Chevrolet Cruze Vs. Hyundai ElantraEnlarge Photo
If you didn't expect to find a Chevrolet or a Hyundai among TheCarConnection's top choices, you're in for a surprise. Much has changed in the compact-sedan class over the past few years, and both the new Chevy Cruze and Hyundai Elantra are among our top-rated vehicles here. One of them has a major award in its win column. From our road tests, it's a toss-up, depending on what you really want in a new compact sedan.
Both the Elantra and the Cruze are styled smartly, but to our eyes, the Elantra's the sleeker of the two. The Cruze is probably Chevy's most effortlessly elegant sedan, with an aerodynamic ease that's just a little generic. The Cruze is better inside, where its striking combinations of high-quality materials set it off against its peers. It's stunning visually--even when compared to the other models in the Hyundai lineup that share its "fluidic sculpture" design theme. With curved and crested sheetmetal, plus a kicky line pulling the rear end up and shoveling the shape forward, it's a very dynamic look. Although the Elantra isn't quite the materials standout that the Cruze is, the Hyundai's cabin is fresh and distinctive; we love the hourglass shape of the center stack of controls in particular.
The Elantra is offered in a Coupe and five-door Elantra GT hatchback as well, while the Cruze is only a four-door sedan.
For performance, the Cruze earns our kudos for its ride quality, though the Elantra gets better gas mileage. The Cruze offers a base four-cylinder of 1.8 liters, but we'd opt for its 1.4-liter turbocharged four, which gets better fuel-economy ratings, while it's also more smooth and more refined. With aero add-ons, it gets EPA ratings of up to 42 mpg. And if you're likely to do most of your mileage on the highway, we recommend the 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel, which gets 46 highway and can eke more than 700 miles out of a tank. Elantra sedans are rated at 37 or 38 mpg on the highway--roughly on par with the Cruze's 35-38 highway mpg, for non-Eco models. Although the Elantra's 28 mpg in the city outdoes the Cruze in most of its trims. Either car comes with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, and in both, the automatic gets higher economy numbers and better ratings for smoothness.
The Cruze outguns the Elantra on overall driving feel. It's not tossable, but the ride is taut but absorbent and the cabin is extremely quiet. The Elantra's ride quality is nearly as good, but its electronic power steering feels far less precise and more darty, and engine noise is more noticeable.
Both the Elantra and Cruze offer up sizable interior room for front passengers, with more usable space for rear-seaters, we think, in the Elantra, since the Cruze's shorter front-seat leg room makes taller drivers push the seat back for a better driving position. The Hyundai's rear-seat headroom is slighted by its fast roofline, and its trunk is a bit smaller than the big bin in the Cruze. Both cars are Top Safety Picks, by the way, which the Cruze earns with ten standard airbags, but the Elantra gets lower scores in federal crash testing.
In the balance, the Elantra's styling trumps the Cruze's serene cabin, but Hyundai also outpoints Chevrolet on standard features and value. The Elantra comes with power features, Bluetooth, and a USB port; the latter two features are available on most Cruze sedans. Hyundai's optional navigation system can be fitted with real-time traffic information and a rearview camera, and its LCD screen is one of the largest in the class. The Cruze also offers navigation, as well as heated leather seats and automatic climate control.
Simply put, the Hyundai Elantra shows how far Korean carmakers have come, while the Cruze shows how far GM has come in its turnaround. Whichever you choose, you're sure to be just as pleased as you were the last time you bought a new Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.
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