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Hyundai is a company that has really done well in recent years. It has focused on designing affordable models that look more expensive than they actually are. Two of its sedans are the Elantra and Sonata. The 2021 versions of these cars are quite refined in terms of style and technology, and there are multiple powertrain options so that they can appeal to different drivers.
This overview will highlight some of the main features of each model. Importantly, it will show how the two cars differ in key ways. This should make it easier to decide whether to go with the Elantra or Sonata.
Size and Styling
The Sonata is the larger of the two models. It has an overall length of 192.9 inches. In contrast, the Elantra measures 184.1 inches from end to end. Likewise, the Sonata is the one that's taller and wider by a few inches. Both models sit 5.3 inches off the ground; this is a fairly standard ground clearance for a sedan.
As one would expect after reading about the exterior dimensions, the Sonata has more passenger space. It has a more generous amount of shoulder, head, and hip room. However, one of the most important factors for passengers is their leg room.
It's interesting what Hyundai has done when configuring these cars. The Elantra has 42.3 inches of leg room in its first row and 38 inches of leg room in its second row. These are pretty respectable amounts, especially considering that second-row leg room in the Sonata is only 34.8 inches. People in the front of a Sonata, though, can have up to 46.1 inches of leg room, which is more than average. This brings up an intriguing point; if adults are going to be riding in the back of these cars, they would likely prefer the smaller Elantra over the Sonata because it gives the more room to stretch out.
The trunk of the Sonata is larger than that of the Elantra. The Sonata's trunk has a volume of 16 cubic feet. This is about two cubic feet more than what the Elantra offers. For those who frequently pack their cars full of luggage or gear when they travel, this will be something to keep in mind.
Hyundai has made several types of wheels available for each trim. With the Elantra, there could be 15-, 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels. The Sonata starts out with 16-inch wheels, and its other trims could have 17-, 18-, or 19-inch versions.
A few differences are seen in the other exterior features of the two cars. First, LED headlights and LED taillights are standard on the Sonata. The Elantra can have these same types of lights, but most trims do not have them. Plus, the Sonata has solar control glass to reduce the heat that can enter the cabin.
Hyundai has given its customers a few different options for the powertrains of both the Elantra ad Sonata. In general, the Sonata is going to be the option that performance-minded consumers are going to pick. That's because it has more power.
In the Elantra, most trims are going to have 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engines. These are run-of-the-mill engines that have a modest amount of capability. They can generate 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. Given the relatively small size of the Elantra and the fact that it's likely not going to be used in rugged terrain, this amount of power should be fine.
If anyone likes the idea of driving the Elantra and prefers to have more excitement when he/she is behind the wheel, then the recommendation would be to go with the Elantra N Line. This vehicle runs on a 1.6 liter engine. Yes, it's smaller than the 2.0-liter engine, but it has a turbocharger. This gives it the ability to make 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is going to be a much more satisfying amount of capability.
The standard 2.0-liter engine on the Elantra has been paired with a Smartstream intelligent variable transmission. It allows for smooth shifting, and most people won't have any issues with it.
The N Line can either have a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Many feel that the dual clutch transmission is better suited for sportier cars, so it makes sense that Hyundai made this an option. The dual clutch transmission has a SHIFTRONIC feature that allows drivers to manually shift whenever they want to. In addition, the N Line has a multi-link rear suspension. It leads to improved handling when compared with the standard suspension system that the others have.
All of the Elantra trims have Normal, Sport, and Smart driving modes. Sport would lead to a slightly more aggressive driving experience, and Smart would be essentially the opposite. The estimated fuel efficiency of an Elantra is 43 miles per gallon on the highway and 33 miles per gallon in the city. The N Line sacrifices some efficiency in favor of performance. It can earn up to 36 miles per gallon on the highway and 28 miles per gallon in the city.
In the Hyundai Sonata, things are more impressive in the performance department. Its standard engine is larger than the one in the Elantra. It's a 2.5-liter engine that can make 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. It uses an eight-speed automatic transmission that some drivers may prefer, and like the Elantra, it has a few driving modes for people to choose from.
The SEL Plus and Limited versions of the Sonata use 1.6-liter turbocharged engines. They can make 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This engine is very comparable to the 2.5-liter engine in terms of output. The turbo engine has the same type of transmission that the non-turbo one has.
They're even close in terms of fuel efficiency. The standard Sonata has an estimated fuel economy of 38/28 (highway/city) miles per gallon, and the Sonatas with turbo engines can earn an estimated 37/27 miles per gallon.
