oriented, utility truck that gets up to 37 mpg combined. 

Ford’s not alone in resurrecting the small truck segment. The Hyundai Santa Cruz aims more for the weekend adventurer than the weekend honeydoer, and its more potent powertrain and more capable all-wheel drive system points it off the beaten path, but it’s no off-road conqueror. Hyundai can’t match Ford’s truck prowess, but moving nearly 37,000 units in 2023 still counts as a success for a brand that hadn’t sold a truck before in the U.S. 

Despite their similarities—seating for five, compact crossover platforms, available all-wheel drive, turbo-4 engine options, towing capacity of 4,000 or 5,000 pounds—the Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick appeal differently, as a weekend getaway car or a weekend workhorse. 

The Maverick won The Car Connection Best Pickup Truck To Buy 2024, but the Santa Cruz is more fun to drive. 

Here’s how they split the difference.

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz price and trims

  • Ford Maverick XL costs about $25,500; the hybrid adds $1,500
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz priced from $28,000 to $43,00
  • Recommended trims: Maverick XL Hybrid; Hyundai Santa Cruz SEL with AWD

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor

How much is the Ford Maverick? Which Maverick should I buy?

The base Maverick XL costs $25,000, including a $1,595 destination charge. But in a reversal of strategy, Ford made the turbo-4 standard in the 2024 Maverick, and now charges $1,500 more for the hybrid powertrain. In the first two years of the Maverick’s existence, the hybrid was standard. It still only comes with front-wheel drive, while the turbo-4 could be optioned with all-wheel drive for $2,220. 

With cruise control standard, we’d stick with the base XL for its value. It includes 17-inch steel wheels, power windows and locks, two USB ports, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We’d add the $650 Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist features that includes active lane control, blind-spot monitors, as well as a full-size spare tire. 

The $28,000 XLT ($29,500 for the hybrid) adds alloy wheels, orange accents inside, different cloth seats, and more available options such as heated seats. 

Opting for Ford’s advanced AWD system opens the door for the $2,995 Tremor Off-Road package available on XLT and Lariat turbo-4 models. It adds a locking rear differential and a twin-clutch rear-drive system that can send all of the rear torque to one wheel or the other. The Maverick Tremor features five drive modes, a trail control system, and it rides on all-terrain tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels. Consider it a $5,200 upcharge to the XLT and Lariat prices listed here. 

The top Lariat costs just under $36,000 for the hybrid, and about $700 more for the AWD gas Lariat. It includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a power driver seat, front seats with storage pockets in the back, synthetic leather, dual-zone climate control, USB ports for rear passengers, and a 6.5-inch digital instrument cluster. 

The Maverick’s 3-year/36,000-mile warranty is as basic as the truck, but far less endearing.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

How much is the Hyundai Santa Cruz? Which Santa Cruz should I buy?

The Santa Cruz is more expensive than the Maverick across the lineup, and Hyundai doesn’t offer it with a hybrid, yet, even though the related Hyundai Tucson has hybrid and plug-in hybrid options. 

The Santa Cruz SE starts at about $28,000, including a $1,375 destination fee. Aside from 18-inch alloy wheels and more driver-assist tech, it has the same starting gear as the Maverick, but its 8.0-inch touchscreen has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and every Santa Cruz is covered by a a 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty that includes 3 years of complimentary oil changes and tire rotations.

The SEL strikes the best value at $30,500, and we’d add AWD for $1,500. The SEL adds remote start, a power driver seat, heated front seats, and satellite radio. It’s the gateway to the $3,300 Activity Package that adds a sunroof, a nifty integrated tonneau cover, roof rails, wireless smartphone charging, and a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster. 

The available turbo-4 in the Santa Cruz represents a much steeper price increase than the Maverick’s hybrid option, but Hyundai bundles AWD with the turbo-4. Available first on the Night trim, it’s about $8,000 more than the SEL but it includes the Activity Package. Hyundai isn’t shy about loading up the Santa Cruz, with the top Limited grade exceeding $43,000 and studded with everything from leather upholstery and cooled front seats to a surround-view camera system.

Advantage: Ford Maverick.

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz specs, towing and performance

  • Ford Maverick uses a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque
  • Maverick’s 2.5-liter inline-4 hybrid makes 191 hp and 155 lb-ft, in front-wheel drive only
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz base 2.5-liter inline-4 makes 190 hp and 180 lb-ft
  • Santa Cruz 2.5-liter turbo-4 puts out 281 hp and 311 lb-ft

How fast is the Ford Maverick? Does it have all-wheel drive?

