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Hyundai Elantra vs. Hyundai Sonata specs


1. Overview

While the Elantra and Sonata are Hyundai's take on a modern sedan, the two cars are distinctly different in terms of size and feel. The Elantra, as a compact car on the smaller side, facilitates a far different experience compared to driving the Sonata, which is bigger and more of a mid-size sedan. If you imagine the types of families who own either of these cars, you may find a trend in terms of lifestyle, with Elantra families being on the younger side and generally having fewer kids. This is because the Elantra is a car that's designed with fuel efficiency in mind, and is generally more affordable than the Sonata. For a family with young kids who commutes a lot, the Elantra can be a great choice. On the other hand, the Sonata is a prudent choice for families with teenagers, if only because the bigger size makes long drives more comfortable for everyone. That said, both vehicles would serve as good first cars for teenagers. No matter which type of family is investing in a Hyundai sedan, safety is always a paramount priority. This year, both the 2016 Elantra and Sonata received the Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. While both vehicles had excellent crash test ratings, the safety features of each car can vary quite a bit. High-end trim levels of the Sonata feature active safety features like blind spot detection and lane departure warning. This is a feature that's definitely geared towards parents with a security-conscious attitude, or perhaps ones who have let their teenager drive the car. On the other hand, while the Elantra may not have as many active safety features, its smaller size makes for a very maneuverable and easy-to-drive vehicle, a safety feature in itself.

1.1. Introduction to Hyundai Elantra

What does that mean for car shoppers? The Elantra is a good value, especially in the mid-level GLS trim level. It's offered in three trims now, with the Elantra Blue as the new base model. The high-line Elantra SE has been discontinued. The base Blue, GLS, and topline SE use the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The automatic also includes a manual-shift mode. The Blue, with fuel-economy features and a very low base price, seems optimized for price-conscious buyers who don't want a stripped-down car. The GLS offers a popular equipment package to get automatic transmission, and a comfort and convenience package to get popular features including a telescopic steering wheel and illuminated vanity mirrors. The SE adds an upgraded audio system, 16-inch wheels instead of 15s, ABS, and side-impact and curtain airbags. All Elantras have a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. Step-in height is higher than in some small cars, but the Elantra feels rather spacious inside. The ride is comfortable, and the relatively long 104.3-inch wheelbase helps the Elantra smooth out rough roads for the class. Handling is secure, if not overly sporty. Fuel economy is decent, if not class-leading; Elantras without the Blue package range from 25/33 mpg city/highway to 23/31 mpg. Elantra prices compare well with those of competing cars, and while Elantra resale values aren't particularly strong, the Elantra's overall cost can be quite low. This car is often overlooked by shoppers, but it's a wise pick if you're seeking a good value in a compact sedan. An all-new Elantra is expected for model-year 2011.

Hyundai's Elantra is a compact sedan that's larger than the subcompact Accent and smaller than the midsize Sonata. An Elantra GT hatchback is covered separately in the cars.com Research section. The Elantra sees more shuffling to its trim levels for 2010. Model-year 2010 brings a new base Blue version of the Elantra, with fuel-economy features such as low-rolling-resistance tires, an alternator management system, a "smart" air-conditioning system, a more efficient automatic transmission, and a shift-up indicator in manual-transmission models. All 2010 Elantras also get new rear- and roof-mounted antennas. The Elantra competes with compact cars like the Chevrolet Cobalt, Honda Civic, and Toyota Corolla.

1.2. Introduction to Hyundai Sonata

Sonata is a car built by Hyundai to compete in the mid-size car market. Although the Sonata dates back to production during the 1980s, it wasn't until the late 1990s and early 2000s that the car began to evolve into a regular household name. It features a smooth ride and a wide range of engines, but is considered average among the performance of cars in the same class. The current models of the Sonata have taken customer reviews into account and have improved with each year. The only major setback between the 6th and 7th generation of the car was in 2001 when Sonata won the "dubious" honor of being "substantially worse than average" in a Consumer Reports reliability survey. But since then, Sonata has bounced back and is now known for providing outstanding reliability. Kia has produced its sister vehicle, the Kia Optima, since the year 2000 on the same platform as the Sonata, making both cars share parts and be very similar to one another. The Hyundai Sonata has been a successful car for Hyundai in recent years.