There are two more options for the Sonata, however. The N Line is going to be a dream for those who like to drive fast. It uses a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, and it has 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. This rivals what many cars made by premium brands can do. The N Line uses an eight-speed wet speed dual clutch transmission, and it has paddle shifters to allow for some manual shifting. The N Line even has a special rack-mounted electric power steering system. With this larger turbo engine, the Sonata can achieve 33/23 miles per gallon.
Finally, there's the Sonata Hybrid. One of these cars can earn up to 54 miles per gallon on the highway and 50 miles per gallon in the city. It's really hard to beat these numbers. The Sonata Hybrid has a 2.0-liter engine and an electric motor, and it has a net horsepower of 192. This is pretty solid, and it helps the hybrid version be more attractive. The Sonata Hybrid has a six-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC.
Comfort, Options and Performance
Other than the space considerations, the cabins of the two vehicles seem fairly similar. In the Elantra, the lower trims have cloth upholstery, the Limited has leather seats, and the N Line has sports seats that have both leather and cloth materials. Top trims have power-adjustable driver's seats, heated front seats, and leather-wrapped steering wheels. One cool available feature is the Hyundai Digital Key. It makes it so that a designated smartphone can act as the key fob.
With the Sonata, these same features can be found, but there can also be more components. For instance, the Sonata has available heated and ventilated front seats and a memory system that can be programmed to remember the favored position for the driver's seat and side mirrors. Plus, it can have a heated steering wheel and a head-up display.
Technology is a factor when buying a car these days, and Hyundai has done a good job of integrating advanced components into its vehicles. Both the Elantra and Sonata can have eight-inch or 10.25-inch touchscreens. The larger touchscreens have navigation so that they can provide turn-by-turn directions, which take traffic into account. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth are standard in the two models, and most trims have SiriusXM. Wireless charging is standard on select trims of the Elantra and Sonata.
The Sonata has a few extra components that can attract a lot of attention from potential buyers. The first is the available surround view monitor that provides an all-around perspective of the car. The second is an available remote smart parking assist program. With this program, someone can get out of the car, push a button, and have the Sonata park itself into a spot. It's truly amazing, and it takes the stress out of trying to fit into a tight space.
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A number of driver-assist technologies are standard in these cars. Both models have the ability to warn drivers when they're veering out of their positions, and the cars can even correct steering to center themselves. These Hyundais have driver attention warning systems as well, and these can alert people when they should be paying more attention to the roads. Another standard component is forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection. It can be useful in preventing frontal collisions.
Standard on the Sonata is adaptive cruise control. When this is engaged, the car can adjust its speed if the leading vehicle is changing its speed. Adaptive cruise control can be found on the Elantra, but only on the Limited trim.
On the other hand, blind spot collision-avoidance assist and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist are standard on the Elantra. Unfortunately, they're not included with the base model of the Sonata, but they are found on all of the other trims. With these driver-assist systems, the chances of accidentally changing lanes or backing up at the wrong time are greatly reduced.
Which Model to Choose?
These two cars are close competitors. They have similar safety and technology packages, and they have many of the same interior and exterior features. Remember, though, that what can't be seen is just as important as what can be seen.
The engine choices on the Sonata, overall, are going to be higher quality than the ones in the Elantra. The N Line Sonata is particularly athletic, and the Sonata can further stand out with its hybrid models. The N Line of the Elantra is a strong car as well. It's actually more powerful than the engines in the Sonata, other than the one found in the Sonata N Line.
That brings the discussion to price. Obviously, this is going to be a main consideration. The good news is that both cars are relatively affordable. The Elantra starts out at only $19,650, and the Sonata has a starting price of $23,950.
Higher trims of the Elantra are still somewhat cheap. Its N Line costs $24,100, and its Limited trim is priced at $25,450. In comparison, the N Line of the Sonata costs $33,300, and its Limited trim costs $33,950. The Sonata hybrids range from $27,750 to $35,300. On the higher end of the spectrum, the Sonata is much more expensive than the Elantra is, and Hyundai has justified this cost by equipping the Sonata with more sophisticated and advanced elements.
For this reason, the Sonata will be more ideal for people who have a little more money to spend. For a somewhat modest cost, customers can treat themselves to upscale trims of the Sonata. The Hyundai Sonata performs well, and it has a lot of the technology that modern consumers are looking for.
The Hyundai Elantra would be a better choice for those on limited budgets. People won't have to spend that much on an Elantra, and they would still be getting coveted things like smartphone compatibility and heated front seats. With the exception of the N Line, the Elantra isn't super exciting to drive, but it doesn't need to be to keep many people satisfied.