2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

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  • 2022 Ford Maverick

    A light blue 2022 Ford Maverick is angled left.

    Starting at

    $19,995*

    2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

    A white 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is angled right.

    Starting at

    $23,990

    40Fuel Economy (mpg city est)21
    YesHybrid Model (Available)No
    45Bed Length (in)52

    The small pickup truck segment is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Why? The demographics of pickup buyers overall have changed dramatically in the last few years as more people show interest in the body style without necessarily needing traditional truck capability. Take the 2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. We challenge you to find two more different vehicles that exist – and compete – in the same category.

    In response to a divergent customer base, automakers are focusing more on styling and features instead of trying to best each other with increasing towing and payload capacities. However, some manufacturers, like Hyundai, are pushing the style envelope to the extreme. It's true that the 2022 Santa Cruz technically includes a truck bed, but in our opinion, it doesn't look much like a pickup truck.

    What will buyers say about Hyundai's deviation? It may depend on whether they're comparison shopping. If it comes down to choosing a more traditional model, the 2022 Ford Maverick will win, but for those looking more for an SUV-type style, the quirky Santa Cruz could prove to be a better fit. It has us asking, which of these two vehicles best represents the category?

  • Exterior

    An orange 2022 Ford Maverick is shown parked after winning a 2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz comparison.

    The industry's efforts to reimagine the small pickup category are most evident with the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. This is no ordinary pickup, and for some, that fact is enough to eliminate it before even taking a test drive. It's a big design gamble by Hyundai because a large majority of small pickup buyers want, well, a pickup truck. The Santa Cruz resembles more of a modern-day Chevy El Camino or Subaru Baja.

    What Is It?

    The best way to describe the Santa Cruz is to call it a mix of a car, pickup, and crossover. It doesn't fully commit to any body style, which might be confusing to buyers. Classic pickup truck features, like the truck bed, are smaller on the Santa Cruz, so buyers looking for utility may venture elsewhere. From a styling standpoint, the Santa Cruz feels more like an alternative to a crossover than it does a bona fide pickup contender.

    Hyundai used a unibody design for the Santa Cruz, which is part of why it looks so much like the Hyundai Santa Fe, which shares the same basic platform. From the side view, it almost looks like someone simply forgot to install the back half of the SUV. This achieves a unique curb appeal for sure, but the overall design is choppy and appears to borrow elements from multiple body styles. Even Hyundai can't quite decide, calling the Santa Cruz a "Sport Adventure Vehicle" on its website.

    America's Favorite Truck Brand

    Ford stays committed to its Built Ford Tough mission with the 2022 Maverick's design, so buyers can rest assured that opting for a Maverick gets them similar ruggedness and dependability. Three trims let buyers equip their Maverick with plenty of niceties, but they'll also have the option of adding equipment specifically for off-roading. With the Maverick, Ford straddles the design fence, offering a truck that's trendy, but not too trendy.

    The Maverick isn't all business, though. It features more youthful styling, especially on the front end. All Maverick trims received standard LED headlights which are flush-mounted along a curved slope in the grille. A palette of cool exterior colors, including a very bright orange and an electric blue, further define the Maverick's fun side and look just as good fresh out of the car wash as they do coming off a muddy trail.

  • Options

    The interior of a 2022 Ford Maverick shows a person using the infotainment screen from the drivers seat.

    We suspect that compact pickup shoppers list affordability as a key requirement, which is why we're surprised that the 2022 Santa Cruz starts at roughly $4,000 more than the 2022 Maverick. Not only is Hyundai gambling on styling, but the company also presumes that buyers will pay more for its distinctiveness. We're not so sure. After all, regardless of size, a pickup truck is still desired for its core styling.

    It's true that the segment is now attracting different buyers for different reasons – not just those seeking affordable pickup truck capability – but we wonder if there are enough fringe buyers to justify the one-two punch of odd styling at a higher price. Even zooming out to look at the category as a whole, the Santa Cruz falls in the middle price-wise. Perhaps Hyundai should have launched it with an inexpensive starting trim to gain more buyers.

