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Perhaps the tides are finally turning for the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick. Previous sales records prove that the 2023 Ford Maverick is more popular, but studies show that the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is more satisfying. 

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz vs. 2023 Ford Maverick: Which tiny truck is better? 

In terms of exterior style, tech, comfort, and performance, the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz beats the 2023 Ford Maverick. The results are straight from the J.D.Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) study. 

The APEAL study asks actual vehicle owners about 37 questions related to the comfort, excitement, and convenience they feel upon getting behind the wheel of their vehicles. Scores are assigned based on a 1,000-point scale to measure emotional responses to cars, SUVs, vans, and trucks. 

Also, the Model-Level APEAL awards are provided to vehicles that rank the highest in their segments. The Hyundai Motor Group earned nine awards. The Hyundai Santa Cruz got an award along with incredible contenders like the Kia Telluride and Genesis GV60. 

But the Ford Maverick didn’t earn any awards. In fact, no Ford vehicles received any recognition, showing that Hyundai is more satisfying. 

As a Brand, Hyundai racked up about 844 points, and 837 is the segment average. Ford got 838 points, so at least both brands are above average. 

Why does the Santa Cruz beat the Maverick? 

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is more comfortable than the 2023 Ford Maverick. It has a smoother ride quality. It absorbs imperfections well and quickly dampens rougher impacts. The Maverick is a bit choppier and more truck-like. 

Also, Santa Cruz is quieter at highway speeds, but wind and road noise is noticeable. The Maverick also struggles with a loud interior. However, the noise is amplified by the loud, wheezing powertrain options. 

The Santa Cruz has large and supportive seats with a little more passenger space. The Maverick has stiff seats and not much legroom. Taller drivers complain about hitting their knees on plastic trim pieces. 

Plus, the 2023 Santa Cruz offers more interior space. It’s easier to access the cabin and offers more adjustment controls. The Maverick has smaller door openings and less space to work with. It also has lower-quality materials. 

You get more advanced tech with the Santa Cruz as well. The 10.25-inch infotainment and digital guage displays provide attractive graphics with speedy responses. The Maverick has an adequate 8.0-inch screen. 

Is the Santa Cruz or Maverick better to drive? 

The 2023 Ford Maverick off-roading in the woods
2023 Ford Maverick | Ford

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is more exciting behind the wheel thanks to the dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s smooth and full of power. The available turbocharged engine takes things to the next level. 

It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, which is on par with the 2023 Ford Maverick. Plus, the Santa Cruz has an edge with more responsive handling and confident cornering. 

The 2023 Maverick could have more responsive steering. Corner bumps can disrupt the handling, and you don’t get a feel for the road. There is a noticeable amount of body roll-around curves. 

The Santa Cruz has 8.6 inches of ground clearance, and the Maverick starts at 8.3 inches. While the Ford Maverick Hybrid is better on gas, it can’t be paired with AWD. Also, the Maverick offers an off-roading package and the Tremor model. 

While the Maverick had an advantage with a better fuel economy and lower prices, the 2024 model just got more expensive. The Santa Cruz has a real chance to take the lead. Stay tuned for updates.