City trucks: Honda Ridgeline, Ford Maverick, Hyundai Santa Cruz

As pickup trucks proliferate, consumers are eyeing a new class of smaller, city or urban pickup trucks like the Ford Maverick, Hyundai Santa Cruz, and Honda Ridgeline.

Honda pioneered this diverse new pickup truck segment with the Ridgeline, basing the vehicle on the same unibody or passenger car style platform used for its Pilot SUV and Odyssey minivan.

The Maverick and Santa Cruz also leverage existing unibody platforms for their vehicles.

Other trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ford F-150 use traditional truck architecture where the body is bolted to the frame. This approach makes rugged vehicles ideal for towing heavy loads and hauling big payloads, but they suffer in other ways. A traditional pickup typically has a rougher ride, poorer driving dynamics, poorer fuel economy, and is difficult to park, especially in dense urban areas.

The new unibody trucks come in a variety of sizes, with the Ridgeline in many dimensions similar to a Nissan Frontier or Ford Ranger. The Maverick is smaller and the Santa Cruz is the most compact. All unibody trucks offer the latest automated safety features such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Here’s a roundup of these cleverly designed trucks.

2022 Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline sits at the top of the class. It offers the best combination of comfort, driving dynamics, cargo space and towing capacity. Anyone who’s driven a midsize or three-row SUV like a Pilot or Toyota Highlander will be right at home in a Ridgeline.

Honda Ridgeline Sport with HPD package.

The Ridgeline has smart features, including a storage compartment accessible through the truck bed and a 60/40 split-folding rear row of seats.

One drawback is fuel economy – drivers pay the penalty for the larger vehicle, a 280 horsepower engine and greater towing capacity. The powertrain’s 262 lb-ft of torque supports a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. While other midsize trucks can top that, monocoque rivals don’t come close. And that’s enough for most uses – a typical boat, a 20ft trailer or a pair of off-road vehicles.

The Ridgeline achieves 21 mpg in combined city and highway driving, according to the EPA. This is the least in this set of vehicles. It is also only available in all-wheel-drive, which creates a fuel penalty over front-wheel-drive vehicles, but has advantages for light off-roading and driving in wet and snowy conditions.

In addition to offering the benefits of unibody construction, the Ridgeline compares well to traditional midsize pickups in other ways. For example, it has a payload capacity of 1,583 pounds, better than the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Silverado, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma. The bed’s 50-inch width allows the 4-foot plywood and other panels to lay flat in the bed.

Others also think the Ridgeline is a smart package. It was one of Consumer Report’s Top 10 Picks for the year.

“The Ridgeline is engineered with a unibody design, making it more of a modern crossover SUV than a traditional body-on-frame pickup. handling and interior comfort more akin to the Honda Pilot than a tradesman’s big truck. consumer reports said.

Urban drivers will sacrifice some convenience with the Ridgeline. At 210 inches in length, it’s the largest of the unibody trucks. It’s just an inch or two shorter than traditional midsize pickups like the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado. It’s about 10 inches longer than the Ford Maverick and nearly 15 inches longer than the Hyundai Santa Cruz. This could be a handicap in finding parking in a dense urban environment.

The Ridgeline starts at $39,435, including delivery charges. This makes it the most expensive truck in this group. A few options will quickly push it north of $40,000 before taxes and license.

Ford Maverick 2022

The Ford Maverick is a brilliant package that makes a lot of sense both as a starter vehicle and for those who live in cities who need a sleeper truck but find parking at a premium price. There is one caveat – get the hybrid. Don’t bother with the non-hybrid version. If you’re going that route, look at the Ridgeline or the Ford Ranger.

Ford Maverick hybrid.

Here are the basics. The Maverick is a standard five-passenger, four-door pickup. The rear seat will be narrow for adults on long trips, but is fine for getting around town. The standard version is front-wheel-drive and features a peppy hybrid powertrain and an EPA-estimated rating of 37 mpg in combined city and highway driving. That rises to 42 mpg for city driving only – hence the urban truck moniker.

The powertrain uses its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor. The truck is equipped with a continuously variable transmission. Together, the two engines deliver 191 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. Owners can do light towing, but are best left for more powerful trucks.

The starting price of $21,490, including delivery charges, makes Maverick a smart vehicle. Owners get massive fuel economy and truck bed utility in a package that will fit a tight new car budget. Adding the 2.0-liter turbocharged gas engine raises the price to $22,575 and lowers the combined mpg to 26. It’s a gift that will keep flying. The drop in efficiency will cost the owner about $1,000 more per year at today’s high fuel prices.

The 2022 Ford Maverick features a standard 8-inch center touchscreen that works well with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This makes it easy to integrate music and navigation into the Maverick at no additional cost.

Ford likes to note that the hybrid’s 4.5-foot bed can carry 1,500 pounds of payload or about 37, 40-pound bags of mulch. The bed also has a six-foot floor with the tailgate lowered.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a nifty vehicle. Think of it as the Swiss army knife of cars. It is an SUV-like vehicle with the open bed of a small truck, offering elements of convenience and capability from both vehicle classes.

Hyundai Santa Cruz.

It’s more expensive than the Maverick and doesn’t get the same fuel economy. But it’s so much shorter and nimble that it offers a great choice for those who want utility but live in places like Chicago, San Francisco and Boston.

At 23 mpg in combined city and highway driving, the Santa Cruz falls between the gas-powered Ridgeline and Maverick versions, but trails the Ford hybrid by a long shot.

The price is much closer. The starting price for the base model SE Santa Cruz is $26,135 including destination charges. Like other vehicles, buyers can quickly upgrade to more sophisticated trips and add options that put the vehicle well into the $40,000 price range.

The base Santa Cruz model comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. That’s probably enough power for most consumers.

Hyundai engineers have also done a great job with the vehicle’s ride quality. Attaching a bed to the back of a crossover and ensuring it can haul and tow is a design challenge. Part of that takes some of the larger Santa Fe’s sturdier construction for the rear of the Santa Cruz. But the self-leveling multi-link rear suspension and standard 18-inch wheels are also big contributors. With 8.6 inches of ground clearance, the all-wheel-drive model can easily handle some dirt roads and sandy trails.

The bed measures approximately 52 inches with the tailgate closed. This allows for three mountain bikes, a load of camping gear, or several sets of snowboards and boots. But the tailgate unfolds to become an extension of the truck bed. This allows the vehicle to carry standard sheets of plywood, long sprinkler and plumbing pipes, and other building materials.

The vehicle features standard technology that buyers have come to expect from new cars, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard safety features include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and high beams that adapt to oncoming traffic.

Which to buy

Which of these vehicles works best depends on the needs of the buyer. Those who want a little more utility should get the Santa Cruz. Those who want the most space and capacity should opt for the Ridgeline. The Maverick works best as a tweener for those looking for a combination of utility, fuel efficiency and agility in a smaller package than a standard truck. All are good choices.

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