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A few years ago, if you had told me small trucks would make a comeback in the United States, I probably would have brushed it off. As a pickup enthusiast, I do love compact trucks. But the vast majority of folks in this segment seem to appreciate something bigger. But, in 2023, the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are changing things. 

Is the Hyundai Santa Cruz the same as the Ford Maverick?

The Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are not the same. They are both small trucks, but they do not share any underpinnings. And they seem to be focused on different things. In the case of the Maverick, you get a traditional pickup experience (save for the unibody construction) and some legitimate off-road ability. 

A 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz small truck sits parked.
Hyundai Santa Cruz | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

The Hyundai Santa Cruz seems to aim for more of a crossover style with the addition of a pickup truck bed. I’ve spent some time behind the wheel of a 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD. And I’ve got to say it is impressive. 

You get a well-equipped interior, 281 horsepower with the turbo, and a bed with a tonneau cover. Additionally, Hyundai’s driver assist features are extremely usable, especially if you find yourself on a road trip or on your daily commute. 

How does the 2023 Maverick beat the Santa Cruz?

The 2023 Ford Maverick beats the Santa Cruz in two key ways, it’s cheaper, and it’s better suited for truck stuff. Sure, the Hyundai has more power and can tow more at 5,000 pounds, but it really does feel like driving a crossover. And it looks like a Hyundai Tucson with a bed. 

In the case of the Maverick, you get a pickup that looks like a normal Ford truck, and it’s affordable. When I say affordable, the Blue Oval built it to be priced as an economy car. But because it has been so popular, they regularly sell for over MSRP. In fact, buying a used Ford Maverick can sometimes be more expensive than getting a used one. 

Then there are the off-road packages. There is the Maverick Tremor and the FX4 Off-Road packages. Both of these options give this small truck some legitimate off-road cred. 

A 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor drives through the mud.
Ford Maverick | Ford

As it stands, according to Car and Driver, the Santa Cruz does not offer any off-road packages or adventure-focused options. Although, that optional tonneau cover did appear to offer some waterproofing. 

Is Ford’s small truck better than Hyundai’s?

At the end of the day, the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick seem to be designed for different types of consumers. If you’re after a compact pickup that’s cheap, looks like a truck, and has optional ruggedness, the 2023 Maverick is likely it. 

A 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz sits parked showing its front end.
Hyundai Santa Cruz | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

If you want something that feels premium, can tow 5,000 lbs, and looks unique, that’s going to be the 2023 Santa Cruz. Unlike the Maverick, all-wheel drive is also offered on both powertrains of this compact pickup. But despite that, the Maverick hybrid remains extremely popular with folks.

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