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Hyundai Sonata vs. Elantra 2023

1. Introduction

The Hyundai Sonata, a sophisticated and stylish midsize sedan, became the brand's most frequently purchased model in Australia from 2002 to 2006 until the launch of the i30. It was cleverly positioned between the Elantra and i40 as a larger alternative to the small car and a more affordable option to the i40. It secured and expanded its place in the midsize sedan segment in Australia, where there is a decrease in popularity of midsize sedans as SUVs and other segment cars take over. The Hyundai Elantra is a small-sized sedan that was a very popular choice among Australians from its introduction in 1990, consistently being the company's top-selling model throughout the '90s and '00s. It was a reliable, affordable, and fuel-efficient small car, popular among buyers 50+ or as a 2nd family car due to reputation and familiarity. The Elantra was phased out after the 2016 model in place for the more premium and larger offering Hyundai i30, where the small car segment was now offered by Accent. This caused a bit of confusion between generations as the i30 was seen as the spiritual successor to the Elantra in size and name until the Elantra's return in 2021 for the company, moving it back to the values that it was known for.

1.1. Overview of Hyundai Sonata

The new Palisade three-row SUV should only add to the brand's growing sales. The Sonata has a few weak points. For instance, the styling, though innovative, sacrifices outward visibility for the sake of its sleek appearance and is sometimes confused with other vehicles costing half as much. About the sleek appearance, a potential owner should be cautious when parking in a city lot. Standard rearview monitoring should come in the near future. Also, the 2.4-liter engine lacks a mainstream feature that has become the norm on family cars: an automatic stop/start system to save fuel and reduce emissions during extended stops. At the end of a day though, the Hyundai Sonata is easy to recommend. It offers a lot of car for the money and should provide worry-free ownership and operation for quite some time.

On the inside, the Sonata features a sophisticated design and good build quality. A greyscale color scheme with chrome, gloss black, and faux wood accents sets an upscale and modern tone. Front seats are well-shaped and long-haul comfortable. In the rear, a trio of six-footers will be content, especially in the flat floored, class competitive, and the bottom cushion angle and backrest rake can be adjusted. Sonata's infotainment system is both easy on the eyes and easy to use. A large touchscreen is standard on every model, and an even larger screen with navigation is optional. User input is accommodated with redundant buttons and knobs for audio and climate functions. Device connectivity is easy with multiple 12-volt outlets, USB ports, and a choice of an auxiliary input or a second USB. Sonata's straightforward cockpit has much storage and utility, including a big glovebox, a deep console bin, and generous door pockets.

The Hyundai Sonata is a standout vehicle in the midsize sedan segment and has many attributes that make it a compelling choice. Its exterior design is unconventional, filled with complex surfaces, curves, and lines. Its 2.0 turbo and paddle shifters make it a fun car to drive; it has no shortage of power even when the car is fully loaded. The Sonata is available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 2.0 turbo. Both engines are strong and relatively quiet. Two six-speed automatics are offered, with the shift paddles exclusive to the more powerful engine. The car has a tight and controlled feel on the road thanks to its excellent chassis. Sonata is more European than it is American. It also returns good fuel economy.

1.2. Overview of Hyundai Elantra 2023

There have been a few feature additions for the 2023 Hyundai Elantra. SiriusXM satellite radio is now preferred on the SEL trim level while the SEL Convenience package now includes a sunroof. Buyers of Elantra Limiteds can now get the passenger power seat and Hyundai's trendy "dynamic voice recognition system." Finally, the Elantra has been updated to meet the ULEV emissions standard, which won't have any effect on buyers' lives but may help Hyundai's corporate average fuel economy figures.

Launched in September 2020, the 2023 Hyundai Elantra sedan marked the start of the seventh generation of this compact from South Korea. While its predecessor was in sedan and GT hatchback forms - the latter is a Europe-market i30 and is offered in the US only as the Elantra GT - this time the Elantra is sedan-only, and the reason for that is the existence of the compact Kona crossover. Therefore, the 2023 Hyundai Elantra is still precise and successfully finished, but now it imparts the general idea of sedan practicality rather than also being a great deal of laugh to force on a twisty road.

