Which to buy? New Hyundai Elantra or Honda Civic – USA TODAY
The new 2017 Hyundai Elantra offers a bunch of the latest tech, nimble acceleration, and plenty of room for both front and rear passengers, making it a serious competitor to the Honda Civic among top compact cars.
But the Elantra’s appeal can quickly fade, depending on how well you decide to equip it.
Step up to the Limited trim level, which has a starting price of $22,350, and you get luxurious extras like leather, heated seats, bigger wheels and LED headlamps. To get truly impressive tech, though, you have to add the $1,900 Ultimate Package for Limited.
Take that step, and blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert will keep an extra pair of eyes out for oncoming cars, and Active Lane Keep Assist will keep an invisible hand on the wheel. As long as you’re traveling on a well-painted road above 40 mph, it steers the Elantra along curves and makes sure it stays between the lines. (If you leave your hands off the wheel for too long, the system disengages.)
With emergency braking assist, forward collision warning, and smart cruise control, it’s an impressive option list. But Hyundai’s overall setup isn’t as slick as, say, Subaru’s excellent EyeSight system—or what Honda has on offer.
For instance, the Elantra’s dynamic cruise control is good for long highway slogs, but it’s useless in stop-and-go traffic.
Unlike cars with a “low-speed follow” option that automatically works even in the heaviest traffic, the Elantra disengages its smart cruise control and sounds an alarm whenever it dips below 6 miles per hour. That leaves the driver to hit the brakes, and then manually reengage the cruise control after accelerating. It’s a shame, since traffic jams are where semi-autonomous technology can prevent both fatigue and fender-benders.
Another downside: You can only get the Ultimate Package for Limited in tandem with the $2,500 Tech Package for Limited, which adds a nav system, premium audio, heated rear seats, and a color display in the center cluster. Considering that the Elantra is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto—which are far better than even the best automaker-designed navigation systems—the extra options don’t seem like a great value.
Yes, you also get a few other goodies: On the off chance that song data doesn’t display on the 8-inch touchscreen, the built-in SoundHound app listens to and identifies whatever music is playing. Additionally, Harman’s Clari-Fi music restoration technology makes highly compressed MP3s sound better.
But put it all together, and the total price increases to just a hair below $28,000—a lot of coin for a compact, and about the same price as a similarly equipped 2016 Civic Touring. And Honda also doesn’t force you to buy other packages in order to get safety features like lane keep assist or an adaptive cruise control system (which has the low-speed follow function the Elantra lacks).
The new Elantra is a great car and definitely worth a look. But if you want a la carte tech options or a fully-loaded compact sedan, the Honda might be the better bet.