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With the cost of fuel being on the rise, many of today’s drivers are looking to buy a fuel sipper. This is one of the reasons why compact cars remain so popular. Many drivers will love the redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra, which has a striking new look. The ultra-reliable 2021 Toyota Corolla is another great option. In this head-to-to-head comparison, we’ll find out which one of these vehicles is the better pick.
When checking out the 2021 Hyundai Elantra, test drivers will have two different powertrains to consider. Hyundai's base four-cylinder engine pushes out around 147 horsepower. Drivers who desire are livelier performance can upgrade to the turbocharged Elantra N-Line. Its 201-horsepower engine ensures especially strong acceleration. To promote the best possible fuel economy, the Elantra’s base engine is mated to a continuous variable transmission. While the N-Line trim comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, buyers can opt for a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
A small four-cylinder engine with 139 horsepower comes standard on the 2021 Toyota Corolla. While the majority of the lineup receives an automatic CVT, the Corolla’s sportier trims can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. Drivers who aren’t content with the base motor can upgrade to a 169-horsepower engine.
During real-world driving conditions, don’t expect to notice a major difference in performance between these compact cars. This is especially true for the standard powertrains. There’s just enough pep under the hood to ensure a pleasing commute. Fuel efficiency proves to be a bigger priority.
Drivers who desire more excitement will be deciding between the Corolla Apex Edition and the Elantra N-Line. While the Corolla Apex Edition feels responsive, no version of the Corolla can compete with the Hyundai Elantra N-Line. A 0-60 mph time of roughly 6.5 seconds puts the Elantra N-Line among the swiftest cars in the class. By comparison, the Corolla Apex Edition clocks a 0-60 mph time of roughly 7.6 seconds.
When it comes to overall driving fun, the Elantra is a notch above the Corolla. While the Corolla should be applauded for its solid driving dynamics, it’s not as engaging. The Elantra N-Line's multi-link rear suspension helps it to perform a tad better on twisty roads. Driving enthusiasts will also enjoy the Elantra N-Line’s more exciting sound, which can be contributed to its high-performance exhaust system.
It’s important to note that both cars are front-wheel-drive models. An AWD system is not offered as an option. Traction can become a bit dicey in frozen weather.
The new Elantra is more efficient than before. It can return up to an EPA-calculated 33 mpg town/43 mpg freeway. Drivers who choose the more potent Elantra N-Line can anticipate getting up to 28 mpg town/36 mpg city. Choosing the N-Line trim’s manual transmission results in a lower fuel economy rating of 25 mpg town/34 mpg freeway.
While the Corolla is good on gas, it’s not quite as frugal as the new Elantra. Fuel economy estimates for the Corolla stand at 30 mpg city/38 mpg freeway with the base engine. Meanwhile, opting for the stronger engine actually boosts efficiency to 31 mpg city/40 mpg freeway. Like the Corolla, the Elantra is programmed to used regular unleaded gasoline.
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra has an effective braking system. While the Elantra’s official stopping distance is not available, test drivers were impressed by how well this car performed during emergency situations. Tests show the Corolla takes around 119 feet to come to a complete stop, which puts it in the middle of the segment.
For years, the Corolla has ranked among the market’s most bulletproof vehicles. This top-selling compact car has a stellar dependability rating of 4.5 out of 5.0. Drivers are unlikely to encounter many unexpected repairs. Although the Elantra’s 3.5 rating isn’t quite as impressive, it’s still better than average.
When it comes to warranty coverage, the Elantra sits atop the class. Aside from covering the Elantra’s powertrain for 60,000 miles, Hyundai also provides owners with a 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. On the other hand, a 60,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty come with the purchase of a new Corolla.
Both cars receive high marks in the ride quality department. A comfort-focused suspension comes standard. However, even models equipped with a sport suspension do an admirable job of absorbing bumps. Whether they spend a lot of time in the city or do more highway commuting, drivers can look forward to experiencing a smooth ride.
In terms of outward visibility, the 2021 Toyota Corolla gets good marks. Its low-slung hood and thin A-pillars help drivers to obtain a great view of the entire road. However, it can be a bit difficult to see out of the Corolla’s rear windows. According to most automotive reviewers,the 2021 Hyundai Elantra also offers so-so rear visibility. Because of the sedan's sleek roofline, a greater number of blind spots are present.
Like so many other cars in the class, the Elantra has a fair amount of cabin noise when traveling on the highway. Expect the engine to sound noisier when driving up hills and merging onto busy interstates. However, it’s not loud enough to disturb your passengers. Expect the Corolla’s interior noise levels to be similar.
These compact cars can accommodate up to five people, thus making them suitable for the average family. However, the Elantra is more spacious. It has a total passenger volume of 99.4 cubic feet. Meanwhile, there’s 88.6 cubic feet of passenger space inside the Corolla. Passengers sitting in the Corolla’s backseat will enjoy an additional 3.2 inches of legroom. There’s not a drastic difference in front legroom.
