Skip to main content

Here in the United States, small trucks are having a bit of a renaissance. These compact pickups are more affordable than larger trucks, and they also feel more practical in urban environments. And one of the best small trucks comes from an unlikely place, the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz. Currently, it’s giving the 2023 Ford Maverick a run for its money. 

Is the Hyundai Santa Cruz better than the Ford Maverick?

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz offers some key advantages over the Maverick. It’s got a more premium feeling interior, both engines can come with all-wheel drive, and it can tow more. Although it might not look like a traditional pickup, Hyundai’s truck might actually beat out Ford’s. 

Having driven the Santa Cruz, I find it to be quite carlike, despite having the utility of a truck bed. And to a lot of folks, that’s probably a good thing. Body-on-frame trucks often mean compromises in terms of comfort, especially if the model in question still has things like leaf springs. 

A front view of Hyundai's compact pickup, the 2023 Santa Cruz.
Hyundai Santa Cruz | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

Driving the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz, you get sharp handling. Plus, with the available turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, you actually get more power than the Ford Maverick. The Hyundai engine makes 281 horsepower and 311 pound-foot of torque. In the case of the 2023 Ford Maverick, you’re maxed out at 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. 

A 2023 Ford Maverick tows a trailer behind it.
Ford Maverick | Ford

In recent years, Hyundai has put a lot of effort into its powertrains. And in the Santa Cruz, that work seems to have paid off. 

Hyundai has proven it can make a truck

OK, the 2023 Santa Cruz may not be a real truck in some people’s eyes. But it has a bed and can tow up to 5,000 lbs. You even get an in-bed trunk and an optional tonneau cover. From what I could tell with that cover, there is rubbing lining, which should make the bed waterproof or at least water resistant. 

A side view of the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz small truck.
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

Where Hyundai’s small truck might lose points is its off-road ability. Sure, with AWD this compact pickup should be able to handle some light trail work. But it does not have an answer to the Ford Maverick’s Tremor package. 

It seems like the brand has gone for more of a city truck than something made for rugged situations. But I am sure some owners have been off-roading their Santa Cruz pickups. After all, that is one of the reasons people opt for a truck over something like a sedan.

Is the Santa Cruz more expensive than the Ford Maverick?

In terms of cost, the 2023 Maverick is cheaper than the 2023 Santa Cruz. Really, one thing that Ford’s small truck has going for it is its affordability. With a starting price of under $25k, it seems more like buying an economy car than a pickup. 

That said, the Blue Oval has taken some cost-cutting measures with the interior. It isn’t going to feel as premium as what Hyundai has done with the Santa Cruz. But according to Car and Driver, Hyundai’s pickup also has a higher starting price.

Related Is the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz a Better Honda Ridgeline?

Is the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz a Better Honda Ridgeline?