In the battle of the compact truck, who wins: the Hyundai Santa Cruz, or the Ford Maverick?
Well, okay. Both automakers contend that their vehicles aren’t in direct competition, since they have a lot of differences. Ford is aiming for a more conventional truck audience while Hyundai is inventing a whole new segment with its so-called “sport adventure vehicle.”
But buyers are comparing them, which means that we’re going to break down how these vehicles compare on every possible level to help you make the most informed decision possible.
I won’t bore you with all the numbers for both of these vehicles, since it can get pretty tedious (and those numbers are easy to find with a quick Google search). But I will sum it up for you: The Maverick is taller, longer, and narrower when compared to the Santa Cruz. The Maverick has a longer bed and a lower lift-in height — but the Santa Cruz’s bed is wider and also offers more storage options (lockable under-floor storage and two side bins compared to the Maverick’s one or two side bins depending on the trim).
The differences between the two vehicles, though, are pretty minor and probably won’t be the reason you opt for one over the other.
- Ford Maverick with standard 2.5 liter hybrid engine: 191 hp and 173 lb.-ft torque
- Ford Maverick with optional 2.0 liter turbo gasoline engine: 250 hp and 277 lb.-ft torque
- Hyundai Santa Cuz with standard 2.5-liter engine: 191 hp and 181 lb.-ft torque
- Hyundai Santa Cruz with optional 2.5-liter turbo engine: 281 hp and 311 lb.-ft torque
Both vehicles have two engine options with roughly comparable numbers, so power output along may not sway you.
Rather, you’re probably going to make your decision based on fuel mileage, because this is where the power choice really matters. In this case, the Maverick wins out. It recently took an EPA rating of 42 mpg combined with its base hybrid engine, while the Santa Cruz’s base engine gets 23 mpg.
The Maverick does lose fuel economy when it moves to the turbocharged gasoline-only engine, and the hybrid is less capable of towing, so it can be a toss-up.
Payload and Towing Capacity
- Ford Maverick: 1,500 pounds
- Hyundai Santa Cruz: 1,748 pounds (though Hyundai has changed this number a few times)
- Ford Maverick: 2,000 pounds
- Ford Maverick with AWD: 4,000 pounds
- Santa Cruz: 3,500 pounds
- Santa Cruz with AWD: 5,000 pounds
Despite looking like a more conventional truck, the Maverick actually lags behind the Santa Cruz when it comes to Truck Stuff, like hauling or filling the bed. If you plan on using as much of your trunk as possible, you’ll want to opt for the Santa Cruz, though the Maverick is a bit more comfortable to drive when fully loaded.
Cost, Trims, and Options
- XL: Standard hybrid powertrain, front-wheel drive, steel wheels, automatic headlights, forward collision warning, emergency braking, power windows and locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, 8-inch touchscreen, USB and USB-C ports in the front, cloth seats, a six-speaker sound system: $21,490
- XLT: Add 17-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, FlexBed cubby storage, power tailgate lock, keypad access for front door, cruise control, upgraded exterior, and a rear seat center armrest: $23,775
- Lariat: Add power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-sliding rear window, simulated leather upholstery, a larger instrument panel, dual-zone climate control, six-way power passenger seat: $26,085
Ford also offers host of packages that improve towing and off-road capability alongside a whole host of accessories like the tonneau cover, which you can purchase from Ford, or its storage solutions, which you can either buy from Ford or make at home with a 3D printer.
Hyundai Santa Cruz
- SE: 8-inch color touchscreen, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, wireless AppleCarPlay and Android Auto, standard safety features, heat-molded composite bed, 18-inch alloy wheels; $23,995 for FWD, $25,490 for AWD
- SEL: Add blind-spot collisions and rear cross-traffic alert, BlueLink connected technologies, proximity key with power start, power driver’s seat, heated front seats; $27,190 for FWD, $28,690 for AWD
- SEL Activity: Add integrated tonneau cover, dual C-channel utility rail system in bed, rear sliding glass with defroster, in-bed 115-volt power outlet, power sunroof, rear side rails; $30,460 for FWD; $31,960 for AWD
- SEL Premium: Add 2.5-liter turbo engine, steering wheel paddle shifters, LED headlights, digital key, dual-zone temperature control, AWD only; $35,680
- Limited: 10.25-inch navigation system, surround and blind view monitors, leather-trimmed seats, smart cruise control with stop-and-go, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel; $39,720
Hyundai has built flexibility into its bed, but not to the same extent as Ford — thought its hard, lockable tonneau cover comes standard, where as on the Ford, that’s an option.
- 8-in. touchscreen
- Tethered Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Wireless charging as an option
- A 12-volt power point in the truck bed, with an optional 110-volt outlet or two power points on the Lariat trim
Hyundai Santa Cruz
- 8- to 10.25-inch color navigation system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Wireless charging
- Lockable under-bed storage; two lockable side bin compartments in truck bed; LED bed lighting
- Self-retracting, water-resistant, lockable bed cover
While both cars’ infotainment systems are good, there are significant differences that make them appeal to a much different audience. The Maverick — especially in its lower trims — can feel a little tech-phobic at times. Its infotainment system is very basic, though it doesn’t feel out of date; it’s just incredibly simple. If you’re not a fan of screens in cars, this might be the system that converts you.
The Santa Cruz, on the other hand, features a more robust infotainment system of the kind you’d expect from a new, modern vehicle. It has plenty of wireless capabilities, and the screen itself is very modern. It’s a great option for anyone who loves having their tech always at hand.
If you want a clear answer as to which vehicle is better, you won’t find one here. Both the Ford Maverick and the Hyundai Santa Cruz are delightful, and they’ll both serve different audiences.
So, if you’re someone who wants a conventional truck without any of the negatives that come along with a truck — the size, weight, or fuel mileage — then you’ll be more likely to opt for the Maverick, even if it doesn’t quite stack up to the Santa Cruz in terms of things like payload or towing.
The Santa Cruz, then, is perfect for anyone who’s torn between an SUV and a truck, or who wants an SUV but also kind of wants something different. This is a vehicle with personality, one that’s capable but also quite fun. If you’re looking for a conventional truck or SUV, this isn’t it — but if you’re okay with coloring outside the lines, you’ll love the Santa Cruz.
Full disclosure: Both Ford and Hyundai invited me on press trips to drive the Maverick and Santa Cruz. All opinions are my own.