In terms of overall seat comfort, the Elantra wins this category. Some reviewers find the Corolla’s front passenger seat to be mounted a bit too low. Unfortunately, height adjustments are not available. Both cars offer heated front seats.
The Corolla’s trunk is a bit undersized. It provides an estimated 13.1 cubic feet of cargo space. There’s 14.2 cubic feet of storage space in the Elantra’s trunk. This extra space allows drivers to toss in a couple of extra shopping bags. A class-exclusive Smart Trunk is also offered on the Elantra, which doesn’t require drivers to do any hand waving or kicking. Hyundai enginnered the hands-free trunk to automatically open as the driver approaches.
Hyundai’s Blue Link infotainment system comes standard on the new Elantra. This interface’s overall simplicity makes it a great asset. For 2021, it has been updated with wireless smartphone integration. While the standard 8.0-inch touchscreen is a breeze to use, an upgraded 10.25-inch touchscreen is offered. Not only does the top-of-the-line unit have quicker processing, but it also provides split-screen functionality.
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is just as simple to operate. Drivers will grow to appreciate the unit’s physical buttons and knobs. While even the standard 7.0-inch touch display provides Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, a larger 8.0-inch screen with navigation is available. Keep in mind that wireless smartphone support is not offered on the Corolla.
Enhanced voice recognition technology is found on the upscale Elantra Limited. Drivers can make verbal commands using natural language. Toyota’s voice command technology is not as advanced.
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The 2021 Hyundai Elantra has yet to be officially crash tested by the federal government or the IIHS. However, it does feature a high-strength safety cage and upgraded side impact airbags.
Few compact sedans provide as much impact protection as the 2021 Toyota Corolla. It received a flawless score in every major crash test, thus helping it to earn an NHTSA five-star overall safety rating. Last year, the Corolla also managed to be named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.
Several active safety features come standard on these compact models, including a pre-collision braking system with pedestrian detection and active lane assistance. While the Elantra provides a standard a blind-spot monitor, this popular accident-avoidance feature is offered on the Corolla’s higher trim levels. Meanwhile, only the Corolla receives smart cruise control as standard equipment.
Safe Exit Assist is exclusively found on the Elantra. The system is designed to prevent passengers from opening their door into oncoming traffic. It will prove to be extremely helpful when parking along a busy street. Hyundai’s driver attention warning system can also enhance security. Advanced software enables the system to estimate the driver’s level of alertness, thus helping to prevent a fatigue-related accident.
What Has the Best Value?
Listed with a starting MSRP of $19,650, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is a clear value. Buyers will be getting a great car for the money. Car shoppers will also consider the Corolla to be a strong value, which has a starting price of just over $19,825. Although the base Corolla may Corolla provide a standard Wi-Fi hotspot, Elantra buyers receive a larger touchscreen with wireless smartphone support and a blind-spot monitor. Another big highlight is the Elantra’s much longer warranty.
Folks who yearn for more driving fun will be choosing between the Elantra N-Line and the Corolla Apex Edition. While the Elantra N-Line has an MSRP of $24,100, the Corolla Apex Edition is priced at $26,000. Most experts agree that the Elantra N-Line is the better value. Not only does the Elantra N-Line pack more muscle under the hood, but it also has a nicer infotainment system.
Which Is Better?
Last year, the Corolla was a best-seller. Expect the 2021 model to remain just as popular. However, a lot of people are also expected to choose the redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra.
Both cars are great for daily commuting. They’re efficient and easy to drive. However, folks wanting more driving excitement will be happier with the Elantra N-Line. It delivers one of the best performances in the segment.
Like the 2021 Hyundai Elantra, the 2021 Toyota Corolla is a comfortable car. However, there’s more passenger space in the Elantra. It’s just as accommodating as some midsize models, which is a big plus for families. Whether a person chooses the Elantra or the Corolla, they will have several active safety features to lean on.
The Corolla certainly offers enough features to satisfy most people. Nevertheless, Hyundai’s list of available features is even more appealing. Technology lovers will enjoy the Elantra’s updated infotainment system. It provides wireless smartphone integration and an optional wide-screen display. Enhanced voice control technology is offered as well.
Many people will have a hard time deciding which car looks the best. While the Corolla has some sporty trims, the all-new Elantra is especially sleek. Even the base Elantra SE comes equipped with a cool set of alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights.
There’s no overlooking the Corolla’s class-leading reliability. It’s designed to withstand the test of time. On the other hand, Hyundai's super-long warranty makes the Elantra a great buy. Car shoppers can’t go wrong with either car. However, a more rewarding driving experience and exclusive premium features help the new Elantra to win this comparison.