2. Exterior Design

The 2023 Elantra is mounted on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor and is notably longer and wider—longer, in fact, than the Sonata that turned heads with its more flamboyant in this same vehicle class a decade ago. The new Elantra looks to be angling for a new niche of providing a premium-car feel and features in a compact-size vehicle. And its new look follows that; the design is quite flamboyant, sculpted and extroverted compared to previous Elantra models. And while it's a matter of taste whether it's more attractive than the 2023 Kia Forte with which it shares its architecture, there's no doubt that the Elantra gets a big jump in distinguishing itself from its corporate cousins.

The 2023 Sonata is the latest generation of Hyundai's mid-size sedan, a vehicle known for its family practicality and ever-improving refinement. The Sonata shares its platform and powertrains with the mechanically similar Kia Optima, though it takes the marked step to be plusher and quite a bit more conservative. The Elantra is the Sonata's more compact cousin, and though the Elantra has traditionally been a bit racier both in appearance and in the way it drives, the latest 2023 Elantra has made a strong shift to be more grown-up and quite a bit more about value-priced comfort.

2.1. Sonata's exterior features

The hood, moved back to meet European pedestrian collision standards, actually improves forward visibility and follows the curve of the A-pillars into the roofline. Most noticeable is the 'character line' that runs from the headlights, over the front doors, and down to the taillights. The chrome-accented line kicks up just ahead of the rear doors, giving the design a sense of forward motion. It's not so dramatic a curve that you'd call it 'flame surfacing', though it bears some resemblance to the bodywork styling made famous by BMW. A subtle ridge in the sheet metal just below the character line breaks up the profile view in the same way that the rear fender 'fold' does. Around back, the lines form a bulging rear fender and sculpted trunk. Twin dual exhaust tips on the 2.4L and 2.0T models, and rocker panel ground effects give the Sonata a sporty appearance. High base models and all Hybrid models get full-length side curtain airbags, and a hidden-in-plain-sight indent on the B-pillar shows the structural reinforcement point which is typical of vehicles designed with side airbags. Overall, the style of this new Sonata is an excellent improvement on the previous generation, though it might not stand out quite as much in contrast with competitors as the 2011-14 model did.

With its handsome profile and aggressive front end, the Sonata has led the way for Hyundai's ambitious design renaissance. While not as dramatic as the potential Tiburon replacement that was rumored at one point (which was based on a concept at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show), the Sonata shows a lot of thoughtful detail in its new exterior.

2.2. Elantra 2023's exterior features

The Elantra's design, as noted, was not copied from a larger car in its maker's lineup. Unlike the larger 2021 Hyundai Sonata, the Elantra doesn't betray its heritage through its front end. The Sonata's skin was pulled tightly over its high sides, its wide grille is a distraction from its sleek shape, and its LED lighting zigs, zags, and drips past the boundaries of good taste. The Elantra's nose is more formal and elegant. Its grille is as intricate as the Sonata's but less oversized. It's framed by LED headlights set into slashes of chrome, and neatly arrayed with vertical slats—though not as many as the grille on a Mercedes GLB, come to think of it. The Elantra's profile hints at a little more extravagance. Its body swells over its fenders and down its doors; it winds up at a more angular version of a fastback roof than it wore on the last generation. The rear end? Also a little more decisively drawn than on the Sonata, since we're measuring it against Hyundai's own accomplished design work. The Elantra's rear end comes down more steeply and the taillights tuck back into a sharp, flat tailgate. This year's model? It's an NC-17 Civic when it comes to exterior design. The Honda falls into middle age with a blend of blandly acceptable lines; the Elantra swerves into real style and a daring alternative to the norm.

2.3. Comparison of exterior designs

The Elantra 2023 and the Sonata share design similarities with intricate headlight/taillight modules, a stylized hood shape, and sharp belt line. The two models are separable by the fact that the Elantra features what Hyundai dubs as "four-door-coupe" styling. This is most evident in the wedge-like profile. The 2023 Elantra is lower, longer, and wider than the previous model, while also being expanded in every direction when compared to the 2020 Sonata. Elantra has a little more flair with a slight indent in the door panels and along the bottom of the car. Both models have a modern, tech-oriented feel about them, though the Elantra takes it a bit further. The taillights for the Elantra have a more angular design than the ones found on the Sonata. The Elantra has an edgier look overall and could potentially attract a younger crowd. The Sonata is striving towards a more luxury-based design, much like the successful Genesis luxury brand. In short, the Sonata is a more refined/grown-up model, while the Elantra is a bit sportier and more aggressive-looking. The two models are bound to fulfill different consumer needs.

