2022 Honda Civic vs. 2021 Hyundai Elantra: Compare Cars

August 13, 2021

Compact sedans keep getting better even as small crossovers keep eating away at the segment. Stalwarts of the class, the 2022 Honda Civic and 2021 Hyundai Elantra now come with more standard features and better style that transcends the budget nature of their past.

Which one is worth your money? By the numbers it’s pretty close, with the cars’ respective TCC Ratings separated by a tenth of a point. With the 2022 Civic hatchback debuting soon, and Hyundai discontinuing the Elantra hatch, this comparison is limited to the sedans. The Civic dons a more sedate, mature look and it acts like it wants to be driven, but the Elantra offers more bang for your buck when it comes to standard features and a warranty. 

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

You can’t go wrong with either, but it’s no tie in our eyes. The new Civic matures with more muscular ends and sophisticated lines that not only erase its overly busy past but also carry into the simple, almost elegant interior. It has a quiet confidence that is appealing. 

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The Elantra holds more folds and creases than a dresser drawer, starting with the splitter and extending to the fake air intakes below its waterfall style grille. It’s trying too hard to stand out, and that rarely ends up well. Inside the creased doors, the dashboard cants to the driver and a grab handle in the console separates the front seats to suggest a sportiness that isn’t there under the hood. Which is better? I think each of these need a summary.

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

The Elantra SEL uses a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. Under moderate acceleration it’s smooth enough as the CVT mimics the gear shifts of a conventional transmission, but under full throttle it cries out for mercy, as if those folds and creases will snap out of the drawer. In spirited turns the torsion-beam rear axle jitters and the front end plows.

Also front-wheel drive, the Honda Civic strains under heavy throttle, too, and the road noise under normal acceleration undermines the placid-looking interior. The top Civic Touring upgrades from a 2.0-liter inline-4 to a 180-hp 1.5-liter turbo-4. Turbo lag weighs it down at the start but once the needle points up the Civic moves quickly enough, and its CVT maintains higher rpm. The clear advantage comes in the handling thanks in part to its independent suspension. 

2022 Honda Civic Touring

2022 Honda Civic Touring

2022 Honda Civic Touring

2022 Honda Civic Touring

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

For true performance, look to the Honda Civic Type R or the forthcoming Elantra N. Those cars shorten a mile of time while these stretch a mile of gas. The Civic Touring nets an EPA-rated 31 mpg city, 38 highway, 34 combined. The Elantra SEL outpaces it at 31/41/35 mpg, but the Elantra Hybrid is unmatched at 53/56/54 mpg. The 2022 Honda Insight represents the brand’s most efficient competitor at 52 mpg combined. 

The sedans line up pretty closely when it comes to interior roominess, and these five-seaters are sized more like mid-size sedans from a decade ago than compacts. Four 6-foot passengers fit just fine in either, with 37.4 inches of rear leg room in the Civic compared to 38 inches in the Elantra; that’s crossover-sized. Head room squeezes taller rear passengers in the Elantra, however, and both have more than 14 cubic feet of trunk space that can expand with folding rear seats. Glossy black plastic meant to spruce up the Elantra’s interior actually cheapens it, while the Civic adds subtle flourishes such as metallic mesh trim over the vents.

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2022 Honda Civic Touring

2022 Honda Civic Touring

2022 Honda Civic Touring

2022 Honda Civic Touring

The Civic comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but even the larger 9.0-inch screen on the Touring felt cramped with too many icons in the side and bottom. LED headlights and 16-inch wheels round out the standard exterior features. 

Both vehicles come with good standard safety equipment that includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high beams. Honda includes adaptive cruise control, but Hyundai has it beat with its warranty and price.

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

2022 Honda Civic Touring, blue, and 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL, red

The Elantra has an 8.0-inch touchscreen standard, and a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with 3 years or 36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance. Honda’s 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty doesn’t come close, and its $22,695 base price for the Civic LX is $2,050 more than the base Elantra SE. 

That, and a lower cost of ownership, could tip the scale in the Elantra’s favor with its TCC Rating of 6.7 out of 10, even though the Civic beats it on style, handling, and interior finish earning it a 6.8 TCC Rating. It’s the smallest fraction of a point on our scale, and the difference is in the eye of the beholder.

Summary

6.7
Expert Rating
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra has big style, big available tech, and big range from a hybrid powertrain.
6.8
Expert Rating
The 2022 Honda Civic remains a go-to economy car, with low-key performance and high-economy powertrains.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
The Elantra’s hypermodern body meets up with a more pedestrian interior.
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8.0
Expert Rating
Honda’s toned down some of the Civic’s cutlines, and amped up the interior.
Read More

Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
Stock Elantras offer middling performance; Hybrids are super-misers, while the Elantra N’s a pleasant surprise.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
Base cars have basic performance; even turbos keep things on the milder side.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

5.0
Expert Rating
The space is fine; it’s the Elantra’s padding that’s thin.
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6.0
Expert Rating
The Civic’s nearly mid-sized now.
Read More

Safety

7.0
Expert Rating
Crash-test scores are good, and the Elantra's on the board with safety features.
Read More
Crash tests are pending, but the Civic is off to a strong start.
Read More

Features

10
Expert Rating
The Elantra rings the bell with wall-to-wall content.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
Well-equipped and inexpensive, the 2022 Civic ticks many boxes.
Read More

Fuel Economy

6.0
Expert Rating
The Elantra’s fuel economy soars, even without hybrid add-ons.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
Gas mileage excels in the smaller Honda sedan.
Read More

MSRP

from $19,650
from $21,700

Invoice

from $19,075
from $20,696

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

37
35

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.0 L
Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.0 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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