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 now is offered in a Coupe and five-door Elantra GT hatchback as well.
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. 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.
The Elantra was named the North American Car of the Year for 2012, even before the Coupe and GT versions arrived. 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.
|2013 Hyundai Elantra||2012 Chevrolet Cruze|
|Civic who? Corolla what? The Hyundai Elantra's one of the new standard bearers in the compact class, with 38-mpg fuel economy, better safety, and class-leading standard features.||The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is a practical, comfortable, fuel-efficient, and a strong value, but it does lack the nimble, tossable feel that some small-car fans appreciate.|
|Read moreNo more bland cars: the Hyundai Elantra crashes the Civic/Corolla party with daring looks and a cockpit almost without straight lines.||Read moreThe 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is tasteful but hardly fashionable on the outside; inside it's more charming, however.|
|Read moreAthletic it's not, but the 2013 Hyundai Elantra has confident road manners--and 38-mpg gas mileage.||Read moreFuel-efficiency and ride comfort are clearly priorities that rank above acceleration and handling, but the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze performs well enough to satisfy most.|
|Read moreImpressive interior and trunk space complements the Elantra's above-average interior materials.||Read moreIf comfort is your priority, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is one of your ideal small-car picks, as its roomy cabin, refined feel, and huge trunk give it a mid-size feel in a compact package.|
|Read moreIts crash-test scores improved this year, the Elantra earns top scores in both federal and insurance-industry tests.||Read moreIf you want a compact sedan and are prioritizing safety, you can't do any better than the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze.|
|Read moreBase Elantra sedans are a tremendous value; leather-lined Limiteds are there for the must-have crowd.||Read moreGoing smaller won't involve any sacrifice of features; the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze lineup offers the feature set of a larger sedan, despite a bargain price.|
|Read moreAll Elantra sedans are rated at 38 miles per gallon highway, manual or automatic; coupes run slightly lower numbers.||Read moreThe 2012 Chevrolet Cruze lineup isn't particularly impressive in city driving, but it's one of the greenest small sedans for highway driving--especially in Eco form.|
|from $16,695||from $16,800|
|from $16,208||from $16,212|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
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