The much-improved Corolla interior no longer puts the Elantra's cabin at a strong advantage. We'd actually call it a tie in terms of materials and trims—both impressive for such low-cost cars. Both are mid-size cars in terms of real, usable seating space, and back-seat legroom in particular has been boosted in both to make them commodious enough for adults.
Both cars are reasonably good performers for safety, but the Corolla has a full set of crash test scores, while the new Elantra does not yet. Toyota earns a five-star overall score from the federal government, and there's little doubt the Corolla's improved body structure makes it safer than the previous version. However, it earns a 'marginal' score on the IIHS' new small-overlap test.
The Elantra, meanwhile, comes in at just four stars overall from the federal government—but the IIHS disagrees, awarding Hyundai's compact its Top Safety Pick+ rating.
One thing to note between the two is that the Corolla for 2017 comes standard with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, important features that require spending extra (and opting for specific trim levels) on the Elantra.
Equipment used to look sparse in the Corolla compared to the Elantra, but Toyota's really stepped up its game here, too, with a feature and option set that's competitive to the Elantra. Most Corollas include the automaker's latest Entune infotainment system, featuring navigation and apps in some models. Both the Elantra and Corolla include standard Bluetooth connectivity, while navigation, push-button start, heated front seats, and automatic climate control are available on upper trims. The Elantra, however, can be optioned with rear heated seats and ventilated front seats, and we do like its infotainment interface better.
In all, you can't go wrong with either of these frugal compact sedans. The pricing and features are now comparable. The Elantra arguably might still have the edge in style and flair, with its very well-coordinated design—and it's worth keeping in mind that the Elantra is also offered as a sportier hatchback, called the Elantra GT. (The GT is due for a replacement in the 2017 model year as well, but it hasn't been shown yet.) But with a roomier interior, quieter ride, and better fuel economy, the Corolla has narrowed the gap significantly.
It's a close call, this one.