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Hyundai has become one of the go-to brands for drivers by offering reliable vehicles at a lower starting price than the competition. Although recent years have seen the brand developing a long list of family-friendly SUVs, their long-running sedan options are still available. Two examples of these vehicles are the Sonata and the Elantra.
The Sonata is classified as a midsize sedan. It has been completely redesigned for 2020 and is sporting a fresh new look, both inside and out. The Elantra, on the other hand, has been in its current generation since 2017. It still has managed to keep current, however. The new model has additional standard safety features, standard dual-zone automatic climate control, and even a more efficient transmission.
Consumers looking at a new Hyundai sedan may wonder if they need the all-new Sonata or if they would be better served by the less expensive Elantra. The following compares the two vehicles in great detail in order to help make that decision.
Size and Styling
Both of these vehicles have room for up to five people. The Sonata is the larger of the two options. This is made obvious when looking at interior passenger volume. In total, the Elantra offers 95.8 cubic feet. With 120.4 cubic feet, the Sonata definitely has a more open and roomy feel.
When it comes to legroom, the front seats in the Elantra offer 42.2-inches while the Sonata has a more spacious 46.1-inches. Perhaps surprisingly, the Elantra actually offers up more legroom in the back. It has 35.7-inches, while the Sonata has 34.8-inches.
The headroom is another important measurement. In the front row, the two sedans are nearly identical, with the Elantra having less than half an inch more space. For backseat passengers, the Sonata offers some more breathing room with 38.4-inches compared to the Elantra's 37.3-inches. When it comes to shoulder and hip room, the Sonata has more space in the front row. The same is true when sitting in the back.
Drivers will find that the Sonata and Elantra are approximately the same height. The Elantra is significantly shorter in length, however, measuring in at nearly 182-inches compared to almost 193-inches for the Sonata. Width-wise, the Sonata is quite a bit larger at 73.2-inches while the Elantra is 70.9-inches. Those measurements do not include the side mirrors.
Both the Elantra and the Sonata stand out in their respective classes when it comes to cargo space. For the Sonata, there are 16 cubic feet of trunk space. The Elantra offers up 14.4 cubic feet. Buyers can also get the Elantra in a GT hatchback variation, which has 24.9 cubic feet behind the back row of seats.
Looking at the two, drivers will find many similarities between their outer appearances. They both have a similar body shape. Buyers can also have things like alloy wheels, solar control glass, and heated side mirrors on select models of both. LED daytime running lights, headlights, and taillights are also available on the 2020 Elantra and the 2020 Sonata.
The Sonata can be had in both classic and more modern color options, including Quartz White, Calypso Red, Phantom Black, and Glowing Yellow. The Elantra sticks with more muted colors and can also be had in both Quartz White and Phantom Black. Other options include Symphony Pearl, Lakeside Blue, and Machine Gray.
Buyers will have two engine options for their new 2020 Sonata. The first two trims, known as the SE and SEL, have a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that will make 191-horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission comes along with it.
For the SEL Plus and Limited, the Sonata gets a turbo 1.6L four-cylinder making 180-horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets the same transmission. All models of both the Sonata and the Elantra are front-wheel drive.
There are more options to consider when looking at the 2020 Elantra. The base is a 2.0L four-cylinder that gives the vehicle 147-horsepower along with 132 lb-ft of torque. For 2020, this engine gets paired with an all-new continuously variable transmission.
Drivers after a bit more fuel efficiency can go with the Eco trim. It is powered by a turbo 1.4L four-cylinder that makes 128-horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission comes standard.
For a more exhilarating drive, the Elantra also offers the Sport trim. It has a turbo 1.6L four-cylinder. These models can give drivers 201-horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets paired with the same transmission as the Eco. Other performance upgrades found equipped for the Sport trim include stronger brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a firmer suspension.
Fuel economy numbers are usually a priority for shoppers. With the base engine, the Sonata is estimated to get 28mpg in the city and 38mpg on the highway. The turbocharged engine will get 27mpg city and 36mpg highway. Ultimately, the upgraded engine for the Sonata does not offer much more in the way of power or fuel economy, something buyers should keep in mind.
Moving onto the Elantra, drivers can expect 31mpg city and 41mpg highway from the base engine. The Eco engine does the same on the highway but goes up to 33mpg when in the city. Going with the Sport trim will mean getting 26mpg in the city and 33mpg on the highway.