3. Interior Features

Elantra also offers more interior space for 2023. Rear legroom increases by half an inch, and again, the dash design contributes to a greater sense of spaciousness. Hyundai emphasized Elantra's digital "Living Space" theme with the use of high-tech voiceovers during the press conference revealing the new car. The voiceover said things like "Fourth transformation of Elantra: sophisticated, sporty," followed by the voice of the designer's thoughts, "Two lines are more alluring than an S-curve!" This sort of talk drew smirks and raised a few eyebrows, with some of the traditional journalists in the crowd shaking their heads. But Hyundai sees this kind of left-brained marketing as key in getting the attention of the younger car buyers they desire, and they are not apologizing for it. The crazy design of the new Elantra may be hard for some to warm up to, but there's no arguing the fact that Hyundai's product is getting better and that it has a clear sense of direction.

Sonata has become larger, offering increased room, both overall as well as in the trunk. There's an inch more legroom in the back than in the outgoing model, and almost 2 inches more shoulder room. The new dash design really gives a sense of spaciousness up front. The high console makes good use of all the available space. The telescopic steering wheel has a longer range of adjustment, and there are more settings on the power seats. The ventilation system now has a faster fan speed, and both front and back seat passengers get wider air vents. Hyundai has really paid attention to the details regarding interior materials and trims, and it shows. As we noted during our early preview drives, the Limited model's interior appointments were up to par with the products of some luxury brands.

3.1. Sonata's interior highlights

The Sonata has always stood out among its peers with its premium features, and the year 2023 sees no difference. When looking at the normal everyday driver, the Sonata has a host of features for comfort and convenience that are a welcome addition in a market that is saturated with drab interiors. Some of the standout features include a hands-free smart trunk release which makes loading and unloading items as simple as walking near the trunk with the smart key, and for the driver and front seat passenger, ventilated seats which is a rare feature and one that is appreciated every time summer rolls around. For those colder winter months, the Sonata also offers a heated steering wheel, something that is found on luxury brands and rarely in this segment. The rest of the interior follows suit, with a clean and simple design, plush materials and a great driving position with an instrument panel that is not cluttered with buttons and knobs. Step up to a Sonata with the panoramic sunroof, and the effect is a cabin that feels open and inviting. Finally, one of the biggest pluses to the Sonata is its roominess. Both the front and rear seat passengers will find plenty of head and legroom, which is something that cannot be said for many vehicles in this segment. And for customers who value Hybrid and PHEV options, the Sonata is the only one with a plug-in offering. While we will cover powertrain options in another section, this may make the Sonata an attractive option as these models are designed to have the best fuel economy of the entire lineup, and with technology that is shared with the mighty impressive Ioniq. Step into a Limited or higher trim, and the Sonata Hybrid and PHEV are an even greater value, offering the same feature content with incredible efficiency. This is something not found with the Elantra.

3.2. Elantra 2023's interior highlights

Easy to read instrumentation: Hyundai intends to have the best-in-class features, and Elantra's 3.5" OLED display situated in the centre of the gauges is one of them, allowing for an effective and easy-to-read display of the trip computer, audio settings, and outside temperature. The gauges are blue backlit with red needles, and while the car is not yet available in Australia, reports from overseas suggest opening Elite models will offer an adjustable mood lighting feature for the interior with the choice of several different colours.

Quality of materials: Hyundai claims that the Elantra 2023 has a sophisticated interior, stating that "when you offer all the bells and whistles like we did with this new Elantra, it can't have a weak presentation. It has to make a strong statement and offer the luxury to match. And I'm here to tell you the Elantra's interior offers just that." While the headlining is made of a coated woven material, and the upper sections are hard plastic, the look and feel of the dash and door linings is of high quality, using soft touch materials. The centre console and transmission tunnel are made of good quality gloss black or matte black plastic, and the steering wheel and gear shift are leather-wrapped.