2. Exterior Features

Wheel and Tire Options Both models come standard with 16-inch steel wheels and 205/65R16 all-season tires. The Elantra has the option to upgrade to 16 or 17-inch alloy wheels and 205/55R16 tires. The Sonata has a 16-inch alloy wheel and 205/65R16 tire option for the GL models and a 17-inch alloy wheel and 215/55R17 tire option for the GLS and SE models. This all culminates with the Limited Sonata having 17-inch alloy wheels with a 215/55R17 tire option.

Dimension and Size Comparison In terms of size, the Elantra is classified as a compact car and is in fact smaller than the Sonata which is classified as a large car. The Elantra has a 2-inch shorter wheelbase, 46 cubic feet less interior space, and both models have the same headroom measurements throughout. The Sonata has more leg and shoulder room in the front and back of the vehicle. Both vehicles, however, have similar hip room and the Elantra has 0.2 inches more front and rear legroom compared to the Sonata.

Design and Body Structure Both models sport stylish external features with a few differences. The Elantra has a sporty, sleek design with a more curvaceous body compared to the more conservative body of the Sonata. The Elantra is designed to be more aerodynamic and comes with a sport tuned exhaust while the Sonata has a slightly higher drag coefficient and a more refined exhaust note.

2.1. Design and Body Structure

Completely revamped in 2019, both the Elantra and the Sonata have been bringing a new attitude to driving and the design shows. Creating a sleeker and more upscale appearance into its sixth generation of the Sonata, it features longer, lower, and wider than any previous version. These dimensions also play into an increase in the interior size as Hyundai says the new Sonata has the best-in-class front head and legroom. Using something called "Dynamic Lasso," a design strategy that uses proportion, architecture, styling, and technology to bring 3D design characteristics to the cars; both cars are very similar in appearance. Most evident in this design concept is the front grille. Both sedans feature a similar style that employs a wider, more aggressive grille that wraps around the entire front, adding to the wide and sporty looks. The side profile of the cars also shows striking similarities with a coupe-like design being implemented into both. Topping off the design of the body is the rear profile and lighting, which both feature a more refined and sporty style compared to previous models. Though the cars do share similar design features, one of the defining differences comes from the Elantra Sport and Sonata Sport models, which both feature more aggressive and sporty design characteristics compared to the base models. This can be seen in both with the different front grilles and stylizing of the rear bumpers. Overall, while the Elantra and Sonata do share many of the same design characteristics, the differences in the sport trims give a more diverse selection for customers.

2.2. Dimensions and Size Comparison

Lengthier and provides more cargo space than the Elantra. The Sonata measures in with a length of 189.8 inches, 72.2 inch width, 57.9 inch height and 110 inch wheelbase. For comparison, this is quite a jump from the Elantra's 178.3 inch length, 69.9 inch width, 56.9 inch height and 106.3 inch wheelbase. Both vehicles come with their respective versions of roof-mounted XM radio antennas. Trunk space is another aspect in which the Sonata overpowers the Elantra. The Sonata boasts a roomy 16.4 cubic feet of cargo space in its trunk, whereas the Elantra comes up with a modest 14.8 cubic feet. Ideally, for many the Sonata may offer more space than they would need. But, for larger families or those with frequent long drives, extra space is never a bad thing. This can also be beneficial if the vehicle is used for luggage-heavy vacations or frequent grocery store visits. Both vehicles sport 17-inch alloy wheels, with the Sonata offering an upgrade to 18-inch "eco-spoke" wheels in the Limited trim. Tires for the Elantra come standard as P215/45R17, with the Sonata matched up at P215/55R17; offering a slight bump in height for better wheel protection and arguably a smoother ride.

2.3. Wheel and Tire Options

Wheel and tire options for the Elantra include 15-inch steel wheels on the GLS and 16-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels on the Limited. The 16-inch wheels are complemented by Michelin Energy MXV4 all-season tires and the Elantra provides an optional 16-inch 5-spoke alloy wheel with a 205/55VR16 Tire Package (BF Goodrich Traction T/A H rated tires) available through Hyundai dealers. The Elantra also provides a Tire Pressure Monitoring System to alert drivers if one or more tires are under-inflated; this system enhances vehicle safety and can help to improve fuel economy by reducing the number of miles driven with under-inflated tires. The Sonata provides a wide choice of wheel and tire options that complement its performance, safety, ride and handling. The Sonata GL has 16-inch steel wheels and full wheel covers. The Sonata GLS is again fitted with 16-inch steel wheels, however it has a new cover design for the wheel cover. The Sonata GL and GLS also provide an optional 5-spoke alloy wheel with Michelin Tires. The Sonata GLS and Limited have a new 5-spoke 16-inch alloy wheel with Pirelli P6 Four Seasons tires that is available as an optional upgrade. Standard 5-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels with Michelin MXV4 all-season tires are provided on the Sonata Limited.

