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2023 Hyundai Elantra vs. Sonata

1. Introduction

The term "All New" in the automotive industry can be quite vague and does not require a vehicle to be completely redesigned from the ground up. Typically, this term means that a vehicle has some substantial changes to features and/or styling, or it is an entirely new model to a manufacturer. For the 2023 model year Hyundai has completely redesigned the Elantra which resulted in some interesting, ambitious changes. This particular model of the Elantra has gone under a huge transformation in hopes it will remove its former compact car stigma and become a front runner in the midsize segment. Visually, Hyundai has given the Elantra a "coupe-like" silhouette and has elongated the vehicle substantially. It is lower, wider, and longer than its predecessor and has a sportier more aggressive look. These changes have given the Elantra a much different image than past models and this trend follows into the vehicle itself. Steps have been taken to improve noise, vibration, and harshness, while the athletic Elantra N-Line has been added to draw in a different crowd offering different power and suspensions tuning compared to other trim configurations. With high fuel economy ratings, good safety ratings from IIHS, an affordable starting price, and quality interior materials, the Elantra definitely gives consumers considering a sedan fantastic value. This vehicle's ambitious changes, value, and good all-around scores on different automotive reports and tests definitely make it a vehicle worth considering for consumers in the long run.

Like so many things in today's ever-changing world, there are good reasons to update, upgrade or completely change a vehicle while ownership or leasing is still planned to continue at some time in the future. It's understood, vehicle changes or replacements are typically dependent on personal situations and needs. Having provided helpful product advice to many consumers, it is understood that some will "figure it is best to trade it in or sell it before it starts having problems." Then there are those who drive their vehicle "until the wheels fall off." Now we aren't saying that the 2023 Hyundai Elantra or Sonata will cause the wheels to fall off another manufacturer's car, but for those readers who plan to keep their current vehicle for a few more years and want to see or plan for which of these new Hyundai sedans will suit them better down the road, this Buyer's Guide will help.

1.1. Overview of the 2023 Hyundai Elantra

The seventh generation Hyundai Elantra will come with a lower price tag but more features and a curb weight that's about the same as its predecessor. Tucson, AZ has a compact sedan that fits nearly any budget. The 2023 Hyundai Elantra will start at $14,995 after a $695 freight charge; last year's base price was $500 higher, and the higher-volume GLS model also is cheaper than before at $17,295. But Hyundai promises this Elantra will feel like a big step up in features and interior room. It's loaded with items not typically offered on cars in this price range, such as electronic stability control, heated mirrors, and a telescoping steering wheel. There's also a new "comfort adjusted" head restraint that reduces whiplash in rear impacts, and a tire pressure monitoring system is standard. Models with automatic transmission now include what Hyundai calls "intelligent variable transmission logic"; this helps sort out the perfect shift points in all types of driving. In all, there are more than 100 distinct changes in this new Elantra, says Hyundai. At 179.3 inches long, the new Elantra is actually 2 inches longer than the model it replaces, and its width has increased by 1.8 inches. Hyundai boasts that the Elantra has a larger interior than the Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, or Chevy Cruze, and its cargo volume at 14.2 cubic feet is also considered best in class. Step-in room and shoulder room front and rear are now mid-size and near-luxury levels, says Hyundai. To accomplish this, the new Elantra has taken up the critical space that exists between compact and mid-size sedans. A change in the Elantra's size classification is exactly what Nissan did to create the Altima, and what Toyota did with the Corolla/Matrix. Step-in room and shoulder room front and rear are now more than the 2012 BMW 3-series and Hyundai says the Elantra is a very desirable alternative for a used car shopper.

1.2. Overview of the 2023 Hyundai Sonata

The Sonata is another enduring name in the Hyundai line-up, dating back to 1985. Since the beginning, its main focus was to provide an exceptional value in the compact and later as a mid-size car priding itself on superior room and comfort. Although many iterations were good to very good cars, only the 2011 Sonata could definitively state that it had reached the top level by winning a comparison test of family sedans by the automotive authority at that time "Car and Driver". It's often quite hard to be a trendsetter but the 2011 Sonata required a complete redesign of the competing Toyota Camry. This was accomplished through Hyundai's 'Fluidic Sculpture' design which was interpreted as bold and aggressive but without scaring away loyal followers. As much success as there was with the 2011 model, it is hindering the current Sonata. After the less than attractive and almost emergency design 'refresh' in 2014 followed by the great looking but lazy 2018 redesign on the same platform, the sales and perceived value of the car was on the downturn. This resulted in a return to the previous generation platform for the 2020 model proving there is no second chance at first impression. In an unorthodox move Hyundai then redesigned a new style Sonata to be sold alongside the 2020 'LF' making it a one year only 'DN8' model. With this in mind the most anticipated 2023 Sonata comes at a critical time with simple goals of combining the best aspects of previous models, capitalizing on past mistakes, and fulfilling a true consolidated market of mid-size sedan value.