The Sonata has a comfortable ride on the majority of road surfaces as long as drivers do not go with larger tires. Buyers should keep in mind that this sedan is not in any way sporty and the steering response is somewhat dull. As for the Elantra, it is more pleasing to drive overall. It, too, can absorb bumps from the road but unlike the Sonata, it offers responsive steering and sharp handling.
Both the Sonata and Elantra are well-made vehicles that consumers can feel confident in purchasing. J.D. Powers provides estimates on how reliable a vehicle will be over the years. The 2020 Sonata and 2020 Elantra each received four out of five stars, which is considered to be above average.
Comfort, Options, Performance
There are four different trim levels for the Sonata and six for the Elantra. The entry-level model for both is known as the SE. While the Sonata SE comes with an 8-inch touchscreen, the Elantra only has a 5-inch one. The Sonata also has smartphone integration through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard across the line. These features are unavailable for the Elantra SE. On the flip side, the Elantra comes standard with dual-zone automatic climate control, which is not an option on the entry-level Sonata.
The next trim level up for the Sonata and Elantra is known as the SEL. This is where the Elantra gains smartphone integration. Rather than the 8-inch touchscreen found in the Sonata, however, it goes with 7-inches. The Sonata SEL gains several luxury features, including heated front seats, power-adjustment for the driver's seat, and a hands-free power trunk.
To get luxury features, those who are interested in the Elantra will need to go up to the Value Edition trim. This is where the compact sedan gets the heated seats, as well as things like push-button start and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Eco trim has very similar features to the Value Edition, only with a different engine.
The Sonata SEL Plus can be compared to the Elantra Limited. They both have wireless device charging, for example. The Sonata SEL Plus also has a new 12.3-inch digital instrument display. As for the Elantra Limited, it gives the vehicle power-adjustment for the driver and a premium 8-speaker audio system from Infiniti.
Going with the top-of-the-line Sonata Limited gives drivers all of the latest features that Hyundai has to offer. It has ventilated front seats, genuine leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also found here is a 10.25-inch touchscreen as well as a 12-speaker audio system.
The Elantra is unique because it offers a Sport trim. On top of the performance upgrades, this trim stands out with its leather upholstery and sunroof. This is the only model of the Elantra to get an 8-inch touchscreen.
One feature that is offered by the Sonata but not the Elantra is called a digital key. With this equipped, drivers can use a compatible smartphone to lock and unlock their car. The phone can also be used to remotely start the Sonata. This feature alone may draw tech-savvy consumers to this option. The digital key is standard on all but the entry-level SE models of the 2020 Sonata.
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When looking at the scores given to these two Hyundai sedans by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Sonata wins out. It received an overall score of five out of five stars. This is due to the fact that it got five stars for side and rollover crash testing. It received four out of five stars in frontal crash testing. On the other hand, the Elantra got an overall score of four stars. In fact, it received just four out of five stars in all categories.
The scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are the same, however. They were both named top safety picks in 2020. A score of "good" was awarded for all six of their crash-testing categories for both sedans as well.
Consumers will find that the Sonata has many more standard driver aids, likely due to the fact that it has been completely redesigned. All models have automatic high beams, automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, a driver attention monitor, and lane tracing assist. The Elantra only has the driver attention monitor, lane keep assist, and forward-collision warning with brake assist.
Many of the standard driver aids for the Sonata are available for the Elantra. These include adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and pedestrian detection. Both the Elantra and Sonata offer a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert if buyers step up to the SEL trim or higher.
The Sonata has even more advanced driver aids on its list of optional equipment. It can have a surround-view camera system, reverse automatic emergency braking, and a head-up display. The Sonata also offers a sophisticated remote parking system. It is ideal for squeezing the vehicle into tight parking spots where there would not be enough room to open the driver's door.
Which Model to Choose?
Drivers will have to decide what their priorities are before answering this question. The Elantra can be had for over five thousand dollars less than the Sonata, making it appealing to more budget-conscious buyers. It also can give drivers more fuel efficiency, thanks in part to its brand-new continuously variable transmission.
On the other hand, the Sonata has many features standard on its entry-level trim that are either unavailable on the Elantra or only found on upper trims. That, combined with the extra passenger and cargo space, may make it appealing to families. All of those extra driver aids and the higher safety scores from the NHTSA should also be attractive for these consumers.