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2018 Honda Civic vs. 2018 Hyundai Elantra: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Eric Brandt September 2018

You have a lot of options when you're shopping for a compact car. One of the class leaders for several decades has been the Honda Civic. It's always had a famous blend of reliability, efficiency and value that's been hard for its competitors to match. The Hyundai Elantra hasn't been around for nearly as long as the Civic, but it's become quite the competitor in recent years, giving shoppers an attractive alternative to the tried and true Honda.

But enough about the history of these cars. How do they compare in 2018? Let's take a look at the styling, performance, technology and value propositions that these cars offer and find out which one is right for you.

Exterior

The exterior styling of the Honda Civic is modern and continues to stand out despite having been around for a few years, while the styling of the Elantra is a little more conservative. Both sedans have a slope in the back that gives them the shape of a liftback.

The design of the Civic Hatchback is even more extreme with a back end that really grabs your attention. The hatchback version of the Elantra is called the Elantra GT, and it actually looks quite different from the Elantra sedan with not only a different rear, but also a different front end. It's worth noting that the Civic is available as a coupe, and the Elantra is not.

As for size, both cars are very close in their exterior dimensions. If you're concerned about size, it's really a toss-up between the two with no major differences.

Interior

The interior of both of these cars will make you feel like you're in a more expensive car. They both have attractive interior designs and seats that might be more comfortable than you'd expect. They're no luxury sedans, but they're quite comfortable for small, affordable cars.

Continuing the theme of the exteriors, the interior styling of the Elantra is a little more conservative than that of the Civic. Both interiors are well built with controls that are easy to use. One notable difference between the two is the dashboard. The Elantra uses analog gauges, and the Civic has a digital display. There's nothing wrong with the dash in the Hyundai, but the one in the Honda looks more modern and easier to read. Naturally, the interiors of both cars get nicer as you work your way up through the trims.

Interior dimensions are similar for the two cars, but the Civic has a little more legroom in the back. If you're going to be regularly transporting passengers in the back seat, they might appreciate the Civic more than the Elantra.

Mechanicals

The 2018 Honda Civic has two engines available, and the 2018 Hyundai Elantra has three. The base engine in the Civic is a 2.0-liter inline four that makes 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. This efficient engine returns strong fuel economy with 31 miles per gallon in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway. If you upgrade to the turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four, you get better performance and better fuel economy. It's rated at 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque while returning 32 mpg city/42 mpg hwy.

The base engine in the Elantra is similar to the one in the Civic, but it's a little less powerful and less efficient. It makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque and gets 29 mpg city/38 mpg hwy. The Elantra Eco ups the efficiency to 32 mpg city/40 mpg hwy with a 1.4-liter turbo four while getting 128 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque. The Elantra Sport packs a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, which is a strong performer at 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. On top of that, it's pretty efficient at 26 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.

Both cars are available with either a CVT automatic transmission or a manual transmission. For both, the manual is only available on two trims.

The performance of the Civic can get a lot better with the Civic Si and the Civic Type R, but those are technically their own models, so we won't go in depth about them here.

Features and Technology

Both of these compacts are pretty tech savvy. The Honda Civic is available with the excellent Honda Sensing suite of safety tech, which includes collision-mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. These features are standard on the range-topping Civic Touring and available on every other trim.

The Elantra has similar safety features. The Hyundai can be had with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, but they're only optional on the high-end Elantra Limited and doesn't come standard with any Elantra.

With both the Civic and the Elantra, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard on all models except the base model. These are great connectivity features for anyone planning on using their mobile device for things like answering calls, listening to music or navigating. It's much safer to operate these features through the car's infotainment system rather than on the phone itself while driving.

The Civic and the Elantra are pretty well equipped no matter which trims you go with, and they can both get pretty luxurious with features like heated leather seats, a sunroof, navigation and premium audio. The Civic Touring is nicer than the Elantra Limited, but it's also quite a bit more expensive.

Pricing

The Elantra has a lower starting price than the Civic, and it continues to carry a lower price than a similarly equipped Civic throughout the model ranges. The Elantra has a starting MSRP of $16,950, and the Civic starts at $18,940. At the high end, the Elantra Limited starts at $22,100, while the loaded Civic Touring will set you back at least $26,800.

The Civic might be more expensive, but it just might be a better value. The Civic has better drivetrains in terms of both performance and fuel economy, and desirable options like Honda Sensing are more widely available than similar safety tech is on the Elantra.

If you're looking for the most affordable compact car, then you'll probably like the price of the Elantra. If you're looking for the most bang for your buck, however, the Civic is arguably a better value depending on your priorities.

Conclusion

If you're on a tight budget, the Hyundai Elantra is a very affordable car that packs in a lot of value at a low price point. If you have a little extra room in your budget, however, you might like what the more expensive, but just as value-conscious, Civic has to offer.

Both cars offer good connectivity technology, but if safety on a budget is a priority for you, then you might be more drawn to the Civic and its widely available Honda Sensing.

For the enthusiast, the Elantra Sport is a nice, affordable alternative to the Civic Si. If performance isn't that important to you in your next car, then the Elantra might propose a better value.

No matter which car you go with, you'll be getting an attractive, comfortable, techy compact and a great value.

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Used 2018 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan
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New 2018 Honda Civic Touring Sedan
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Honda Civic vs. 2018 Hyundai Elantra: Which Is Better? - Autotrader