3. Interior Features

Base model buyers moving on from the compact Elantra sedan to the midsize Sonata will find an increase in interior space, particularly for back seat passengers. The Sonata has more head, leg, and hip room for rear passengers than the Elantra, where the difference in space is minimal between the front seats of both vehicles. When it comes to infotainment though, the Elantra shows no performance decrease compared to the larger Sonata, boasting an available seven-inch touch screen to the Sonata's standard six. The Sonata offers an eight-inch touch screen or an optional navigation package on the high-end limited trim level. The Elantra also offers the same navigation package on their high-end trim, a popular option due to its affordable pricing. Both models feature SiriusXM satellite radio, iPod, USB, and auxiliary connections as well as Bluetooth.

3.1. Cabin Space and Seating Capacity

Both cars have good trunk space, but while the Elantra's measures average to slightly below average for the class, the Sonata's is one of the most cavernous.

This year's mild freshening includes a new center stack, gauge cluster, and steering wheel, and there's also new ambient lighting. With new lighter colors and a shift to chrome accents throughout, the overall effect is one of substantial improvement in the Sonata's interior ambiance.

The Sonata is one of the most spacious cars in the midsize segment. Though it's classified as a large car, it's essentially a big fish in a smaller pond, as it's still priced and equipped like a midsize car. The cabin is very roomy, with a flat floor and wide seats that provide an open, airy feel front and back. Materials quality isn't quite up to the Elantra's standards, but they're still better than what you'll find in all but a select few competitors.

Front seat comfort and space are top-notch, and the Elantra has more rear legroom and a better seating position than many other compact sedans, though the sloping roof can limit headroom for taller passengers.

For 2009, Hyundai's compact Elantra sedan gets a slight makeover intended to bring its styling in line with the rest of the automaker's lineup. For the most part, the new look is a success, as the Elantra appears more modern, but still somewhat conservative. Step inside and it's more of the same, with a simple but handsome design and a solid display of build quality. Materials are of a high standard for this segment, and the switchgear operates with precision.

The Hyundai Elantra has a superior interior rating, the highest possible score in our rating system. The Sonata boasts an excellent rating in this category. Kudos to both automakers for providing comfortable, roomy cabins that outshine many of their competitors.

3.2. Technology and Infotainment Systems

This section is somewhat of a toss-up depending on what trim of Elantra you're comparing it to with Sonata. The standard six-speaker stereo in the Elantra is trumped when entering into the second-tier audio equipment at Sonata GLS level (or in better words, the same price). The optional 360-watt audio system for Elantra will still hold better value than the standard system of the Sonata, with only another $650 to upgrade it to the unique dimension audio. However, when saying this we can forget about the audio tiers and just try to paint a good picture; the best value Sonata GLS with leather and sunroof ($22,010) combined with the Elantra immensely outweighs the value in audio for those with a passion for cars since it's only a $700 difference from the Elantra Limited. Any other Sonata has both a huge value and a huge jump in audio quality that the Elantra cannot compare to. Keep this scale in mind before you drown yourself in optional Elantra audio equipment.

This stuff's OK, but what about the Sonata? Sonata GLS, SE, and Limited models (with the exception of the GLS PZEV) come with a standard Dimension audio system, which exhibits the dynamics of a high-end home audio system with 360 watts of power, and QuantumLogic Surround technology to turn any stereo or music file into a unique surround sound experience. Accord and Civic have been doing two-tier audio somewhat well, but one may say that the Sonata does it better with their 400-watt Infinity audio system that adds a subwoofer and an external amplifier. Sorry Elantra Limited, but navigation is now real. The Sonata has the option for an 8-inch touchscreen navigation system with high-resolution graphics and a new interface featuring the most advanced natural voice recognition for the ultimate convenience. Last and certainly not least, BlueLink is Hyundai's innovative telematics solution that combines safety, service, and infotainment features to simplify owners' lives both in and outside of the vehicle. Elantras which come equipped with this system have useful features that include maintenance appointment setting at local dealers, or 24/7 voice text message reading. Although these vehicles share the same subscription fee for BlueLink, the Sonata has just a bit more with automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, or virtual light and sound fence alerts for parents of teenage drivers. With support from an application for smartphones and Google Glass, this system is more extensive in the Sonata but we did not judge based on the quantity of features.