3.3. Comparison of interior features

Incorporating style and modern technology, the 2023 Hyundai Elantra measures up a bit above the 2021 Hyundai Sonata. The 2021 Sonata has an edge over Elantra with a comfortable, more luxurious interior for both drivers and passengers. The comfortable leather seats for the driver and passenger, 10.25-inch navigation multimedia screen, and panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof all provide a relaxed, enjoyable drive. The fastback roofline and integrated rear spoiler result in sleek design statements that are pleasurable for driving and riding. Elantra also offers comfortable seating and quality materials throughout its interior. An available leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add a bit of luxury to the driving experience. Elantra has an edge over Sonata when it comes to modern technology. The 2021 Sonata has an 8-inch color touchscreen and Elantra comes with either an 8-inch or standard 10.25-inch color touchscreen. These sizes are similar, but Elantra's resolution and graphic quality are unmatched. The 2021 Sonata includes a rearview camera, but the 2021 Elantra includes a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines. A wireless charging pad for easy charging on the go and a Bose premium audio system are also available with Elantra. The 2021 Sonata is not available with these features. The most substantial advantage for Elantra is the wide array of safety features that will be available. The 2021 Sonata comes with Hyundai SmartSense, our suite of standard safety features that were previously only available with upgrades on most models. The 2021 Elantra will come standard with Hyundai SmartSense, which means when comparing the two vehicles, drivers can add on a multitude of features to Elantra that are unavailable in Sonata. These features include Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist, Surround View Monitor, Blind-Spot View Monitor, and Remote Smart Parking Assist, just to name a few.

As we've covered how featureful are interiors of Sonata and 2023 Elantra separately, now it's time to compare interiors of both cars. Overall, Sonata is feature-rich inside with splendid passenger space and swanky material quality. Next, luxury is guaranteed with heated steering wheel, ventilated and heated front seats along with rear heated seats. It will never disappoint on interior specifications, fully digital gauge cluster, and plenty of USB charge ports. On the other hand, Elantra also topples in interior class for this segment. Space is somewhat less but it is still comfortable. Material quality is also luxe. However, it lacks on features which Sonata has and there are no heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and rear heated seats available. Included features include a standard 8-inch gauge cluster and wireless charging. Elantra may look less, but it is a complete package for its price.

3.4. Technology and infotainment systems

There are various technologies, infotainment features, and creature comforts in both the 2023 Hyundai Sonata and 2023 Elantra. As far as entertainment is concerned, Britz speakers are installed in both cars. Although the setup used is 6 speakers in Sonata and 4 in Elantra, with all the features and sound quality of the speakers, it's really hard to figure out the difference. Both cars have AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio systems. Blue Link telematics is available in Sonata only. It's a great feature that enables the owner to unlock and lock the car, start the car, and even find the car if it's lost in a parking lot using Google search. It can also give the owner a monthly vehicle health report, etc. A trial subscription is included. Another alternative connectivity available in Sonata only is wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In Elantra, it's a basic version of the setup. This feature is useful to connect a smartphone with the infotainment display screen for navigation and key phone features while keeping the phone in the pocket or anywhere in the car. Both cars are also equipped with standard USB/Bluetooth connectivity. In terms of information display, Elantra comes with a 7-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) instrument cluster. It's an alternative to analog or mechanical instrument gauges, providing all information on one very clear screen. The default display has a speedometer on the right side and information like fuel level, odometer, trip meters, shift indicators, etc., on the left side. Sonata has this feature in the entry-level model as this cluster is 4.2 inches in size, but in other versions, Sonata has a 12.3-inch fully digital TFT cluster, which is better than the Elantra. The last entertainment feature in Elantra is HD Radio technology, which comes in the premium audio limited configuration only.

4. Performance and Engine Options

The 2023 Sonata will feature 4 engine choices, the first being the base SE model. It will utilize a smaller 2.0-liter engine with 162 horsepower. The next step up is the GL model using the same engine but with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Both of these models are great for fuel efficiency and city driving. The last two engine options are where the Sonata really shines. The GLS and LX models will use a V6 24-valve 2.7-liter engine with 181 horsepower and 6-speed automatic transmission. The top of the line Sonata will feature the same V6 engine but with a more robust 204 horsepower. The combined options cater well to a wide variety of drivers from everyday commuters to performance enthusiasts. In comparison, the Elantra 2023 only offers one engine option across the board, a 2.0-liter engine with 147 horsepower. While the Elantra's engine is a great improvement over previous models, it still cannot compete with the Sonata's variety or pure power. The Sonata's two V6 engine options offering 181 and 204 horsepower easily outclass the Elantra's engine both in acceleration and overall performance. Depending on the driver's needs, the Elantra's engine will be more than sufficient for commuting and is excellent on gas. However, those looking for a more spirited or sporty driving experience will find themselves disappointed.

