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The small truck competition is heating up thanks to entrants like the 2023 Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz. We have had the chance to drive both of these trucks in the past year, and admittedly, we didn’t know what to make of them at first. However, as time went on and we made use of each truck, we were able to see the value they both bring to those interested in a compact pickup.

The 2023 Ford Maverick has been named one of Consumer Reports' Top Ten Picks for 2023.
2023 Ford Maverick Tremor | Ford

2023 Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz: The Hyundai is a little handier

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz next to horses
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

During our time spent with both trucks, we found the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz to be a little handier. We say that because we were able to fit a little more stuff in it thanks to its fold-up rear seat bottom. There is also a handy storage bin inside its cargo bed. However, its truck bed was a little smaller at 48 inches compared to the Maverick’s 54-inch bed.

This came to light in our real-world testing when we were able to fit a large sofa section in the bed of the 2023 Ford Maverick while helping a friend move. On the other hand, we were able to barely fit a three-drawer dresser in the Hyundai Santa Cruz without a little help from some straps. That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the Santa Cruz’s bed is still useful, but the extra six inches the Maverick makes it a little more practical when hauling stuff.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz with a dresser loaded into its bed.
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The Hyundai Santa Cruz’s interior felt a little more upscale

It’s hard to believe that a Hyundai’s interior could be nicer than a Ford’s, but in today’s market, anything is possible. That said, we preferred the soft-touch materials and upscale feel of the Santa Cruz over the Maverick’s. Additionally, the Hyundai’s infotainment system was far more attractive and offered a lot more than what the Ford had. The Maverick’s infotainment system looked like an Atari game by comparison.

In fact, the Maverick’s infotainment menu was perhaps the most basic layout we have seen in a vehicle thus far. For the most part, that’s not a bad thing considering most buyers won’t need much, but if you’re the type that likes fancy features, the Santa Cruz is the way to go.

The Ford Maverick has more to offer in the engine department

Woman standing by 2023 Ford Maverick, most affordable new hybrid car and pickup truck with best fuel economy
2023 Ford Maverick | Ford

The Ford Maverick is powered by a turbocharged EcoBoost 2.0-liter engine that makes 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. The Santa Cruz is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. In our testing, the Ford Maverick felt much quicker, despite its lower ratings compared with the Santa Cruz. There was plenty of midrange torque, which made it accelerate onto the freeway, even with a load of cargo, a quick and easy task.

2023 Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz: Which tiny truck should you pick?

If you’re looking to maximize your money, we would suggest checking out the 2023 Ford Maverick. It’s a little more capable with its more-powerful engine and longer bed. However, the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is worth a look as well if you want a little more comfort, tech, and storage options.