    Three Options from Ford

    The 2022 Maverick comes in three trims: the base XL, starting at just under $20,000, the mid-range XLT for a few thousand more, and the top-of-the-line Lariat, at just over $25,000. Even fully equipped, it's hard to price out a Maverick that will cost more than $30,000. But despite the low price, even the base XL features plenty of standard equipment, including an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen powered by SYNC 3 technology.

    Bump up to the Maverick XLT, and you'll find special Navy and Slate Gray interior seating, 17-inch wheels, and Ford's unique FLEXBED system, a modular truck bed setup that reconfigures easily for all different kinds of cargo, including bikes, luggage, and more. Additionally, it includes a multi-position tailgate that extends for easy transporting of longer payload. Inside, XLT owners will love the power-adjustable heated seats.

    If you like your trucks luxurious and fully appointed, then Ford recommends the Lariat. This trim includes premium vinyl seating in contrasting black/brown, 18-inch wheels, and an upsized 6.5-inch instrument cluster. Dual-zone climate control is standard, along with an upgraded Bang & Olufsen 8-speaker audio system, ambient interior lighting, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

    Flavors of Santa Cruz

    Hyundai offers the Santa Cruz in four trims: the $23,990 SE, the SEL, which jumps to over $27,000, the SEL Premium for around $35,000, and the Limited, which pushes the price to almost $40,000. The SE's standard features are similar to those offered on the less expensive Maverick XL, including an 8-inch touchscreen. The SEL introduces driver-assist safety technology and a few additional interior comfort and convenience features.

    The Santa Cruz SEL Premium and Limited trims justify the bump in price by offering a more powerful turbocharged engine standard, along with a larger infotainment touchscreen, paddle shifters, and in the case of the Limited, a surround vision camera. Buyers will have to decide for themselves if the extra horsepower and interior bells and whistles are actually worth the substantial jump in price.

  • Performance

    A silver 2022 Ford Maverick is shown from the front driving on an open road past a field.

    The 2022 Maverick is the only pickup truck in the category to offer a standard hybrid powertrain, a fact that's probably giving Hyundai executives a little bit of heartburn. Somehow, Ford managed to equip even its entry Maverick trim with a 191-horsepower hybrid setup that delivers 40 mpg of city fuel economy and still keep the price tag under $20,000. What this means is, not only is the Maverick less expensive to buy than the Santa Cruz – it's also less expensive to drive.

    The Santa Cruz also offers a 190-horsepower powertrain on its base SE trim, but it's all-gasoline and thus only achieves a 21 mpg city fuel economy rating. Car and Driver recommends avoiding the Santa Cruz's base 2.5-liter four-cylinder because of its "languid acceleration," but unfortunately for buyers, upgrading to the larger four-cylinder will cost you an additional $1,500, pushing the price over $25,000.

    Ford Provides More Options

    Ford offers the Maverick with a more powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost gas engine for buyers looking to tow heavy loads or haul payload. It makes 250 horsepower and can be combined with all-wheel drive. We understand why some buyers will choose the more powerful engine, but the Maverick's unique standard hybrid engine technology is what makes it a standout in the class.

    Considering the Santa Cruz is Hyundai's newest model and the company's first-ever pickup truck-ish body style, we're surprised that it isn't offered in a hybrid version. A quick peek at the rest of Hyundai's lineup reveals that the Santa Fe crossover, which shares a platform with the Santa Cruz, is offered with a hybrid engine. It's clear that the industry is moving toward an electrified future, so the lack of a hybrid option seems a bit off message.

    Either way, it's nice that Ford offers both, giving buyers an easy way to back into the powertrain they want without limiting them to only one option. The Santa Cruz can boast that it offers a bit more horsepower, but buyers must be prepared to fork over a lot more money to get it. We're not sure the extra power is worth it when you can get a similarly-powered Maverick for thousands of dollars less and enjoy better fuel economy to boot.

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