2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz vs. 2023 Ford Maverick

February 24th, 2023 by

The small truck segment of the market has been criminally underserved in recent years. Models from the 90s and early aughts fell out of favor with the general public for a number of reasons—small cabs with barebones seating and amenities, too-small beds, and generally underpowered engines made them unappealing to all but the most niche buyers.

Now, the car business as a whole has gone back to the drawing board, and we’re seeing a new generation of smaller new trucks. What’s the smallest pickup truck you can buy? Two such examples are the Hyundai Santa Cruz, and the Ford Maverick. Both are designed on preexisting SUV architecture, but with medium-sized open beds and pickup-like utility and towing.

But which is best? Let’s have a look at the facts.

Dependability and Warranty

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself when buying a car is, how long is this thing gonna last me?

J.D. Power and Associates remains a gold standard for assessing the long-term dependability of any given vehicle—click that link, and you’ll even be taken to their 2023 Vehicle Dependability Study. In that study, Hyundai as a whole exhibits a much better track record, scoring well above the overall auto industry average. Ford, on the other hand, lurked near that bottom of the list.

What about warranty?

Model Bumper-to-Bumper Powertrain Anti-Perforation Roadside Assistance Routine Maintenance
Hyundai Santa Cruz 5-year/60,000 mile 10-year/100,000 mile 7-year/Unlimited mile 5-year/Unlimited mile 3-year/36,000 mile
Ford Maverick 3-year/36,000 mile 5-year/60,000 mile 5-year/Unlimited mile 5-year/60,000 mile None

Well, they do say Hyundai has America’s best warranty for a reason. Most reliable small truck goes to Hyundai.

Winner: Hyundai Santa Cruz

Towing and Powertrain

Both the Santa Cruz and Maverick have a few powertrain configurations. Both have front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options, and both have two engines to choose from.

For the Santa Cruz, the base engine is a 2.5L 4-cylinder, which gets the job done, but buyers who want more truck capability will want to pay the extra bucks for the turbocharged version, which comes with AWD as standard, and generates 281 horsies and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. With this configuration, the little truck that could is capable of towing an impressive 5,000 pounds. Payload maxes out at 1,609 pounds.

As for the Maverick, the standard engine is a 2.5L CVT full hybrid. While it’s by far the best option if you’re worried about saving at the pump, the 2.0L EcoBoost engine paired with AWD takes the cake when it comes to hauling, as it generates 250 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. This allows for a payload of 1,500 pounds, and a maximum towing capacity of 4,000.

Looks like the Santa Cruz is officially the best small truck for towing.

Winner: Hyundai Santa Cruz

Driver Assistance and Safety

The IIHS hasn’t fully evaluated the 2023 models of either vehicle just yet, but being that the current year is largely identical to 2022, we believe the ratings from yesteryear still apply.

The Ford Maverick won decent marks for its first model year, but the Santa Cruz was rated nearly perfect, earning a Top Safety Pick award, giving the Hyundai the edge for best compact truck in terms of safety.

What about driver assistance, though?

Both the Santa Cruz and Maverick have impressive ADAS packages—Hyundai SmartSense and Ford Co-Pilot360, respectively.

While not all features are available across all trims, Hyundai Santa Cruz includes:

  • Forward Collision Avoidance w/Pedestrian Detection (Standard)
  • Blind Spot Collision Avoidance
  • Blind Spot View Monitor
  • Lane Keeping Assist (Standard)
  • Lane Follow Assist (Standard)
  • High Beam Assist (Standard)
  • Driver Attention Warning (Standard)
  • Smart Cruise Control w/Stop and Go
  • Highway Driving Assist
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Avoidance
  • Safe Exit Warning
  • Surround View Monitor

While the Maverick has standard emergency braking, forward collision warning, and high beam assist, all other options are relegated to higher trim levels and are not standard. Hyundai Santa Cruz has the better selection of small truck features for the price.

Winner: Hyundai Santa Cruz

Amenities and Technology

Being that the this segment rides the line between truck and SUV, the question of best small truck is bound to be determined by its connectivity and infotainment features.

The base Santa Cruz has an 8-inch infotainment screen, with an upgrade to a 10.25-inch onboard navigation-equipped setup in the premium model, which also comes complete with a premium Bose sound system. The gauge cluster is also 10.25 inches, presenting a double threat of infotainment that also provides Sirius XM, wireless Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto capability.

The Maverick provides many of the same features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, as well as a premium B&O sound system in the higher trim, but the highest end display screen is a not-overly-impressive 8-incher. At the lower trim, the instrument cluster is a measly 4.2 inches, with 6.5 being the maximum in the Lariat trim.

If you’re looking for the smallest new truck with the best technology, the Santa Cruz proves much more rich and robust.

Winner: Hyundai Santa Cruz

We Have a Clear Winner!

There’s no doubting that Ford has created a sturdy opponent in the small truck sector. It’ll be interesting to see how this ongoing battle plays out in this exciting new segment, but for now, it’s clear that the Hyundai Santa Cruz is the best compact pickup all around.

Are you looking to look into finding the best smallest pickup truck for sale? Don’t worry, ‘cause Jim Burke has you covered. Now’s the perfect time to grab a new or used Santa Cruz and plan yourself a camping trip for the spring, so give us a call at (205) 502-2792 to get the process started. Be sure to ask about leasing at our Hyundai dealership in Birmingham.