The Maverick can be had with a base turbo-4 with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, or a hybrid powertrain with front-wheel drive only. The hybrid used to be the base powertrain, but now the Maverick comes with a quicker 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The shifts can get muddled on low gears and at low speeds, making the hybrid seem smooth as butta’ by comparison.

The Maverick Hybrid costs $1,500 more in 2024, but efficiency and a calm ride with planted handling make this the Maverick of choice, even though it’s slower than the turbo-4. A 2.5-liter inline-4 pairs with a 94-kw motor to make 191 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque, with a chill hybrid planetary transmission routing power to the front wheels only. It’s a great gopher, as in “go for this” and “go for that.”

Payload maxes out at 1,500 pounds, hybrid towing reaches 2,000 pounds, but the turbo-4 with $2,220 all-wheel drive can tow up to 4,000 pounds. It’s impressive for a vehicle weighing less than 3,750 pounds fully loaded. It also swaps out a twist-beam rear axle for a multi-link rear suspension that 

handles much more like the related Ford Escape crossover instead of a pickup truck. 

A $3,495 Tremor package adds more off-road protection with an increased ride height, front skid plates, an electronic locking rear differential, all-wheel drive and 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. Front tow hooks could make you a hero. 

How fast is the Hyundai Santa Cruz? Does it have all-wheel drive?

Hyundai equips the Santa Cruz with more potent but less efficient powertrain choices. The standard 2.5-liter inline-4 makes 190 hp and 180 lb-ft, and pairs with an 8-speed automatic. We’ve yet to test it (please, Hyundai?), but front-wheel drive can be upgraded to all-wheel drive and a tow rating of 3,500 pounds. 

An available 2.5-liter turbo-4 puts out 281 hp and 311 lb-ft. That’s plenty powerful for a relatively smaller vehicle, though it weighs more than 4,100 pounds. Despite some lag from a stop, and some indecisiveness in low gears from its 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, all the torque comes on as early as 1,700 rpm, helping the Santa Cruz bustle to 60 mph in the mid-six-second range. 

With all-wheel drive, Hyundai adds a center locking differential to split the torque between the axles, then brake-based torque vectoring shuttles it to the wheel with the most grip. With MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear suspension with parts cribbed from the larger Santa Fe SUV, the Santa Cruz makes for a spirited ride on pavement, more like a wagon than a crossover or a pickup. 

A self-leveling rear suspension and an AWD tow rating of 5,000 pounds, the Santa Cruz can haul water toys and off-road boys to satisfy its mission as the weekend getaway car. It has a Subaru-like ground clearance of 8.6 inches, and good enough approach and departure angles to handle rutted paths and open fields. 

Advantage: Ford Maverick hybrid for work, Santa Cruz turbo-4 for play.

Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz fuel economy and mpg

  • The Ford Maverick Hybrid has an EPA rating of 40 mpg city, 33 highway, 37 combined
  • Maverick turbo-4 rates at 23/30/25 mpg; all-wheel drive is 22/28/24 mpg
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz rates at 22/26/23 mpg; AWD is 21/25/23 mpg
  • Santa Cruz turbo-4 with all-wheel drive is 19/27/22 mpg

Advantage: Ford Maverick. 

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD

2023 Ford Maverick

2023 Ford Maverick

Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz design and interior

  • Ford Maverick shares a platform with the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz shares a platform with the Hyundai Tucson
  • Both models have four doors, seat five people, and have a pickup bed

Is the Hyundai Santa Cruz a good-looking truck?

Yes, and it keeps looking better as it ages. It evokes the Subaru Baja from 15 years ago in that it lacks any pickup truck pretensions except for the small bed and standard 18-inch wheels. Sharing a platform with the Hyundai Tucson compact crossover, it could be mistaken for the Tucson at the front. Black cladding runs down the body to the rear, where hatchet-shaped taillights frame a pronounced tailgate that sits over integrated bumper steps, like those in a Chevy Colorado. 

Inside, the higher price than the Maverick is justified with a winged dash that tips into the door trim, and a good blend of modern tech and classic touches, like a mechanical gear shifter. It relies too much on the capacitive climate controls, turning the gloss-black center stack into a stamp book of fingerprint smudges. 

