Ford Maverick vs Hyundai Santa Cruz: 2024 Comparison

The 2024 Ford Maverick and 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz are each other’s most obvious competitors. They’re also each other’s only competitors. This pair of compact pickup trucks, both of which are based on car-like “crossover” platforms, hit the market several months apart and gave rise to an entirely new vehicle segment.

Because the Maverick and Santa Cruz were developed concurrently, they both went about the idea of a compact pickup in very different ways. The Maverick went with more of a traditional, boxy, American truck concept, albeit with a very untraditional available powertrain: a hybrid. The Santa Cruz is more like a compact SUV with a truck bed, a sort of alternative to all those outdoor adventuring trim levels popping up throughout the SUV world.

In other words, the Santa Cruz and Maverick are similar in their most basic description (compact truck), but ultimately very different. Let’s take a look at various areas where they might outshine the other.

Read our 2024 Ford Maverick Review

Read our 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz Review

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz interior

Which has a nicer interior?

Winner: Santa Cruz

If you’re wondering why the Santa Cruz costs more, this is a big reason why. The Santa Cruz has basically the same cabin design and quality as the Hyundai Tucson; it has a premium look and materials quality is high. The top trim can even be described as luxurious. The Maverick definitely gets points for interesting design and a bold color palette, but the quality of materials would be indicative of an entire segment below the Santa Cruz if we were talking about crossover SUVs. Everything is hard plastic, which is probably OK given the price tag, but the question did literally ask which has a nicer interior. The Hyundai.

2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid

Which has better infotainment technology?

Winner: Santa Cruz

Hyundai has one of the best infotainment systems in the industry, so this is an easy one. It looks great and is easy to use. We don’t love the touch-sensitive second controls, but they do at least contribute to that premium look described above. There are two screen sizes available, 8-inch standard and a 10.25-inch upper trim upgrade, both running basically the same interface. The Maverick only offers an 8-inch screen, but it’s actually quite user friendly in its own right. It’s just outdone by Hyundai.

Which is safer?

Winner: Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz comes standard with more driver assistance technology features, and we generally prefer their performance to those of Ford’s. The Hyundai also has better safety ratings.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Santa Cruz its highest score of “Good” across all crashworthiness tests but its lowest score of “Poor” for its headlights. It’s very likely that this will change for 2024 since all Santa Cruz models now come standard with upgraded LED lighting. NHTSA’s partial evaluations awarded the Santa Cruz five-out-of-five stars for frontal crash protection and four stars in rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn’t updated its ratings for the 2024 Maverick, but we expect them to remain unchanged from 2023. The 2023 Maverick earned a second-best rating of “Acceptable” for the updated moderate overlap front crash test (many new cars have not been subjected to this test yet), and the best “Good” rating for side impact. It earned the best “Superior” rating for vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention, a second-best “Advanced” rating for daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian prevention, and a “Basic” rating for nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian prevention.

Which has the bigger back seat?

Winner: Maverick

The specs say differently, but after testing them both, the Maverick has the better back seat. Legroom might effectively be a wash, but the seatback in the Santa Cruz is more noticeably upright than what you’ll find in the Maverick. Then there’s the matter of accommodating a rear-facing child seat. In short, there was more space remaining for the front seat passenger in the Maverick. Even a 6-foot-3 passenger was perfectly comfortable up there with a natural seatback angle and space between my knees and the dashboard. In the Santa Cruz, the seat was pushed far forward and his knees were jammed up against the dash. Admittedly, this could be as much to do with the Santa Cruz’s dash design, which juts further out into the cabin.

Read out in-depth Santa Cruz vs Maverick Back Seat Review

Which has more cargo capacity and functionality?

Winner: Santa Cruz

If we’re literally talking capacity, then the Maverick’s bed is 4.5 feet long while the Santa Cruz’s is 4.3 feet long. It also has a more conventional shape. What the Santa Cruz may lack in terms of overall capacity (and even just barely), it counters with clever features that add versatility and security beyond the usual pickup experience. There is an underfloor storage area, bed-size cubbies, and perhaps the most useful feature, an available garage-door-style roller shade that slides back and forth over the bed to easily secure it. To be fair, the Maverick does have its own cubby and a 12-volt plug, but given the way most people use their trunks, we think the Santa Cruz’s extra functionality trumps literal capacity.

Which gets better fuel economy?

Winner: Maverick

The Maverick is available with a hybrid powertrain, so this is an easy one. Although paired only with front-wheel drive, the Maverick Hybrid returns 37 miles per gallon combined. The best the Santa Cruz can do is 23 mpg combined. The Maverick’s base turbocharged engine is also better than both the underwhelming base engine and turbocharged upgrade of the Santa Cruz that basically get the same fuel economy of 22-23 mpg combined. The Maverick turbo returns 26 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 25 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

Which is more powerful?

Winner: Um, it depends

If we’re talking base engines, then the Maverick is far more powerful. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four produces 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. The Santa Cruz’s 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-four produces only 191 hp and 181 lb-ft. That’s exactly the same horsepower amount that the Maverick Hybrid produces, by the way. On the other hand, the Santa Cruz’s upgrade engine is a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is the strongest here by far.

Which is better to drive?

Winner: Santa Cruz

We love how the Maverick drives. For a pickup, it’s nimble, easy to park, easy to cut through city streets and even fun at times. We just like the Santa Cruz better. It’s one of the most responsive and agile compact crossovers, regardless of what’s going on behind the C pillar. There is nothing remotely truck-like about it, and it proves to be shockingly sharp and capable of flicking about a twisting mountain road. True, getting the bigger engine definitely helps here, but in general, the Santa Cruz gets the nod even though the Maverick is impressive in its own right.

Which is more comfortable?

Winner: Inconclusive

The front seats in the Santa Cruz are more likely to be deemed more comfortable, while we’ve already noted that its upright back seat will give the Maverick the nod in that arena. You can expect the Hyundai to be quieter, too. Ride comfort is trickier. The Santa Cruz has a more sophisticated suspension design, but it’s sporty tuning might leave some finding it too firm. We’ll have to label this one “inconclusive.”

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor2023 Ford Maverick Tremor

Are there versions that stand out more than others?

Winner: Maverick

Not only does the Maverick offer its hybrid powertrain that obliterates the Santa Cruz’s fuel economy numbers, the Maverick gives customers the choice of two off-road-oriented versions. The FX4 off-road package includes all-terrain tires, exposed front tow hooks, performance suspension, hill descent control, off-road drive modes, skid plates, trailer hitch receiver, an upgraded cooling fan and higher-capacity radiator, along with some appearance upgrades. The Tremor package takes things a step further with a more advanced 4WD system (includes a twin-clutch rear drive unit and locking rear differential), unique off-road suspension with an increased ride height, Trail Control off-road cruise control, heavy-duty transmission cooler, a full-size spare tire and a number of unique appearance upgrades outside and in.

When was the last time they were redesigned?

Winner: Tie

Both were all new for 2022 and have not received significant changes since then. The Maverick gained the Tremor, and the Santa Cruz gained the XRT appearance package, but that’s about it beyond some feature availability tweaks.

Which provides better value?

Winner: Maverick

The Maverick is cheaper. To be fair, it also has fewer features in its base trim level, and a lower-quality cabin in every version. In total, though, it’s hard not to see the Maverick as the clear winner here, and not just that, one of the better value choices in the automotive world. 

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