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A light blue 2022 Ford Maverick is shown parked in front of a yellow building after wining a 2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz comparison.

Battle Of Performance: Ford Maverick vs Hyundai Santa Cruz

In the realm of compact pickups, there’s been a reinvigoration of competition. In fact, the compact market is seeing some great innovation from various market players, including Ford and Hyundai. In particular, the Ford Maverick is looking to challenge a completely fresh demographic of potential buyers interested in paying under $20,000 for the truck. Hyundai, meanwhile, is hoping to scoop up shoppers who need something with turbocharged performance at a price that won’t crack the piggy bank. But when it comes to performance, which one wins out between the 2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz?

Do the modular aspects of the Maverick give it an edge over the Santa Cruz? Does the existing crossover platform that the Santa Cruz is built on give it a power plant advantage over the Maverick? It’s an exciting time to be a pickup fan for sure, with all sorts of innovations and reinventions sprouting up throughout the industry. So let’s break down these two miniature titans and compare one another in the compact pickup space.

Powertrains and Performance

Both the Santa Cruz and the Ford Maverick come with two distinct powertrains of very different natures. The Santa Cruz offers two 2.5-liter engines based on existing Hyundai designs. One is a standard 4-cylinder that generates an estimated 190 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. The second one is a turbocharged 2.5-liter that generates an estimated 275 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, but the turbocharged powertrain uses a dual-clutch gearbox rather than a torque converter and allows manual gear changes with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

The powertrain setup is similar over on the 2022 Ford Maverick’s front in terms of how many options you have, albeit the Ford approaches its powertrain options very differently than the Hyundai. Instead of having a simple gasoline engine as the standard, the standard engine for the Maverick is a 2.5-liter full-hybrid electric vehicle. Note that it’s full-hybrid and not mild-hybrid. What this means is that this powertrain can run on the electric motors alone and boasts Prius-level fuel economy. The 2.5-liter FHEV powertrain generates 191 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. The second option, the 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, delivers 250 horsepower with 277 pound-feet of torque.

On paper, it might seem like the Hyundai Santa Cruz is the clear winner due to having higher torque on both powertrains. However, keep in mind that hybrids and electric motors generate torque differently than traditional combustion engines; it’s more instantaneous with an electric motor in the picture. That means you don’t have to rev up the engine to get that listed torque figure. Put these two trucks side by side in the real world, and the performance is actually a lot closer between the two trucks’ base engines thanks to the Maverick’s hybrid powertrain.

A green 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is shown driving past a lake.

Fuel Economy and Range

While it might still seem like the Santa Cruz has an advantage over the Maverick when it comes to performance and power, those advantages quickly turn into disadvantages when you look at the fuel economy and range. The Santa Cruz guzzles a lot more gas than its blue-oval rival, and a lot of that has to do with the way the powertrains are configured. The numbers aren’t even close.

Hyundai’s 2022 Santa Cruz with the 2.5-liter base engine delivers the best fuel economy in an all-wheel drive format that is rated for 21 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway. Front-wheel drive nets you 21 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway. For the turbocharged 2.5-liter, the numbers obviously decrease, coming in at 19 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway.

This is where the Maverick shines because Ford specifically engineered the truck to deliver great fuel economy. The truck’s 2.5-liter FHEV makes an estimated 40 MPG for a simply unbelievable level of efficiency for a pickup truck. Ford estimates that you can achieve 500 miles worth of total travel on a single tank of gas. In short, you can expect nearly double your distance between gas station stops with the Maverick over the Santa Cruz. It really changes how you view the value of one truck over the other.

The Maverick’s combination of a battery pack and the ability to utilize regenerative braking is what allows Ford’s new truck to achieve such impressive numbers in the city. An argument can be made that the Santa Cruz has overall better performance figures on paper, but it is irrefutable that the Maverick just beats the Santa Cruz on every level in the fuel economy department. This makes the Maverick a far more practical option for anyone who desires a compact truck for commuting, road trips, or a job that keeps them on the road.

Payload and Towing

Towing capacity is determined by the powertrain capabilities, the suspension, and the drivetrain. You need enough torque to move heavy loads, you need a reinforced suspension to maneuver those loads, and you need durable axles and differentials so that the truck doesn’t rip apart while towing and trailering. Since these are compact pickups, they’re designed to be lightweight and maneuverable, so obviously, the tow-ratings for the Santa Cruz and Maverick are more casual than those of their midsize and full-size counterparts.

In the case of the Maverick, it has a base tow rating of 2,000 pounds. However, an available package can bolster the tow ratings up to 4,000 pounds. Hyundai’s Santa Cruz tops out at 3,500 pounds for its base 4-cylinder and up to 5,000 pounds for the turbocharged 2.5-liter when configured in all-wheel drive. While it might seem like the Santa Cruz takes the edge over the Maverick, things change up quite a bit in the payload department.

Hyundai avoids listing the official payload ratings of the Santa Cruz’s 4.3-foot bed in the official press release, which is quite disappointing. While Hyundai does mention a 1,748 lb payload rating, the rumors are that the bed itself can only handle 600 lbs. With the 2022 Ford Maverick’s 4.5-foot bed, you not only get a little extra room for storage, but there are no questions about what it can carry. The Maverick can handle a max payload of 1,500 pounds with no questions asked. That shows a level of confidence from the blue oval brand that they built the 2022 Maverick Ford Tough.

A person is shown driving a 2022 Ford Maverick.

A New Era for the Pickup Truck

It’s a really tough call between the 2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. On the performance front, the Santa Cruz achieves higher ratings in horsepower with its turbocharged powertrain and offers better top-end torque. However, the base powertrain for the Maverick edges out its competitor with instantaneous electric torque that is more usable in the real world. Obviously, more testing will have to be done to see which one is the true winner in that department.

However, when it comes to hauling and fuel economy, a strong case can be made that the 2022 Ford Maverick is the overall better performer. It just achieves more consistent figures than its compact rival. Even still, both trucks are quite interesting, with their own pros and cons in different areas. Also, with both trucks being compacts, they also seem to be targeting different segments of the truck-shopping demographic, so I’m sure both will have a strong fanbase moving forward for very different reasons.

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