Is the Ford Maverick a good-looking truck?

At two years old, it feels timeless. Smaller than a Ford Explorer Sport Trac but longer than its platform-mates, the Ford Escape and Ford Bronco Sport, the Maverick distinguishes itself with a bar across the grille, as if supporting the dumbbell headlights. Round wheel arches house 17-inch steel wheels, square corners frame broad ends, and flat sides follow the lineage of Ford’s truck design through the Ranger to the F-150. It’s an instant classic. 

Inside, the Maverick’s honesty as a budget truck strikes all the right chords. There’s plastic everywhere, textured here, flecked with orange accents there, but it’s thoughtful, functional, and befitting the Maverick’s character. 

Advantage: It’s a draw.

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick

2022 Ford Maverick

Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz comfort and cargo space

  • At 195.7 inches long, the Santa Cruz is 4.0 inches shorter, rides 2.0 inches lower, and is nearly 3.0 inches narrower than the Maverick
  • Santa Cruz bed is 52.1 inches long, 53.9 inches wide (42.7 inches between the wheel wells), 19.2 inches high, and has 27.0 cubic feet of space
  • Ford Maverick bed is 54.4 inches long, 53.3 inches wide (42.6 inches between the wheel wells), 20.3 inches high, and has 33.3 cubic feet of space

Is the Ford Maverick bigger than the Hyundai Santa Cruz?

In the bed, yes. In the crew cabs, it’s pretty similar. Both small trucks are over a foot shorter in length than midsize trucks such as the Colorado or Honda Ridgeline. 

The Maverick’s cab is larger than either of Ford’s compact crossovers, and the 36.9 inches of rear legroom on the turbo-4 model (35.9 inches with the hybrid) is 2.4 inches more than the Ford Ranger with a crew cab. 

The Santa Cruz has 36.5 inches of rear legroom, but the seats are angled on a recline so it rides like a crossover compared to the Maverick’s stiffer, more vertical rear seats. Both have 60/40-split rear seats that flip up for hidden storage.

The Maverick’s 4.5-foot-long pickup bed is larger and more versatile. With dual covered bins and up to 10 tie-downs, as well as available bed lighting and aluminum rails, the Maverick mimics the beds of its bigger cousins. An adjustable tailgate capable of holding up to 400 pounds can be rigged to tote 4×8 sheets of plywood without a bed extender, Ford says, and two mountain bikes can slot into the bed with their front wheels angled.

The Santa Cruz’s bed is longer at the bottom than the top, which measures out to 48.4 inches. A built-in tonneau cover and hidden bed storage with a drain plug offer a different level of security. A manual sliding rear window from the cab to the bed is a dog’s best friend. With either truck, short bed walls make for easy access to content inside the bed when standing outside of the truck, and about 30 inches of lift-in height makes it possible for dogs of various sizes and ages to happily jump in without assistance. 

Advantage: Ford Maverick.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz safety

  • Both models have automatic emergency braking standard
  • Maverick earned a subpar four-star rating from the NHTSA
  • Santa Cruz earned a TSP and five-star NHTSA rating

The Hyundai Santa Cruz comes better equipped with driver-assist technology, it earns a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS, and most models earn a five-star NHTSA rating. The Maverick earned “Marginal” marks for the updated front overlap test and for its automatic emergency braking system. The NHTSA also found fault with front passenger protection, and gave it a four-star rollover rating that led to a four-star overall rating. 

Hyundai equips the Santa Cruz with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, automatic high-beam headlights, a driver monitoring system, and a safe exit warning. Options include blind-spot cameras, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera system. 

The Maverick only gets automatic emergency braking and automatic high-beam headlights. Blind-spot monitors and active lane control cost $650 more, and additional features such as adaptive cruise control are optional only on top Lariat grades.

Advantage: Hyundai Santa Cruz. 

Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz: Which is better?

On paper, the Hyundai Santa Cruz doesn’t measure up to the size, efficiency, or value of the Ford Maverick, but it offers more capability and an expected degree of sportiness. That’s how it earned a TCC Rating of 6.7 out of 10. The Ford Maverick’s poor safety rating sinks its TCC Rating to 6.5 out of 10 but the hybrid powertrain and lower cost of ownership appeals to us more. Whatever the case, both small trucks are a welcome antidote to anodyne crossovers everywhere.

Winner: Ford Maverick.