If you ask Ford or Hyundai what the competition is for the Maverick or the Santa Cruz, you’ll get the same answer: There isn’t a direct competitor. Ford calls the Maverick a compact truck. Hyundai calls the Santa Cruz a “sport adventure vehicle.” Both companies will tell you they’re not competing against the other — and both will still bust out the specs of either the Maverick or the Santa Cruz, depending on the situation, to tell you how their vehicle is better.
That’s because, for better or for worse, the Maverick and the Santa Cruz are both targeting the general “people who don’t need a massive truck but might benefit from a slightly smaller vehicle with a truck bed” market. That means people are going to compare the two, whether or not Ford and Hyundai want them to.
To get a sense of how these vehicles fare within their individual class, we’ve decided to run through a point-by-point comparison of specs and drive impressions to really clarify the differences.
(Full disclosure: Both Ford and Hyundai invited me on their respective press trips to drive the Maverick and the Santa Cruz.)
- Length: 199.7 inches
- Width: 72.6 inches
- Height: 68.7 inches
- Wheelbase: 121.1 inches
- Ground clearance: 8.3 inches FWD, 8.6 inches AWD
- Approach angle: 20.6 degrees FWD, 21.6 degrees AWD
- Breakover angle: 16.6 degrees FWD, 18.1 degrees AWD
- Departure angle: 21.9 degrees FWD, 21.2 degrees AWD
- Bed length: 54.4 inches
- Bed width, max / between wheel house: 53.3 inches / 42.6 inches
- Lift-in height: 30.1 inches
Hyundai Santa Cruz
- Length: 195.7 inches
- Width: 75 inches
- Height: 66.7 inches
- Wheelbase: 118.3 inches
- Ground clearance: 8.6 inches
- Approach angle: 17.5 degrees
- Breakover angle: 18.6 degrees
- Departure angle: 23.2 degrees
- Bed length 52.1 inches
- Bed width, max / between wheel house: 53.9 inches / 42.7 inches
- Lift-in height: 31.6 inches
To sum it up plainly: 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).
But all of these differences in specs are fairly minor and straight number-by-number comparisons probably aren’t going to change your mind.
- 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
Ultimately: the Maverick wins when it comes to power choices but the Santa Cruz offers more power. The base Maverick offers better fuel mileage (roughly 40 mpg combined) than the base Santa Cruz (23 mpg combined).
Payload and Towing
- 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
Surprisingly, the Santa Cruz has the better numbers here — you can load more in the bed and haul more than the Maverick, whether standard or equipped with AWD.
That said, only Ford offered an opportunity to test payload and towing during its press drive; Hyundai didn’t provide us with a chance to experience what the Santa Cruz felt like loaded up. Ford has the benefit of decades of experience in the truck realm, so there was a definite sense that the compact truck was almost more at home loaded up than it was empty (though it did drive very well without anything in the bed or attached to the tow ball). I can’t speak to what Santa Cruz would feel like with the bed weighed down, or how it would handle a trailer.
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
Again, Hyundai provided limited options during our Santa Cruz press drive: We tested the highest-level trim only, whereas Ford provided all trims of the Maverick for journalists to test. I couldn’t tell you how the base-model Santa Cruz functions as a daily driver, but I was quite impressed with the base-model Maverick.
The Maverick never felt like it skimped out on its base trim. You could tell the difference between the XL and the Lariat just from looking at the interior, but if you don’t need your butt encased in fake leather, you won’t feel like you’re lacking anything with the XL.
- 8-inch 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
I found the Santa Cruz’s infotainment system a little more robust and informative; it felt much tech-ier than the Maverick’s very basic setup, the latter of which basically only provides audio. If you like to keep things simple, you’ll like the Maverick. If you like a fancier infotainment system that provides navigation, you’ll prefer the Santa Cruz.
This is one is subjective, but we’re all a little vain: looks are important. You don’t want to drive something that looks like ass on wheels — and thankfully, both vehicles here look great.
The Maverick looks a little more traditional and truck-y, but I preferred its interior. Ford paid a lot of attention to making the interior sleek and wide to convey a sense of space, but the interior color schemes are also excellent. The Lariat’s burnished copper was admittedly my favorite, but the textured door panels available on lower trims are unique and look great. The storage features, like the in-door water bottle holders, truck bed side pockets, and rear under-seat storage, all feel much more smoothly integrated, and the driver cockpit retains a more conventional feel.
The Santa Cruz, by contrast, pulls in a lot of design cues from Hyundai’s SUVs. The command center for the driver feels sleeker and more modern, but the rest of the interior was mostly okay — nothing to write home about, whereas the Maverick had some fun touches. The Santa Cruz shines in the exterior, with incredibly cool wheels, sleek CUV-like lines that translate well to the truck, and an exceptional front grille.
The Vibe And The Verdict
Sometimes, when you drive a car, it can be hard to articulate the feel of that vehicle entirely in hard numbers. As silly as it sounds, sometimes you need to think about the overall ambiance of the vehicle and try to express the feel you get behind the wheel. Like describing a fruit to someone who’s never had it before, there’s more than just the weight and shape; there’s the flavor, the mouthfeel, the texture.
With the Ford Maverick, you’re looking at a more conventional vehicle that will likely have a wider appeal. You may not be a traditional Truck Person, but you at least know what a truck looks like and have reasonable expectations for what it does. You can rest assured that Ford knows what it’s doing with a truck, and it’s also pretty hard to beat the price of the vehicle when you consider all the goodies you get (especially that hybrid fuel mileage and all the options). You’ll likely be frustrated by the lack of standard features like a tonneau cover, but Ford’s willingness to provide you with DIY 3D printer instructions does ease that a bit, assuming you have access to one of those.
The Hyundai Santa Cruz, on the other hand, still feels a little confused as to what it wants to be — possibly because trucks are so new to Hyundai. I get the sense that the Santa Cruz is going to appeal to a bit of a smaller audience; you’re probably going to attract people cross-shopping a CUV, but I don’t know if you’re going to attract someone who definitely wants a truck. That said, the Santa Cruz has a ton of attractive features, like the standard tonneau cover, its great towing capacity, and its slightly more impressive infotainment system—even if it does have a bit of a divisive appearance, and its fuel mileage is frankly depressing.
At the end of the day, I’d argue that the Maverick will reach a broader audience. Automotive enthusiasts, Truck People, low-budget folks, and small families will all find the compact truck a great and capable option. The Santa Cruz feels like it’s more directed toward suburban family life. Neither vehicle is bad, and they match up well on paper, but both deliver an entirely different feel.