2. Exterior Design

It'd be difficult to talk about the new Hyundai Sonata without mentioning its exterior - quite simply, it's either going to be love it or hate it. Designed using the 'Fluidic Sculpture 2.0' styling, the new Sonata boasts some curves and shapes that make it rather unique on the road. At the front, Hyundai's new hexagonal grille takes center stage, flanked by LED daytime running lights and headlights, which are available in HID Xenon. The bottom line is that the Sonata looks a little too aggressive for a family sedan. Over at the rear, the boot is finished with an integrated spoiler that features LED brake lights - the lines on the boot aim to mimic those on a coupe - somewhat similar to the intention of the new London black cabs. This aims to give the car a sportier look, but to our eyes, it doesn't seem to work that well. These design features give the Sonata an aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.27. The alloy wheels on the Sonata come in 17 and 18 inch options. The Elantra on the other hand has a physique that is a little more universally likable - it has clean, simple lines and less radical styling than the Sonata. This makes the Elantra more likely to appeal to more conservative buyers who may be put off by the Sonata. The hexagonal grille can also be seen at the front of the Elantra and again, the line around the back of the car finishes at an integrated spoiler within the boot lid. There are quite a number of similarities between the Elantra and the Sonata exterior - the Elantra has a very premium looking set of 17 inch alloy wheels and they share a number of features - more modern. Overall, the Elantra has clean, simple lines and understated elegance. Due to this, and the fact that it looks a little European, some people might even mistake the Elantra for a European compact sedan - good news for Hyundai! Comparing the two cars, the Sonata has styling and uniform with a very aggressive look and a focus on the sporty side of styling, but can be seen as a little in-your-face while the Elantra is taking a cleaner, more elegant route with the recently refreshed styling carrying it through the next 2 years.

2.1. Styling and Body Structure of the Elantra

The Sonata is also not a traditional three-box sedan, having received a mid-cycle refresh in 2017 to appear more like a four-door coupe. The car has a more subtle sloping roof than the Elantra and features additional sculpture in the sheet metal. Like other recent Hyundai products, the front grille is bold and prominent. The headlights date all the way back to 2015 when the car was first released in seventh-generation form. Headlight technology has not changed with this vehicle and it is yet to be seen if a refreshed 2018 Sonata will feature new technology there. Both cars also feature turn signal indicators on the side mirrors. The Elantra and Sonata both feature an aerodynamic design for wheel wells and both allow for an optional set of 17-inch alloy wheels. Both cars are available with a full suite of LED exterior lighting.

The latest Elantra is one of the only cars in its segment to utilize a coupe-like roof on a four-door sedan. This feature is similar to the Mercedes CLS and Volkswagen CC. Stemming from the B pillar, the roof slopes downwards dramatically and blends into the trunk. This allows Hyundai to circumvent making another conservatively styled, three-box sedan, like the previous generation Elantra. Long, flowing character lines run the length of the Elantra, enhancing its aerodynamic profile. Up front, the Elantra's new look is defined by Hyundai's signature handsome hexagonal front grille. The grille is flanked by expressive headlights featuring optional HID and LED technology. The Elantra's face is modern and clean with just a touch of aggressive.

2.2. Styling and Body Structure of the Sonata

Overall, this is a well-engineered car with good dynamics and the best Sonata to date. The only problem is the competition in the mid-sized car segment is tougher than ever, and this car may not get the recognition that it deserves from consumers.

All models are powered by a 2.4L petrol engine with a 148kW output and mated to a five-speed automatic. The entry-level manual and the previous four-cylinder and V6 engines have all been dropped from the range. This engine does provide decent performance and along with the new chassis will move Sonata in the right direction dynamically. Unfortunately, the downfall here is that the GDI engines that other markets get are not available. Although the price has gone up, Hyundai stresses the value argument.

Step inside the car and it is clear that there has been a large step forward in interior quality. Materials look and feel better, and the centre fascia is better thought out than that of the old NF model. All Sonatas come standard with dual front, side, and curtain airbags, active front headrests, stability control, traction control, and ABS. A new virtual pedal system aims at optimizing the pedals in a crash scenario. The price range is broad, spanning between $28,490 and $41,490. With the current economic crisis hurting car sales, the top of the range models may be a hard sell for Hyundai.

