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Once full of options, the compact truck segment was effectively killed off when Ford discontinued the Ford Ranger in 2012 — the Ranger is now back on the market, of course, but as a midsize offering slotted below the F-Series. After about a decade on hiatus, the compact pickup segment was revived almost simultaneously by two all-new models, the Ford Maverick and the Hyundai Santa Cruz, and there’s at least one other the way in the Chevy Montana.

While the Ford and Hyundai are currently in a league of their own, the Maverick has several obvious pros over its rival. However, Hyundai’s compact truck has a significant advantage that isn’t completely obvious on its spec sheet or features list.

Comparing the 2024 Ford Maverick and 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Pickup trucks, like everything else, are becoming more expensive, and that is where both the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz can provide some relief.

With their compact footprints, the 2024 Maverick starts at $23,400 MSRP, while the 2024 Santa Cruz carries a base MSRP of $26,650. The Hyundai may start at several thousand dollars more, but it’s not for nothing as the Santa Cruz offers a suite of driver’s aids as standard, including automatic forward emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with steering assist, and rear cross-traffic warning. The Ford only offers forward automatic emergency braking as standard.

Otherwise, there are several similarities between the models. Both are fitted with 8-inch touchscreens, cloth upholstery, six-speaker audio systems, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as standard.

The Santa Cruz’s less-than-obvious advantage

The Hyundai Santa Cruz has several benefits over the Ford Maverick from behind the wheel. For instance, it’s based on an SUV platform, and as such, it drives and behaves in a more controlled and comfortable manner than the Ford. The Santa Cruz also offers a less spartan cabin and features in its mid and upper trims.  

However, perhaps the most significant advantage of the Santa Cruz over the Maverick is its warranty. Hyundai has long been a leader in this realm, and the automaker’s compact pickup continues that focus with unparalleled warranty coverage. The 2024 Santa Cruz is offered with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, seven-year rust coverage, free maintenance for three years/36,000 miles, and free roadside assistance for five years.

Comparatively, the Maverick receives a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and five years of rust protection.

So, the Santa Cruz may cost more out of the gate, but after a few years on the road, the Ford’s initial savings could be negated by repair and maintenance bills.

The Maverick has its own strong points over the Santa Cruz

However, while the Hyundai Santa Cruz may lead in some regards of this two-horse, compact pickup race, the Ford Maverick still has plenty of pros over its sole competitor.

The 2024 model year Maverick now comes with a new base engine, a 2.0-liter EcoBoost powerplant delivering 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. The Maverick’s previous standard engine, a 2.5-liter hybrid, is also available with 191 hp and is rated for an impressively efficient 37 combined mpg with front-wheel drive.  

Meanwhile, the Santa Cruz has a 191-hp 2.5-liter engine offering 181 lb-ft of torque. A turbocharged unit is also offered, developing 281 hp and over 300 lb-ft of torque, but it requires buyers to spend at least $38,210 MSRP for the Night trim, about $8,000 more than the Maverick’s top model. Additionally, Hyundai’s optional engine is required to receive a seven-pin connector, which is available as a stand-alone, affordable option for the base Maverick.

The standard Santa Cruz maxes out at 3,500 lbs, while upper models can tow up to 5,000 lbs, but that’s only if buyers install an aftermarket trailer brake controller, as the Hyundai doesn’t equip a unit. Without a trailer brake controller, the Santa Cruz can tow just 1,650 lbs, no matter the drivetrain. The Maverick can haul 2,000 lbs as standard and up to 4,000 lbs when properly equipped.

The Maverick is also more practical with a 54.4-inch bed, over 6 inches longer than the 48-inch bed length of the Hyundai truck. The Maverick also comes with some added practicality features like under-seat storage in the rear row, large door cubbies, slotted interior door panels that can be used to slot, say, a bicycle in the cabin, and tailgate tie-downs that can double as bottle openers.

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