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Small trucks are hotter’n a $3 pistol these days. As such, there’s a lot of comparison between the Hyundai Santa Cruz and the Ford Maverick. These two tiny pickup trucks, while both strange in their own ways, are massively popular. The Maverick is so popular you’d be lucky to order one in time to put 10,000 miles on it before the sun supernovas and swallows the planet. That said, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is the nicer of the two trucks. In fact, by nearly every metric, the Hyundai is a much nicer experience than the Maverick, yet it still isn’t as popular. 

2023 Ford Maverick Hybrid towing a jetski
2023 Ford Maverick Hybrid | Ford

The Ford Maverick’s popularity is simple to understand – warranted, but simple. The Ford Maverick is the cheapest pickup truck on the market. That alone makes it stand out. However, we don’t want to short-sell the Maverick. It is also a massively practical little truck that offers an enormous amount for such a small package. 

Although the truck is losing its standard hybrid powertrain, you can still get the hybrid four-pot and drive one of the most efficient pickup trucks in the game (27 mpg combined). The Maverick also benefits from a sweet little treat Ford calls FITS (Ford Integrated Tether System). This is a series of interior accessories like a special cupholder, trash can, dividers, and other accessories. But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is that Ford supports at-home 3D printing to make your own accessories that fit into the FITS platform. 

There is plenty to love about the 2023 Ford Maverick. However, when something is the cheapest of any category, it isn’t likely to be the most comfortable or luxurious. This is where the more expensive Hyundai Santa Cruz passes the Maverick in the small pickup truck competition. 

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is surprisingly nice inside

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz off-roading in the woods
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

Let’s be clear, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is losing the small truck wars, but I’m not so sure it should be. The Hyundai isn’t selling nearly the same amount of trucks as the Maverick. While the Hyundai Santa Cruz is more expensive than the Ford Maverick, it is a much nicer truck. 

Hyundai’s secret weapon includes an impressive list of creature comforts and luxury options in its vehicles. Our very own Joe Santos spent some time reviewing the Santa Cruz last year. He likens its features to a “bounty.” Everything from the ride quality to the piles of tech separates the Santa Cruz from the Ford Maverick. Santos also mentions many standard luxury tech features on the highest two trims, like a power moonroof, roof side rails, a sliding-glass rear window, a 115-volt in-bed outlet, heated seats, a wireless phone charger, and a Bose sound system.

The Hyundai’s front seats are spacious and attractive. The rear seats are a bit more cramped. However, the future-forward design of the cabin is nice to see in such a budget-friendly truck. Santos mentions that his only gripe is that Hyundai used knobs instead of buttons around the dash. However, the interior is still nice and comfy, and the ride is beautifully smooth. The Maverick is fairly harsh and bumpy compared to the Santa Cruz.

What kind of technology does the 2023 Santa Cruz have? 

Hyundai Santa Cruz
Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

It is in this arena where the Santa Cruz really crushed the Maverick. There is a 10.25-inch infotainment screen and an optional 10.25-inch driver’s display. There is also an optional Bose sound system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

Less fun than a Bose system but still important is the number of driver aids that come standard on the Santa Cruz, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and forward collision warning. The adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems work as intended, but Edmunds found the warnings for other systems overly sensitive and annoying over time.

Which is better, the Hyundai Santa Cruz or the Ford Maverick?

I like Ford, and I like the Ford Maverick. It is a balm on the overpriced truck world. It is creative, interesting, and, most importantly, affordable. That said, the Hyundai Santa Cruz just is the more exciting truck. It is more unique, nicer, and, yes, more expensive. 

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz starts at $25,700 and runs up to $40,570 before options. That, compared to the Ford Maverick’s price range of $22,195 – $27,955, is certainly a win for the Maverick. But that price point is felt. Cheaper cars often have cheaper aspects to them. Granted, if any segment is going to have cheaper options, it ought to be the pickup trucks.