Technology and infotainment systems can make or break a car these days, so this is an important section to pay attention to. The Elantra's standard six-speaker stereo is nice enough, with iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks that help make up for the lack of Bluetooth streaming audio capability. The optional 360-watt audio system, which adds a 104-watt center speaker, a dedicated 80-watt subwoofer, and an external amplifier, is really where it's at, though. The Limited Technology Package for the Elantra adds a navigation system and rearview camera, with a 90-day subscription to real-time XM NavTraffic. This package also includes a massive sunroof, which may or may not double as a technology feature depending on how you look at things. The "clean air" Ionizer that's part of the Limited Preferred Equipment Package is certainly novel for a compact car, at least. This interesting device automatically cleans the air coming into the vehicle to get rid of any annoyances.

3.3. Comfort and Convenience Features

Key Fob: Hands full? Smart Key with push button start allows the vehicle to be unlocked, engine started and driven without the key ever leaving a pocket or purse. It will unlock the doors. Step on the brake pedal and push the start button. Time to shut it off? Just push the button again. Smart Key will not function if the optional Proximity Key is in the vehicle anywhere. Proximity Key: By simply having the Proximity Key on your person, the vehicle can be locked or unlocked by pressing the button on any one of the door handles. The engine can then be started or stopped by the push of a button. This feature is so advanced that if the Proximity Key is left in the vehicle, it will not lock. Dual Automatic Temperature Control: Set the dial to the desired temperature and walk away. The Elantra and Sonata temperature system will automatically heat or cool to the set temperature. Auto-defogging System: No need to adjust the defroster, the auto-defogging system will detect and attempt to remove any mist on the window. This is done through automatic control and may increase fan speed.

3.4. Safety Features

A car that is not safe for you and your family is useless, so taking a look at the safety ratings for any car you are interested in is a smart choice. The 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the 2011 Hyundai Elantra both received the IIHS top safety pick. Strangely, the Elantra scored an acceptable rating on the roof strength test while the Sonata received a good rating. This will bring a bit of confusion to those considering both vehicles, as the Elantra is known as the smaller, less safe vehicle in the Hyundai lineup and has always been outperformed by the Sonata in safety tests. Moving on, both vehicles have standard traction control, electronic stability systems, anti-lock brakes and a minimum of 6 airbags in the front, front side and rear seat curtain. Both vehicles have never received a dangerous recall for any warranty issue from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, so there are no worries that any flaws in safety will be at any unexpected cost to an owner.

4. Performance and Engine Options

Transmission options for the Elantra include a 5-speed manual, or 4-speed or 5-speed automatic with overdrive. The Sonata offers a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC in the 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine, or a 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive for the 3.3 liter V6 engine. Both cars offer automatic transmissions with more gears, giving them a fuel efficiency advantage over models with lesser gears. Differences in fuel efficiency and MPG rating for the Elantra and Sonata can be attributed to the difference in their engine and transmission options. The Elantra with the standard 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine offers 25/34 MPG (city/highway), which has a slight fuel efficiency advantage over the Sonata with the standard 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine offering 24/34 MPG. The most fuel-efficient option for the Elantra and the Sonata is their smaller engines and manual transmissions, offering 25/34 and 24/33 MPG respectively. The biggest gap in fuel efficiency is with the Elantra 1.8 liter engine at 28/38 MPG compared to the Sonata 3.3 V6 engine at 20/29 MPG. Upgrades in transmission to automatic with more gears decrease efficiency in both cars. Overall, the Elantra has a fuel efficiency advantage with a variance of 4-5 MPG less than comparable Sonata models.

A notable difference can be in the performance and engine options of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra and Sonata. The Elantra comes with a standard 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder engine capable of 147 horsepower, compared to the standard 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine capable of 198 horsepower in the Sonata. Both cars have the option of upgrading to a better performing engine, with the Elantra able to be upgraded to a 2.0 liter or 1.8 liter engine, and the Sonata can be upgraded to a 3.3 liter or a 2.0 liter turbo engine. The Sonata has an all-around engine advantage with better performance while still getting decent fuel efficiency.

