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Does Size Really Matter?

The 2022 model year brings two new entries to the pickup truck world–the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.  Traditional pickup truck owners originally scoffed at these smaller trucks, but there is no denying they have similar open bed functionality as the bigger trucks.

How are you using that bed?

The vast majority of full-size pickup owners rarely use their trucks to full potential.  I don’t care if we talk about cargo hauling or off-roading, the reason those Chevrolet Silverados, Ford F150s and Rams get purchased is because they look tough.  I get that, but if you think through how you might use a pickup truck, is it worth paying all that money and only using a fraction of the vehicle?

I don’t think so.

For most of us who want a pickup, it is for the occasional trip to Lowe’s for weekend projects around the house.  Bags of mulch, a couple of 2x4s, a sheet or two of plywood…that’s about it.  

On the fun side, taking camping gear, trail bikes or other outdoor activity supplies that don’t fit in the family SUV need an open bed to accommodate their odd size.  When that gear also gets wet or dirty, having the open bed is ideal to keep the dirt out of the cabin.

None of the items above requires a full size (or even a medium size) pickup truck.  It’s about time someone brought a vehicle to market that can handle occasional cargo use that is also smaller, more fuel efficient and just smarter overall.  Ford and Hyundai have done that.  

The Foundations

Both the Maverick and Santa Cruz have a unibody construction shared with a crossover SUV.  For the Maverick, it is based on the platform underpinning the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport.  The Santa Cruz is closely tied to the Hyundai Tucson.  The unibody construction provides a strong, solid base that provides better ride and handling than body-on-frame trucks. It also allows better fuel economy due to their lighter weight.

I am not going to conduct a full review of these two trucks.  My focus is on the functionality of their cargo beds.  If you would like to see a full review of these trucks, check out the YouTube videos from two of my favorite car review channels below:

Hyundai Santa Cruz Review (Raiti’s Rides)

Ford Maverick Review (Alex on Autos)

front view of Hyundai Santa Cruz

Hyundai Santa Cruz

Base Price:  $23,990 (plus $1,225 destination charge)

The Santa Cruz is classified as a Sport Adventure Vehicle by Hyundai, so their focus is on offering the open bed to carry mountain bikes, camping gear and other adventure gear.  Hyundai states that the cargo bed is 52.1” long at the floor of the bed and 48.4” long toward the top.  It is wide enough to hold a sheet of plywood (at least 48 inches), but does not specify the actual dimension.  

cargo bed of Hyundai Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz features a secure, open bed area which includes a lockable tonneau cover and hidden bed storage. That hidden bed storage is similar to the same in the Honda Ridgeline (a midsize pickup truck that also features a unibody construction shared with the Honda Pilot).  Ridgeline was first introduced in 2006, making it the OG of unibody pickup trucks scorned by traditionalists.

In other words, Santa Cruz is in good company.

Hyundai Santa Cruz hidden storage

This hidden storage compartment is water tight and lockable, making it perfect for storing a couple of backpacks or other fun gear.  It also has drain plugs, so you could also fill this with ice and cold beverages, food, etc.  Perfect for camping or tailgating.

I had a chance to check out a Santa Cruz at the Northwood University Auto Show last weekend.  I was impressed with the overall size of this vehicle, and the quality of the bed.  When I opened the tailgate, a series of cargo lights came on.  Nice touch, especially if accessing the bed at night.

Is this an appealing vehicle?  A student working the show told me, “I’m not a truck person, but I like this truck.”  It appears Hyundai hit the target here.

Ford Maverick front view

Ford Maverick

Base Price:  $19,995 (plus $1,495 destination charge)

While similar in size to the Santa Cruz (Maverick is a few inches longer), Ford is calling this a compact pickup truck. No fancy classifications.  Ford is positioning Maverick as a compliment to the other pickups in their lineup.

size comparison chart

The cargo bed is 54.4 inches long and 53.3” wide at its widest, making it just slightly bigger than Santa Cruz.

In many respects, Maverick reminds me of the original Chevrolet S10 and Ford Ranger pickups from the 1980s.  Those were compact pickups designed to be an alternative to a compact car.  I owned three S10 pickups in my day, and I miss the size and capability of that truck.  Maverick seems to fill the same role and act as a great replacement for a couple of discontinued cars in the Ford lineup.

man loading things in cargo bed

Ford has done a masterful job of marketing the capabilities of Maverick’s “Flexbed.”  Whether it is the pockets to insert 2x4s and 2x6s to act as dividers, or the accessories available to outfit the bed, Ford seems to have thought of everything.  

The chart below provides a great overview of the many uses and configurations of the Maverick bed.

Maverick Flexbed capabilities drawing

Not only does Ford sell the various accessories for the Flexbed, they also offer other DIY ideas to help you build your own.  They also pre-wired the bed for your electrical hook ups.  A QR code printed in the bed of the truck takes you to a website with these DIY tips.  

This is simply brilliant, and engages the owner to take advantage of every possible configuration. 

Tim Esterdahl from Pickup Truck Plus SUV Talk met with a Ford product specialist to explore the many uses of the Maverick bed.  Click HERE to see the video of that discussion.

Is this Enough Truck for You?

If you plan to tow anything more than 4,000 pounds, then neither of these trucks is right for you.  If you want a smaller, fuel efficient truck with enough utility for weekend projects and adventures then these should do the trick.

Both trucks can carry around 1,500 pounds (Santa Cruz just a bit more at 1,753 pounds).  To put it in perspective, Ford says the Maverick can carry 37 bags of mulch weighing 40 pounds each.  That seems like it is more than enough cargo capacity for the majority of homeowners.

Picking between these two trucks gets down to your preference of style and price. The Maverick is more truck-like with a lower base price.  Santa Cruz may cost a tad more, but the sportier styling may sit better with some people.  

Traditional pickup truck loyalists will not publicly support the Maverick or Santa Cruz.  For them, it is all about size and appearances.  Bigger is not always better. Or necessary.

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