Coming into the mid-sized car segment with a very European design, and build quality being first and foremost, may alienate some of Hyundai's current customers due to the fact that the price has gone up and local manufacturing has ceased. This car is a serious attempt for the European and Japanese manufacturers.

While all this sounds great on paper, visually the differences are marginal. From a distance, it is hard to tell the difference between the new Sonata and the old one. The lines are clearly evolutionary. At the front, an attempt to give a sportier look has been made. The most top of the range models feature projector headlights and fog lights and a new grille which is meant to resemble a 'shark' according to Hyundai. These touches do achieve a more aggressive and upscale look but do not change the car's overall presence too much. The side profile is basically more of the same, although the new wheel design does give a more defined look. At the rear, the tail lights have a more European feel but again the changes are small. Overall, the car looks clean and well proportioned but does lack a bit of spark.

The NF Sonata model is built on a new platform unique to the Sonata. The platform's aim is to improve dynamics and to take a further step in the quest for build quality, which has been a strong point for Sonata in recent years. It has a 2795mm wheelbase, is 4825mm long, 1835mm wide, and 1480mm tall. This makes it slightly shorter and thinner than the outgoing model but with a longer wheelbase and therefore more interior space. MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension is used, and a new measure of stiffness for a Hyundai platform of 17.5kg/mm has been set for the rear suspension to improve handling.

The Sonata brings a sense of refinement and luxury to the mid-sized car category with a broad and long proportioned body. Its styling borrows ideas from more expensive cars and it looks classically elegant. This car aims to age well, rather than to grab the immediate attention of the public.

2.3. Comparison of Exterior Features

Elantra has a more sporty look compared to its predecessor. They have tried to change the tag of Elantra being known as a boring car. The new front has a cascading grille, a new feature in most Hyundai cars nowadays, while the side has given a coupe look with the new character line that connects the front to the rear. The rear itself has a fastback look like the previous model of Elantra, the difference is the rear lights look more tapered and there is an integrated spoiler on the top model. On the other hand, Hyundai Sonata has borrowed a lot of design cues from Hyundai's Vision G Concept. It's an evolution of the Fluidic Sculpture language Hyundai used to use, but this time has surface chisels that give the car a more luxurious and stable look. At first glance, the grille would look like it has no chrome garnish but it actually has a chrome strip to connect both headlights. The headlamps now have new multiple LED projectors and it's with Dynamic Bending Light (DBL). DBL is a feature where the headlamp will swivel into the direction of the steering wheel. Both the side and the rear look of Sonata are to give an impression of a luxury car. The character line flows from front to the rear and stops at the door handle before it continues to the LED rear combination tail lights. The rear lights itself on the top model have a flat LED light guide with Hyundai's emblem in the center. A feature called Smart Trunk is available on Sonata. It's a hands-free feature where you stand in 3 seconds with the smart key and the trunk will open automatically.

3. Interior Features and Technology

The general design of the interior of a vehicle is almost as crucial as the engine size. A well-designed, comfortable, efficient interior is the keystone of a good vehicle. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is going for an Audi A3-style elegant look, with a strong emphasis on the horizontal plane. The centre console and dash are finished in piano black, an LCD screen and chrome highlights are used to break up the dark colours. Compared to the Sonata, the design is much more refined, although at a basic level it does bear some resemblance to the luxury of the Sonata. The base model of the Elantra comes with cloth seats, but a leather option is available on the highest spec Elantra. It makes use of a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, the CD player slot is situated at the top of the centre console, heating is an option for the front seats, and the Elantra also provides an automatic climate control air conditioning system. Speaker setup is six speakers on the base model and nine for all other models. Moving up spec levels, the Elantra has an "Elantra Elite Package" which includes a sunroof, 10-way adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, a smart key system with push-button start, and lastly a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. In comparison, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata has an interior which is designed more for comfort than luxury. This is made evident with the level of standard features that come with the base model Sonata. With the base Sonata, you get manual air conditioning, a four-speaker system, a basic audio system, power windows with a driver's auto-down function, and rear armrests and cupholders. Step up a level to the "i45 Active" and a whole lot of features are added. For only a minimal increase in price from the base model, there's automatic air conditioning with a digital readout, a six-speaker audio system, a 3.5" Mono TFT LCD in the meter cluster, steering wheel audio controls, front fog lights, and alloy wheels. On other Sonata models, rear passengers get window shades and all models have a vast amount of storage space in the form of cup holders and trays, as well as higher quality interior materials across the board. But in general, there's a reasonable level of similarity between the different Sonata versions. Like with the Elantra, the most luxurious Sonata has leather seats and a premium price-tag.

