Elantra vs. Sonata

I have been considering buying a new Elantra. I was told that Sonata is significantly better than Elantra. Only the most basic trim of Sonata is within my budget limits. Do you think it is worthed to spend more money for Sonata?
Of course another option is to get a 1 year old used Sonata. So the options are New Elantra Limited, New Sonata GLS and used Sonata with better features.
I would appreciate your comments here. Thanks.

@mozkaynak What kind of people are you talking to? From other posts we learn that you are on a budget. So, an Elantra would be a good choice, and it comes as a HATCHBACK as well as a sedan. Both Elantra and Sonata are good cars, and the Sonata is no better; but it has more inside room and costs more. I have friends who own both and all are happy.

Both are very good cars, in fact Consumer Reorts had the Elantra as their top choice for several years. A friend has a 10 year old Elantra and it is very reliable.

If you spend $13 on the Consumer Reports Buying Guide (free in the library), and then pick the cars that are recommended and you can afford, then tell use which of your short list is your best choice based on what you tell us your needs are.

You are wasting a lot of time listening to well meaning people who know little or nothing about cars.

A month ago or so, I helped a friend shop for a new car. She thought she wanted a Honda Accord which is in the same class as the Hyundai Sonata. We went for a test drive in the Accord and it is a smooth riding automobile. However, we then took a Honda Civic for a road test. The Civic is in the same class as the Hyundai Elantra. The Civic was more to her liking for her style of driving. The seating position was better for her and the Civic was easier to maneuver off the narrow alley into her garage. She bought the Civic.

@Docnick CR is great. Because I live very close to a public library, I checked out CR there. It says great things about Elantra. Tomorrow, I am going to Library again to see what they say about Sonata.
@Triedaq Yes, technically Accord and Sonata are in same class but there is a big price difference.

From what I’ve read, the Elantra sedan and hatchback are 2 totally different animals, with the hatchback being more harsh a ride.

My first experience driving a Hyundai Sonata was not pleasant at first. I was presenting a paper at a conference about 125 miles away. My institution had assigned all the cars in its fleet, so I was furnished a Hyundai Sonata that the institution rented from Enterprise. I had to teach a late afternoon class before I could get away and pick up my research partner who teaches at a different institution. The driver’s seat back was leaning back at a terrible angle and pulling on the lever didn’t bring it up. The seat was also too low. When I hit the interstate, I couldn’t figure out why the traffic was moving so slowly. On my car, the top of the dial for the speedometer is 60 mph (the speedometer registers to 120). On the Hyundai Sonata, the speedometer registers to 120 and the top of the dial is 80 mph. I thought I was driving about 65 and was going about 85 mph.
My research partner is always very considerate and she offered to drive and I was more than willing to let her take the wheel. However, the seat was too low for her and the seatback was leaning back too far for her as well. We switched drivers at every rest stop because the car was so uncomfortable for us to drive. What also bothered me was that the Sonata hadn’t been cleaned up from the last user.
Before we started back from the conference, we ate at a wonderful German restaurant. The restaurant also sold wonderful German beer that was brewed on location and we each bought a half gallon jug. My jug leaked on the back seat floor mat which gave the Sonata a pleasant aroma. I decided to be a nice guy and said that I would drive halfway back. When we hit the half-way point rest stop, while my research partner was still inside, I decided to take a look at the seat. What I had missed was a second lever that adjusted the seat back. When I pushed on the other lever instead of pulling it up, that lever pumped the seat up and down. When I got this figured out, we were both able to find a comfortable driving position and our impression of the car changed completely. We found the Sonata quite comfortable to drive. Before I returned the car, I did go to a self-serve car wash and not only washed the exterior of the car, but did a thorough cleaning of the rear floor mat.

Hyundai does not have a particularly strong resale value and neither does it have the long term reliability record of Toyotas and Hondas. If I were to buy one, it would depend as much on the dealer and the warranty as on the car itself.

@bscar The older version of the Hyundai hatchback was a square box called the “Touring” model. Yes, it had a harsher ride that the sedan, and did not sell well with the young crowd. The newer hatchback is exactly the same as the sedan, except for the rear hatch. I almost bought one for my wife, but decided on a Mazda3 hatchback instead, it had better rear visibility.

Hyundai reliability and life expectancy have improved immensely, so that now you should have no worry about driving one 300,000 miles or so. Several of my friends have them and they seam bullet-proof. The oldest one is 12 years without any problems. But Honda and Toyota still have an edge.

I would agree Hyundai transmissions need maintenance like fluid and filiter changes. But they are no worse than Honda transmissions. Perceptions normally trail reality by about 8-10 years. Some people still believe Mercedes and Volvo build good reliable cars. My neighbor across the street bought a new Cadillac, since he had always wanted one.

The Elantra will get better MPG. I’d go with the Elantra unless you really want a bigger car and are willing to pay more and get lower MPG.


Hyundai is now warranting their powertrain for 10 years. Honda does not. Their quality has taken a big jump in recent years. I’d be perfectly at ease buying a Hyundai over a Honda.

“Hyundai is now warranting their powertrain for 10 years.”

That is true, but only for the first owner.

Unfortunately, Hyundai automatically cuts the length of the warranty coverage for the second owner, regardless of how little mileage is on the odometer. I can’t recall the exact details, but I am tempted to say that they cut the warranty term in half for the second owner. Does anyone recall the exact details on this issue?

Anyway…my point is that, if the OP buys a used Hyundai, it will not have the amount of warranty coverage that he/she might expect, based on odometer mileage.

Remember when Chysler offered a 100,000 mile power train warranty ? . They had to do something with their falling sales due to many factors, one of which was reliability. High mileage warranties are offered more as sales incentives, not always as an indicator of quality. Check the resale value of Hyundai compared to comparable Honda, even adjusting for the selling price.
Assuming what you say is true and given the average number of years an original owner keeps a car, it further reinforces the idea that extra long warranties are sales gimmicks for the most part.

Now they are guaranteeing their resale value…more sales pitch.

@dagosa Resale value isn’t the end-all, be-all of whether or not a car is good. The resale value for a Lamborghini is crap. Doesn’t mean the car isn’t desirable.


That’s true, but the next owner gets 5 year, 60k mile, which is identical to Honda’s.

We leased 07 sonata. Zero issues. Got 10 Camry. Zero issues. Friend has 06 Elantra. Zero issues. They are not 12-13 models so cannot say if new are better.

I drive a 2012 Elantra and have put 30,000 miles on mine. I have the sedan, 6-speed manual transmission. I am in my 40’s and commute about 15 miles to work each day. The only difference for me was size and economy. I wanted as close to 40 mpg as I could get, with a trunk. I looked at other cars and I wanted some distance between my son in the back seat, and the back bumper. For $17,250 MSRP the Elantra won out. Only 1 out of 30 come in a manual transmission, but if I am driving an economy car, a manual transmission is the way to go - to DRIVE the car. I was once told, two cars one should always go manual transmission: BMW’s and economy cars. BMW’s because they are meant to be driven, not ridden and economy cars because they are boring if you aren’t controlling the gears.

In sum, I would have gone Sonata if I wanted more space and less economy, but that is not what I was after. Elantra packs in loads of extras for the money so for me this was a winner. My next car will be the big Mini Cooper 4-door. The Elantra is sporty looking and more than adequate - but the manual gearbox is meant to be babied. I want a little more sport out of my next ride.