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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

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A silver 2022 Ford Maverick XT and blue 2022 Ford Maverick XLT are shown driving down a city street.

Return of the Compact Truck: 2022 Maverick vs 2022 Santa Cruz

Once upon a time, automakers had the idea of mixing the luxury of a sedan or SUV with the capabilities provided by a pickup truck’s payload bed. The concept relied upon economies of scale, building out utilizing an existing platform, so there was no need to create a new chassis and suspension system. Some, like the Ford Ranchero and Chevy El Camino, were more successful than others, like the Cadillac EXT and Subaru Baja. Like most attempts at melding two disparate vehicles, it became a case of trying to thread the eye of a needle. Today, two automakers seem bent upon resurrecting the concept, with the 2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.

These two all-new vehicles are billed as compact pickup trucks, and they look almost identical when you put them side-by-side. They both have a crew cab design, which means four full-size doors with two rows of seats, offering plenty of room for up to 5 passengers. In addition, they have a fairly sizable payload bed, which was an issue for folks who bought a Cadillac EXT or Subaru Baja, as both had small payload beds that cut into passenger space without providing any real additional cargo space.

From the looks of it, it seems that Ford and Hyundai took notes from the failures of other automakers in designing these two compact trucks. Nevertheless, there are some major differences between the Ford Maverick and the Hyundai Santa Cruz, especially with respect to choice of powertrain, fuel economy, performance, and pricing. Let’s take a closer look at these two new entries in the ever-popular pickup truck market.

The truck bed of a 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is shown during a 2022 Ford Maverick vs 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz comparison.

Surprisingly Powerful Powertrains

While both Ford and Hyundai went with a choice of two different four-cylinder engines for their respective compact trucks, that is about where the similarities end. The 2022 Ford Maverick is the first pickup truck with a standard hybrid engine. This is a 2.5-liter FHEV I-4 gas engine paired with a permanent magnet electric traction motor powered by a 94 kW lithium-ion battery. The gas engine uses a sequential multiport fuel injection system and has 16 valves arranged in a double overhead cam (DOHC) arrangement. The combined powertrain is paired with a PowerSplit electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT), making it capable of 191 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque.

Ford also offers a conventional internal combustion gas engine option on the 2022 Maverick. This is a 2.0-liter EcoBoost Turbo I-4 engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. This also has 16 valves in a DOHC configuration but utilizes direct fuel injection and is capable of producing 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque.

Hyundai has decided on a different approach going with conventional engine types on the 2022 Santa Cruz. Both feature 4-cylinders and 16 valves in a DOHC configuration with a combination of direct and multiport fuel injection. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter I-4 gas engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission with Hyundai’s Shiftronic system. This produces 190 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. There is also a 2.5-liter Turbocharged I-4 gas engine available. This features an 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission, utilizing its turbocharger to produce 275 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.

Comparing the powertrains of these two models, you can see that the optional engine on the Hyundai Santa Cruz is really just a more powerful version of the same base engineer, using a turbocharger to boost overall performance. In contrast, the Ford Maverick offers two very distinct powertrain options.

A blue 2022 Ford Maverick XLT is shown towing a small teardrop camper.

Fuel Your Compact Truck With Better Fuel Economy

When it comes to fuel economy, there is no contest between these two compact trucks. No matter which powertrain or drivetrain you choose, you are going to save money on gas when you buy a 2022 Ford Maverick as compared to the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.

The Maverick with the standard hybrid engine comes with front-wheel drive only and provides the exceptional fuel economy you expect from an alternative energy powertrain. Ford expects the Maverick to have a range of almost 500 miles on a full tank of gas and can provide an estimated 40 miles per gallon in city driving, 33 miles per gallon on the highway, and a combined 37 miles per gallon. Those are numbers you would expect from a compact coupe, not a compact truck.

When you choose a Maverick with the optional EcoBoost Turbo, you also will get solid fuel economy, although nothing like the hybrid. If you choose one with front-wheel drive, you can expect to get 23 miles per gallon in the city, 30 miles per gallon on the highway, and 26 miles per gallon combined. Choosing the available Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system will reduce fuel economy slightly to 22 miles per gallon in the city, 29 miles per gallon on the highway, and a combined 25 miles per gallon. A big reason why the all-wheel drivetrain on the Maverick doesn’t reduce the fuel economy more is because the system switches to front-wheel drive when road conditions dictate.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz really can’t compete when it comes to fuel economy. The model with the standard I-4 engine will give you 21 miles per gallon in the city, 26-27 miles per gallon on the highway, and a combined 23 miles per gallon, regardless of whether you buy the truck with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Santa Cruz with the Turbo I-4 is all-wheel drive standard, and its fuel economy numbers leave something to be desired. It will only give you 19 miles per gallon in the city, 27 miles per gallon on the highway, and 22 miles per gallon combined.

A Pickup With Great Pickup!

One thing that may surprise you is the acceleration of the 2022 Maverick. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds when equipped with the EcoBoost Turbo engine. Neither model of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz can compete with this. The Santa Cruz with the Turbo I-4 engine will get you from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, while the model with the standard I-4 will go from 0 to 60 mph in a rather sluggish 8.9 seconds.

Going Tow to Tow

This is about the only criteria where the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has the edge. The 2022 Ford Maverick hybrid can tow up to 2,000 pounds, and the model with the EcoBoost Turbo doubles this to 4,000 pounds. This is pretty on par with the Santa Cruz. The model with the standard I-4 can tow up to 3,500 pounds, while the one with the optional Turbo I-4 has a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.

A woman is shown putting tools into the bed of a gold 2022 Ford Maverick.

Put Your Payload to Bed

One of the main reasons to buy either of these compact pickup trucks is the ability to carry cargo in their payload beds. Fortunately, neither of these trucks has the shortcomings of the ill-fated Subaru Baja with its meager payload capacity. The 2022 Maverick has a maximum payload capacity of 1,500 pounds in a 54.4-inch payload bed. The 2022 Santa Cruz surpasses this slightly with 1,748 pounds but has a smaller payload bed of just 52.1-inches. What’s more, Ford has made loading and off-loading your Maverick easier than ever with a standard Flex Bed Cargo Box with its multi-position tailgate and at least six bed tie-downs.

A Compact Truck With the Features of a Larger Vehicle

While the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has many good features, it just can’t compete with the 2022 Ford Maverick. This is one compact truck that has great fuel economy, solid acceleration, two great powertrains and drivetrains to choose from, and exceptional capabilities. Ford has packed so much into the Maverick that you probably won’t be the only person to believe this is a much larger vehicle. That’s okay since the Maverick is priced to move, affordable enough to fit into anyone’s budget. It looks like Ford may be re-starting a trend we haven’t seen in years, with smaller vehicles integrating a fully-function payload bed.

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