Accord vs. Passat vs. Elantra

I’m looking at purchasing a new (or used) car in a few weeks. I spend the past few days going to dealerships test driving and have come to a cross road.

Before I get to the cross road, here is some background information. I will be transporting children as a part of my jobs (safety is always on my mind). My basic requirements are sun/moonroof, auto trans, iPod port (3.5 audio or USB), and less than 75k miles, if used.

Crossroad: I have test driven a few cars and am down to three key deals. First, the un-negotiated Hyndai Elantra (new) with a few added features with an price of about 20k out the door. Second, a used VW Passat (2006) 2.0T with 64k miles. It also has a few extras like heated seats, in addition to the moonroof. The downside is it does NOT have an iPod port of any kind. However the asking price is 12k and can be negotiated lower. Lastly, a 2008 certified used Accord EX-L with 30k miles. The un-negotiated price is 23k. Which do I choose? Do I choose the lower listed price Passat, but pay for more expensive repairs or do I stick with the higher price Accord with lower repair costs. Also, what about the Elantra or other cars I haven’t looked at?

If you go for the Elantra, you are starting out with new tires, new battery, new brake linings, new wiper blades, etc. The Accord will soon be three years old, the tires have used up half the normal service life, the battery may have only a year or two to go, etc. If the Accord has a timing belt, it will be due for replacement in another 30,000 miles or so. I know very little about VW Passats, but Consumer Report’s repair records indicate that this might be a car to avoid.

The Elantra really does sound like the best deal, everything brand new, but I have had 2 Honda accords & now have a Honda CRV. All excellent vehicles. But quite high priced. I would not even think about the VW passat. Whatever you decide on I wish you good luck.

If the children are in car seats, it may be difficult for them to get them in and out of the Elantra. If they can, it should be fine. If not, then an Accord-sized vehicle would be best. The VW is very unreliable.

Stay away from used VWs – they do not age well. Have you looked at used Hyundai Sonatas?


The Sonata is also a good vehicle to consider if the Elantra proves to be a little snug for car seats, if the kids in question are of that age. The Sonata is a little bit bigger and a little bit nicer. A 2-3 year old Sonata will be cheaper than the Accord or the Elantra and almost as nice as the Accord.

You may also ask yourself about your requirements for a sunroof and Ipod interface. My sister bought a car a couple years ago that had a sunroof, which was one of the main features that caused her to fall in love with the car. She never uses it and could pretty much care less that it is even there any more, as long as it doesn’t leak. For your Ipod interface, you can go to Walmart and buy an FM transmitter for less than $20. It plugs into your headphone jack and plays through any unused FM frequency of your choosing. As a bonus, you can use it in any other vehicle that has an FM radio or even your home.

Plus even the cheapest aftermarket stereo heads have aux in ports now.

It sounds like the Hyundai brand is winning out. I’ll look into them deeper. Also, I’ll avoid the VW and use caution (due to higher price) when contemplating the Honda’s.

Re: car seats and Sonata- I’ll be transporting children for work. The age ranges from as young as an infant all the way to 18 y.o. So The ease of getting in and out is an excellent thing to know. I’ll examine the Sonata a bit more. I did not test drive, but looked at them.

Re: moonroof and iPod jack - I have had a vehicle with a moonroof and I used it regularly (when weather permitted). As for the iPod jack, again, I had a vehicle with a jack and I found the sound quality was FAR superior compared to the FM trans. I use a FM trans in my current vehicle and it just doesn’t do my self-care music (instrumental classic music) justice. There is static even with a clear station and the nuances of the music are missed.

I’d like to further complicate matters. The next, and last on my list, car I am going to test drive and look at is the Mazda 3. So lets make it Accord vs. Passat vs. Elantra vs. Mazda 3 (based on this forum, Elantra vs. Mazda and consider Accord or Sonata). I have read a few reviews that the 3 seems to be the strongest competitor and less expensive than the Accord.

Thanks for the great discussion and thoughts. I really appreciate the contributions and would love some more!

Of those three, I would go with the Elantra, but I would recommend looking at a Sonata, too.

At the price range you’re looking at, you could also look to a Fusion or Mazda 6 - those get top notch safety marks…

I’d avoid the Passat for general reliability issues…

And the Accord? Definitely not a bad choice (it is on my short list)… but there are a LOT of complaints on unscientific consumer sites… The biggest issue has been brake problems, which Honda recently settled a class-action lawsuit against them over premature rear brake wear (think 10-20k miles per brake job)…

The Mazda 3 is in no way a competitor to the Honda Accord - it is really a Civic-sized vehicle. Look at the Mazda6 if you want an Accord-sized vehicle…

The local Hyundai dealers have 2010s still on the lot going for a song… Based on their asking prices, I’d think you could easily pick up a pretty well loaded 2010 Sonata for $16k or so… They’re asking only $14,000 for the GLS now…

If you want to really compare apples to apples, rather than comparing apples to oranges, you should realize that the Elantra is not in the same class of vehicle as the Accord and the Passat. Instead of an Elantra, you should look at the Sonata, which is a really nice car.

Then, we come to the issue of price!
Based on list prices for Elantras, I have to say that I think you are getting hosed if someone is quoting you a 20k price for this car. The larger, more powerful, more comfortable Sonata can frequently be found for 20k. And, since the new-design 2011 Sonatas have arrived, the discounts on the 2010 Sonatas are likely to be substantial. You should be able to get a nicely-equipped 2010 Sonata for…no more than 17-18k.

I’m going to check out the Sonata in the next few days. What about the Altima? I checked it out today, but did not test drive because of imminent rain.

Here is a revised preference list (in no order): Accord, Altima, Elantra or Sonata(TBD based on next auto visit).

As others have already mentioned, the Elantra is not in the same class as the others; the comparison is not fair.

As VDC & ERASER said, you should REALLY look into a 2010 Sonata. With the 2011 model already out, they should be discounted quite heavily. Any car without an OEM Ipod connection can be fitted with an aftermarket one for no more than $100.

The Accord may not be the highest price when you consider, as you have, repair cost and resale value. There is a reason why Accords hold their value and are among the best selling cars year after year. Satisfaction ratings in CR are always up there and it’s always a no brainer recommendation. The caveat is the dealership. That could be a deciding factor if you depend upon them for maintenance and you have one that “gouges”.

You should have test driven the Altima in the rain, IMO… I like it in general, but its brakes are mighty touchy - it takes a very light touch to brake lightly… I’ve found that they’re particularly annoying in the rain/snow

And again, I’d check out the Mazda6 - it is the same size as the Accord, but more fuel efficient (per owner reports at and cheaper. It should be every bit as reliable - it uses the same engine as the Ford Fusion and the same 5spd auto transmission that the 06-09 Fusion used - Consumer Reports rates those VERY highly - higher than the Accord… somehow they marked the Mazda6 lower, which isn’t actually statistically possible (goes to show their error)

Of course resale only matters if you’re going to dump your car every couple years. If you keep it 'til it dies, you’re not going to see much difference in resale value.

And the 2008 Accord (same generation as the current ones) is the second-most complained about vehicle over at - hardly scientific, but they aren’t exactly impressive there…