4.1. Sonata's engine options and performance

The real interest for petrolheads is likely to be the new N Line model which is targeted at the European market. This is powered by a 2.5 litre turbo engine producing 290PS and 421Nm of torque and is mated to a new 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. This gearbox is half a second faster in shifts than the current 8-speed automatic and is the first DCT to be used in a front-wheel-drive Hyundai application. The Sonata N Line is targeting a 0-100 Kmh time of around 6.0 seconds and promises an involving drive with an extensive list of bespoke N Line chassis modifications. This DCT will also be employed in the 2.0 litre Smartstream engine and will eventually replace the traditional automatic gearbox in the Sonata lineup. This new DCT unit is expected to improve fuel efficiency by 8% compared to the outgoing 2.0 litre, which should make it more competitive against the historically fuel-efficient diesel engines that dominate the European saloon market. With the industry moving away from traditional automatic gearboxes, this move should differentiate Hyundai from competitors who still use CVT and thus have the potential to steal a large number of dissatisfied customers. Expect to see more significant powertrain developments like this as Hyundai continues to move away from the norm and promote their own dynamic solutions. Emissions requirements may make it difficult to realize some of Hyundai's more ambitious ideas in some regions, but it's good to see them trying.

The new Sonata will offer the widest range of resident engine options. These start with a 2.4 litre Theta II GDI, however this engine and the 2.0 litre turbo are carryover units and not the focus of this review. A new entry level 2.0 litre Smartstream G2.0 GDI is an Atkinson cycle unit and produces a credible 160PS and 194Nm torque. This engine is mated to a 6-speed conventional automatic gearbox and improves fuel efficiency via a reduction in friction, a change to a plastic two-stage variable induction system, and an increase in compression ratio from 11.3 to 12.5. Atkinson cycle engines are not often seen in the mid-size saloon market, which suggests that Hyundai is making an effort to stand out from the crowd with this engine option.

4.2. Elantra 2023's engine options and performance

The N-Line Elantra's engine options closely mimic the standard powertrain offerings. This more powerful variant is equipped with a 1.6L Turbo GDI 4-cylinder engine that makes a much more impressive 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. It also adds a more advanced 7-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) which provides a better power transfer and acceleration than the CVT or Intelligent Variable Transmission that is standard with the non-N-Line models. This allows the N-Line Elantra to reach 60 mph in about 7.1 seconds, but the added power does have a hit to fuel economy as the N-Line gets 31 combined MPG. Similar to the Sonata, the added power and fuel economy tradeoff for the N-Line Elantra will be the choice for consumers who prioritize a better driving experience. Other than that, both the SE and SEL Elantra models will have the same engine, which is a 2.0L MPI Atkinson 4-cylinder engine making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Elantra will also have a 1.6L GDI 4-cylinder engine on the Eco model that makes 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque while still getting 35 combined MPG. FWD or AWD options are dependent on the trim level chosen. This gives a plethora of choices for an Elantra consumer dependent on what they prioritize for a vehicle. This Symposer will reproduce all intensities of sound occurring in the engine audio, providing a diverse and realistic sense of engine acceleration and deceleration. This gives users a new driving experience as they can experience the engine's sound changes in response to acceleration and deceleration in various driving conditions. A credit to the Sonata and Elantra, Hyundai's done a great job providing optimal engine sounds for both powerful driving and fuel efficient driving.

4.3. Comparison of performance and engine choices

Comparatively, the specific power and torque for Sonata's base engine is lower than Elantra's base engine. It should be noted that both cars are in different vehicle segments, and despite the better numbers, Elantra has a highly different level of performance to the i30 Sedan - soon to be replaced by Elantra. This is due to the recent Elantra being a larger car than its predecessor, whereas the i30 and i30N hatch are significantly smaller and lighter than the sedan. Focusing on the N Line models of both cars, the 2.5L turbo engine in Sonata provides a decent increase in torque from Elantra's 1.6L turbo engine. Assuming both vehicles are similarly efficient, the increased power should provide the N Line Sonata with a noticeably quicker acceleration compared to Elantra. The step up in performance could be substantial enough for some buyers to consider spending more for Sonata N Line instead of Elantra N Line.

Sonata boasts a 2.5L GDI 4-cylinder engine delivering 191 lb-ft of torque. For higher power and performance, the N Line has a 2.5L turbo engine producing 311 lb-ft. All engines deliver power to the front wheels through a standard 8-speed automatic transmission. The 180 lb-ft torque at low engine speed is a slight decrease from the previous Elantra Sport trims' 195 lb-ft. However, Hyundai anticipates better performance and a similar fun-to-drive experience as a result of an increase in transmission speed.