3.1. Cabin Design and Layout of the Elantra

The cabin in the Elantra is modern, open yet focused. Inspired by the premium and technology-laden cabin of the all-new eighth-generation Sonata, the Elantra's all-new interior is also a flexible and technologically advanced cockpit. It provides an ergonomic interior layout with a broad field of vision that gives the driver a sense of openness and enlarges the sense of space. This is created by the low and wide fascia, the rearward position of the center display screen, and a slim dashboard. The large interface consists of two harmoniously connected 10.25-inch displays which use a continuous glass surface. The cluster is intended to project the image of analogue dials. On each side, it has digital indicators, with a large radius which projects inherited feeling of drive modes and status with various vehicle information. The simple, intelligible, and easy-to-reach switchgear on the center fascia is setting new trends for the segment and generation. The minimum number of hard keys underscore the technological element. The lower, broad console in the Elantra provides storage and an open feel and has a shift-by-wire push button design - freeing up storage and creating a cleaner, more modern feature.

3.2. Cabin Design and Layout of the Sonata

The Sonata's cabin also takes a radical departure from typical small car thinking, and even takes a different tack to the Elantra. Relying on what Hyundai calls "fluidic sculpture" design, it's also not entirely successful. One could say the Sonata's exterior design is form-over-function; the roofline and structure of the low-slung body are definitely at odds with the cabin's mission to provide space and comfort for four or five adults over long road trips. There's enough space for most adults to sit comfortably in the front or the back of the Sonata, and the driver's seating position is quite good, even though the low roofline might have taller drivers needing to duck a bit when getting in. Front seats feel wide and supportive, and there's plenty of headroom and legroom, front and back. But getting in and out is a bit more difficult than it needs to be due to the roof, and rear headroom is really quite disappointing considering the exterior stance. But the Sonata's real issue might be with build quality, as some top-trim models of this vehicle can venture into what many consider luxury car price ranges, yet the cabin materials and especially the switchgear don't feel like they are of particularly high quality. All Sonatas now include Bluetooth, but base models and even the mid-level SE still lack USB or iPod connectivity. Finally, the Sonata may also have good outward visibility for a sedan, but a rearview camera is not available on any model.

3.3. Comparison of Interior Features and Technology

The Sonata has incredible interior volume and proves to be a competent rival with roominess when compared to many small/midsize SUVs. A way in which this is achieved and also quite an exciting advancement of the Sonata at the time was the introduction of Hyundai's Blue Link Telemetrics - something that can still only be found in the Hyundai brand and is quite useful, even providing features like the status of your car and automatic collision notification, all of which can be accessed by your smartphone or other network connection devices. Adversely, a few years following this marvelous sedan technological advance, the Elantra was able to provide a bit of a counterattack in that it managed to stuff a remarkable amount of technology for a compact car at the time, in turn matching and even surpassing some of the features of the Sonata at that time period.

When compared to the Sonata, the Elantra's interior offers obviously more up-to-date technology given the year difference between the two vehicles; we can't necessarily hold that against the Sonata now, can we? There are things like Navigation with 3-D graphics, a rearview camera, and a 360-watt premium audio system with an external amplifier and the center point of the Elantra's interior remodel, a new navigation and audio/video (A/V) system with a seven-inch display - a segment first making for quite a difficult act to compete with. The noteworthy attempt of a comparison of technology in some years' time between the two cars is that the Sonata has a higher resolution eight-inch display - sans the 3D graphics in the previous comparison, and with the exception of the same navigation with HD radio technology, is nonpareil to the Elantra's new system and previous generations. Both models offer Bluetooth hands-free phone systems and iPod/USB Integration.

The interior features and technology provided in a vehicle are critically important, not only concerning the comfort and adaptability of the car for its driver, but also the appeal and advantage provided for those it might carry later on. It is to the Hyundai Elantra's advantage that the Sonata was not debuted until after the Elantra, which cleared the way for the Elantra to give the Sonata a run for its money with the most recent revamp of the Elantra's interior.

4. Performance and Fuel Efficiency

Elantra has a choice of a 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Its mileage will stand at 29 mpg/city and 40 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg in combined driving using its 1.8 liter 4 engine. On the other hand, Sonata has a more powerful 2.4 liter engine, but it still manages to have an impressive fuel efficiency of 24 mpg/city and 35 mpg/highway with its 6-speed automatic transmission. Its available 6-speed manual transmission results in better fuel efficiency with 24 mpg/city and 35 mpg/highway, which is the same as the automatic transmission.

