The 2021 Hyundai Elantra
2021 Hyundai Elantra starting price: $19,650
Above average: Low starting price; sporty N Line model; impressive fuel economy; available hybrid; roomy interior; great warranty.
Below average: No hatchback body style.
Consensus: The 2021 Hyundai Elantra sports a crisp new design to go with its high-tech interior. A range of engine choices including a performance N version and hybrid caters to both enthusiasts and hypermilers.
The 2021 Honda Civic
2021 Honda Civic starting price: $22,005
Above average: Sedan and hatchback body styles; powerful and efficient 1.5-liter turbo engine; spirited handling; powerful Type R variant; roomy cabin.
Below average: Road noise; blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert unavailable; no Android Auto/Apple
CarPlay on the base model; no hybrid option.
Consensus: The 2021 Honda Civic is practical, reliable, and fun to drive. It remains a paragon of small-car virtue. The lineup has been scaled back this year, however, with the loss the of sporty Si and the 2-door coupe.
Elantra vs. Civic: Class-leading small cars
The Hyundai Elantra
Redesigned for 2021, the Hyundai Elantra makes great strides while still retaining its attractive pricing. A hybrid model joins the lineup, and its smooth powertrain returns as much as 54 mpg combined. A sporty N Line variant is also new and features a 201-hp 1.6-liter turbo with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic or a 6-speed manual. The standard powertrain is now a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 147 horsepower and a CVT. That drivetrain is good for up to 37 mpg combined. Slightly larger than before, the Elantra wears dramatically creased sheet metal that’s stretched over a roomy interior.
Inside, tech features abound, including a digital instrument cluster, an 8-inch or a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone mirroring, and wireless device charging. You can even use your smartphone to lock, unlock, and start the car.
All Elantras come with forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. Other standard items include lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and a safe-exit alert. The latter sounds a warning if passengers attempt to exit from the vehicle when traffic is approaching on that side. Adaptive cruise control is available on the upper trims.
The Honda Civic
With its unimpeachable reliability, strong resale value, practical packaging, and fun-to-drive demeanor, the Honda Civic remains a standout small car. The Civic is in its final year before a redesign, however, and the range has been trimmed. The 2-door coupe and sporty Si cut from the 2021 team. Buyers still have a choice of sedan or hatchback body styles, the former with a 15-cubic-foot trunk and the latter with 46 cubic feet of luggage space. There are also multiple trim levels including a racy 302-horsepower Civic Type R.
A 156-hp 2.0-liter powers the two lowest-priced sedans. But we prefer the more powerful and more fuel-efficient 1.5-liter turbo, which can be paired with a CVT or (in the hatchback) a 6-speed manual. The Civic has a well-tuned chassis, firmer in Sport and Sport Touring trim, and downright track-worthy in the Type R. Road noise is higher than we’d prefer. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control are standard. However, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring are not available.
Extroverted styling, choice of engines, roomy inside, available stick shift.
2021 Hyundai Elantra advantages
Lower starting price, better fuel economy, available hybrid, feature content, excellent warranty, free scheduled maintenance.
2021 Honda Civic advantages
Available hatchback, ride/handling, bulletproof reliability, strong resale value.
The redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra is much improved and now bests the Civic in several objective categories, including fuel economy, features, and interior room, although Honda maintains its long-earned reputation for reliability and resale value. Hyundai’s advantages may be short-lived, however, in the face of a soon-to-arrive new Civic.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.