What Is a Compact Truck?

Small trucks are back on the market for 2022, offering shoppers all the utility of a pickup bed in a reasonably sized package.


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In the not-too-distant past, Americans could go to a few different dealerships and find a compact, affordable truck that didn’t require them to lunge in order to get into the front seat. But then automakers decided to focus their efforts on more profitable, larger trucks and cut the little ones from their lineups. Now a couple of manufacturers are out to revive the segment by blending the two things modern-day car shoppers love above all else: trucks and compact SUVs. If you want something with a bed that’s capable of hauling and towing light loads and that will still fit in your garage, a compact pickup could be for you.


Which Brands Sell Compact Trucks?

Right now, this is a head-to-head battle with just two entrants: the Ford Maverick and the Hyundai Santa Cruz. Both of these crossover-based trucks arrived for 2022 and are capable of moving modest payloads (1500 pounds for the Maverick, 1609 for the Santa Cruz) and moderately heavy trailers (up to 4000 and 5000 pounds, respectively).


How Much Does a Compact Truck Cost?

The Maverick starts at $21,490, making it the cheapest model in Ford’s lineup and the first new pickup truck to come in under $25K in what seems like forever. Maverick buyers can upgrade from the standard 191-hp hybrid powertrain to a 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder for $1,085. The Santa Cruz—which aims higher upmarket—costs $25,385 in base form. And it’s worth choosing a high trim level on the Santa Cruz for the 281-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter, as lesser models make do with a 191-hp four-cylinder. Loaded, the Ford and Hyundai both reach $40,000.


How Big Is a Compact Truck?

These two trucks are small. The Ford Maverick shares its bones with the Escape compact crossover, and the Hyundai Santa Cruz borrows from the Tucson. You can park either in a normal garage and maneuver through city streets with ease. The Santa Cruz is 195.7 inches long, and the Maverick, 199.7. That’s considerably shorter than the midsize Honda Ridgeline, which spans 210.2 inches. They’re also a few inches narrower, coming in at 75.0 and 72.6 inches, respectively, versus 78.6 for the Honda. Neither truck has a very long bed. The Santa Cruz’s measures 4.3 feet long, and the Maverick’s, 4.5.


What Kind of Fuel Economy Does a Compact Truck Get?

The hybrid Maverick gets exceptional fuel economy. In front-wheel-drive form, it sees 37 mpg combined (with 42 mpg in the city). At its least efficient, with the turbocharged 2.0-liter and all-wheel drive, the Maverick still manages a decent combined rating for a truck, at 25 mpg.

The Santa Cruz is thirstier, returning 23 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and the base four-cylinder. Models with all-wheel drive and the more powerful engine get 22 mpg combined.

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Clifford Atiyeh
Clifford Atiyeh is an independent writer, photographer, and creative consultant. He has reported for dozens of websites, magazines, and newspapers in his 20-year journalism career, during which he has tested more than 650 new vehicles. His automotive expertise focuses on product development, market analysis, and the litigation and legislation affecting the industry. Clifford is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and runs a marketing consultancy.