In the field of performance, Elantra offers a 1.8 liter, 16 valve DOHC in-line 4 with Dual CVVT engine that delivers 145 horsepower at 6500 rpm. It also has an in-line 4 engine with D-CVVT Valvetrain system, which provides the extra power needed and increased fuel efficiency. Sonata offers a 2.4 liter, 16 valve DOHC engine with 198 horsepower at 6300 rpm, which is quite high, and 200 lbs feet torque. It also has an optional in-line 4 engine with D-CVVT, which provides a good combination of power and fuel efficiency.

4.1. Engine Options and Powertrain of the Elantra

Elantra is a base model powered by a 2.0L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine is paired with the Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) and despite its best-in-class 147 horsepower, Elantra was designed and engineered to deliver a combined 35 MPG. Elantra also offers a 1.6L Turbo-GDI engine with 201 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque with a 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission that delivers a 28 MPG combined fuel economy. The only way to achieve a vehicle with a combined 38 MPG that has more than 192 total system horsepower is with Elantra's Hybrid model. Elantra Hybrid is powered by a 1.6L GDI Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. The result is a tried and true Hybrid Package that is estimated to have a best-in-class combined 50 MPG and has plenty of power with a total system output of 139 horsepower and an impressive 195 lb.-ft of torque. All engine options for Elantra are very impressive for their respective segments and ensure buyers that they will have an efficient vehicle with plenty of power to get the job done.

4.2. Engine Options and Powertrain of the Sonata

Both the Elantra and Sonata have different engine options, so there is variety with the trim lines. The Sonata offers a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder, and a hybrid drivetrain. The base 2.4-liter engine makes 198 horsepower at 6300 RPM and 184 lb-ft of torque at 4250 RPM. This engine gives the Sonata the same smooth drive on the highway and in the city that the Elantra offers, but with faster pick-up from the line and a little added torque. The Sonata's extra power and torque are also balanced out by decent fuel efficiency, which is rated at 24/35 MPG for city/highway. Stepping up to the 2.0T gets you a Sonata with a lot more get-up-and-go. With 274 horsepower at 6000 RPM and 269 lb-ft of torque at a very broad and usable RPM range of 1750-4500, the 2.0T powered Sonata is a true sleeper in the family sedan class. The extra horsepower and torque from the turbocharged engine are very noticeable and translate to some solid acceleration, all while maintaining respectable fuel economy. The 2.0T Sonata is rated at 22/34 MPG for city/highway, only slightly lower than the lesser powered 2.4-liter engine. Step down in economy to the tune of only 2 MPG for a 76 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque gain? Sounds like a fair trade-off to us.

4.3. Comparison of Performance and Fuel Efficiency

2023 Hyundai Elantra has two engine options for their car. The SE and SEL trim have a 2.0-liter engine. This engine produces 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, which is an increase in comparison to the older model 2019 engine. The new engine has 7 more hp and 3 lb-ft of torque. The increase in power is modest, but it's the handling area that would likely benefit the most from the higher-output 2.0-liter that SE, SEL, and by extension N Line, and Limited trim Elantras will get. These same trims will also offer an optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which helps in fuel efficiency. We'll have to see if this is the engine that comes in the Elantra N, but it's most likely that the vehicle will have a more powerful engine option. The second option is a 1.6-liter turbo GDI engine. This is given to the Elantra N Line model. This engine produces 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The increase in power improves the overall performance of the vehicle. This is further actuated by the use of a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, which simulates a more sporty drive. The DCT has some engine performance around its gears where it shifts to keep engine RPM in the power band, which further enhances performance. Hyundai Sonata engine options have greater diversity in comparison. The base model SE existing engine has a 2.5 GDI engine, which produces 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. However, the new 2023 model is receiving an increase in the torque department, where the existing engine will be upgraded to produce 187 hp but with 178 lb-ft torque. This is an attempt by Hyundai to improve the overall performance of the vehicle as it is generally slower in acceleration in comparison to other cars in the same category. This is especially the case as the Elantra N Line model. Elantra has greater power and torque and with similar weight, fuel efficiency, and front-wheel drive system, Elantra would likely outperform Sonata in acceleration and cornering. An attempt by Sonata to counter this is the implementation of the new N Line model in Sonata to compete with Elantra. This would provide another performance option for the customer.

2023 Hyundai Elantra vs. Sonata

The 2023 Hyundai Elantra and Sonata are popular sedans that offer a variety of features. If you want to dive deeper into comparing the two models, please check out the links below:

Click on the links above for detailed information on each vehicle's features, specifications, and more.