4.1. Engine Specifications

Engine specs have always been a strong point for the Elantra, and that trend remains the same with its 2015 refresh. The SE, Limited and Sport trims will all be powered by the 2.0-liter Nu GDI four-cylinder engine. The base SE trim comes with a six-speed manual transmission standard, but an automatic is available for an upcharge. The Elantra Limited and Sport both come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC. The 2.0-liter Nu engine produces 173 horsepower and 154 lb. ft. of torque. This is a fine amount of power for the Elantra's class, and the fuel efficiency does not suffer. A ULEV (ultra-low-emission vehicle) Sonata and PZEV (partial-zero-emission vehicle) Elantra are available in California and some northeastern states. These emission-vehicle Elantra/Sonatas are the only units with the PZEV emission rating, but they can be purchased anywhere in the United States. These special editions are sold in these specific regions because they are the only areas with sufficient pumps for selling clean diesel fuel. Both of these are cleaner-burning fuels, but they are not to be confused with traditional diesel fuel. The PZEV Elantra is rated at 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, which is the top fuel economy rating for a gasoline powered Elantra. The SE, Limited and Touring trims use a smart alternator and low-rolling-resistance silica tires, and the transmission of all Elantra models has been adjusted for improved fuel efficiency. The 2.0-liter Nu engine gets 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with the automatic transmission, and a very respectable 24/34 mpg when mated with the manual.

4.2. Transmission Options

The Hyundai Elantra comes standard with a 5-speed manual, a throwback to the days when compact cars always had manual transmissions. The automatic is a 4-speed, which is low for the class; many rivals have 5-speed autos or continuously variable transmissions. Fuel economy is slightly better with the automatic versions. The Elantra's 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine serves as a replacement for last year's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The 1.8 produces less power (110 horsepower in PZEV states, 145 hp everywhere else) compared to the old 2.0, but fuel economy is much improved. All this results in a car that's neither quick nor slow, being sufficient for daily driving. The automatic top trims of the Elantra can be a bit more costly, but they include a few extra features and a fuel-saving technology that gives an extra 1 mpg in the city and highway. These should be the most satisfying Elantras to drive, but remember that a loaded Elantra will get pricey compared to cheaper midsize cars. Step up to a Sonata if you're looking at loaded Elantras. In contrast, the Sonata doesn't offer a manual at all. Instead, the base GLS uses a 6-speed automatic that's smoother and gets better gas mileage than the Elantra's 4-speed. The higher trim levels use a 6-speed automatic with the option for a manual shift mode, with the exception of the 2.0T which is a proven 6-speed automatic with an exclusively sport-tuned transmission. All automatic Sonatas achieve 24/35 mpg city/hwy, while the manual shift mode is an even better value at 24/35. The higher gear count, the manual shift mode and the onboard computerized technology make the transmission a selling point for the Sonata over the Elantra. Overall, the added power and the available transmission options make the driving experience of a Sonata more pleasurable than an Elantra.

4.3. Fuel Efficiency and MPG Ratings

The Elantra and the Sonata truly shine in fuel economy. The Elantra achieves an estimated 27 mpg city/37 mpg highway with the automatic and 26/37 with the manual. These numbers are achieved with a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine. Mileage will change slightly based on the type of tire that is installed. The GLS/Touring models come equipped with low rolling resistance silica tires whereas the SE comes with standard performance tires. The Sonata, despite being a larger car, achieves a similar 24/35 mpg rating from its 2.4L 4-cylinder with 6-speed automatic transmission. This is only slightly lower than the smaller Elantra. The manual transmission has been dropped from the Sonata lineup from the 2010 MY. If you are looking for a mid-sized sedan with optimal fuel economy, the Sonata has a hybrid model equipped with a 2.4L 4-cylinder coupled to a 30kW electric motor which achieves 35/40 mpg. This was the easiest way to distinguish the two models, but the Elantra's newest generation also has a hybrid model. The biggest news for the Elantra comes with the upcoming 2017 MY. Hyundai has been known for its fluidic design, value, and warranty. The Elantra was the first successful implementation of the fluidic design and is now being called more conservative for its segment with the 2016 MY and alternatives. This may have led to more of a push to increase fuel economy with the upcoming generation. This Elantra will have 3 available engine options; a 2.0L 4-cylinder Nu MPI Atkinson Cycle engine, a 1.4L Turbocharged GDI engine, and a 1.6L Turbocharged GDI engine. The 2.0L engine achieves a similar 29/38 mpg when compared to the current Elantra with a higher output of 147 hp and 132 tq. The 1.4L and 1.6L achieve an impressive 35 mpg or higher with the 1.4L having projected horsepower figures of ~128 hp.

Explore More About Hyundai Elantra and Sonata Specifications

Gain deeper insights into the detailed specifications of the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata, and explore how they compare to other models: