Hyundai Elantra or Honda Civic.
March 28, 2011 9:58 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is planning to buy a new car. She needs help in choosing between Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic 2011. Please help in deciding the better car in the long run. Also please suggest any other good vehicle that is good for regular commuting and very good MPG.
posted by kirang to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
They're both solid cars. It would help if we knew more about her particular needs, e.g. how far she commutes, what she needs to carry with her, where she lives, etc.

Take a look at the Honda Fit.
posted by jon1270 at 10:16 AM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: I cant speak for the newer Civics or Elantras but I guess I might as well be first to recommend the Honda. I'm still driving my '93 Civic. I really need it anymore but I can't let it go. It would be like selling my dog.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2011

Honda Civic. Better reliability, better design.

Other good cars for commuting, in the next price bracket up, would be a Mini or Audi A3 TDI (42mpg!).
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:23 AM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: I have a 2010 Elantra and love it! It's actually my second one, but I had the first for ten years (and I didn't buy it new). I'm happy to answer specific questions about it, but don't really have much else helpful to say besides good gas mileage, good warranty, fun ride.
posted by leesh at 10:29 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: @job1270 She lives in nashville, she commutes around 20 miles a day but she likes to travel on weekends around 200 miles. She just uses for work otherwise.
posted by kirang at 11:00 AM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: Since she's buying new, the Elantra is pretty much a slam dunk: cheaper (or better-equipped for the same money) and a ten-year warranty.

I bought an Elantra GT hatch in 2003 and would buy another if I needed a small, inexpensive car. We still have it, and it still runs great, but our daily driver is now a Subaru Legacy.
posted by kindall at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: @leesh she is looking for 2011 elantra. She plans to keep it for 10 years and sell it. Which one does have a better resale value?
posted by kirang at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2011

I'm actually here to suggest a Mazda3.

I have a 2008 Mazda3 (bought in 2009) and it gets on a regular basis mid->high 20s for MPG in the winter, and usually high 20s -> low 30s in the summer. On the highway I have even seen 40+ MPG in long trips. I usually drive ~40 miles a day during winter.

I absolutely love this car, it's the best car I have ever owned and it's only had one problem, and that was covered by warranty.

Aside from that, I'd suggest the Civic, but beware of trunkspace in any car she chooses. You want something you can lay the backseat down in.
posted by zombieApoc at 11:13 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Either way, rather than new-new, she might look at a very gently used car. The depreciation hit on a new car is insane.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:22 AM on March 28, 2011

I came in to suggest a Nissan Sentra. They're going, well equipped, for $15,000 or so. We looked at Honda Fits & Civics and really the Nissan came out way on top.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:23 AM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: Disclaimer: I work for a Honda dealership, albeit not anywhere near Nashville.

Something to consider: the Elantra doesn't come standard with a spare tire of any kind. That's an extra you have to buy at the dealer, and you had best believe they'll try to charge as much as they can for it.

Something else to consider: the Elantra's sticker price is less than the Civic's, but the 2012 Civic is going to be out a month from now, and I guarantee that your friend's local Honda dealer is heavily discounting the 2011s.

One more thing to consider: I have seen the 2012 Civic and like it much better than the 2011 Elantra (or the 2011 Civic, for that matter). She might want to wait until that's out and compare that with the other two.

I obviously have a slight bias, but you really can't go wrong with either one. Some other vehicles in that same category that she might consider: the Toyota Corolla, the Chevy Cruze, or the Nissan Sentra.
posted by andrewcilento at 11:25 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, Mr. Wuzandfuzz was involved in a car accident last year that totalled his 2010 Civic - dented in in the top of it, ripped off a door, blew out the windshield, etc.

He walked away with a few scratches on his arm and we bought a new Civic the next week.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:45 AM on March 28, 2011

I should actually correct myself (my kingdom for an edit button!) - it was a 2009 Civic, which I recall because we were shocked that it had retained its value such that we actually got slightly more than enough from the insurance to pay for a new Civic.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:48 AM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: Hyuandai have come a long way, and Honda's aren't such extraordinarily good cars as they were in the 90's and early 00's. Not that they are bad, it is more that the rest of the cars in its class have caught up. I personally think the most for your money in the small car world is either Mazda or KIA but you are not going to go wrong with just about any car in this class. It is a highly competitive area, this keeps quality high and price low. This also means the difference in pricing for cars like this actually does mean something. The Hondas and Toyotas cost more because they are better made/have better materials (and so on like lexus, etc...). This does not mean they are necessarily a better buy though. You get what you pay for. I would sit in and drive a bunch of different ones and the one that I liked the most and didn't want to stop the test drive would be the one I chose.

As to some other specefic points up thread-spare tires are easy to get at junkyards, cheaper too.

I would definetely take a long at the Fit. The front seat does not fit my body (my legs are too long) but otherwise it is the best car in this segment (which is actually a step down from the civic/elentra segment) and it IS the same kind of amazing car that honda/toyotas were in the 90's.
posted by bartonlong at 11:57 AM on March 28, 2011

When buying a car, I found several resources useful:
Confessions of a Car Salesman, which describes a number of deceptive or high-pressure tactics used by some dealers (including specific ways they play with numbers to mislead the buyer into paying more).

Consumer Reports - this requires a subscription but they have a ton of great information on all models and years

Edmund's has a lot of good information, so definitely look up your candidates on their website. They also have the True Cost to Own rating, which figures in things like cost of gas given the car's milage, insurance costs, maintenance costs.

IIHS Insurance losses by make and model - how much did insurance companies pay for claims on the different types of car, for property damage and bodily injury etc. (They have these for a bunch of model years, if she would consider buying used.)

An important thing to consider is that the vehicle's weight makes a difference to how safe it is in a crash. The crash-test ratings can obscure this, because they only compare cars to other cars with similar weights (all small cars are compared against other small cars). Here's some good information on that, from comments by Dasein in this thread about how much safer newer cars are than older cars (his comments are toward the bottom).
The video linked at the top right of this page from the IIHS gives a pretty sobering demonstration of the benefits of size in two-car crashes. The IIHS took minicars that got the best frontal impact rating of good (the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Smart car) and crashed them against their manufacturers’ mid-sized twin – Accord, Camry, C-Class. By changing the crash from moving car into concrete block to moving car into moving car, the IIHS wanted to show the effect of size on safety. Every single one of the minicars went from Good to Poor. Not Acceptable to Marginal, but all the way from the top of the safety results to the bottom. This is why the IIHS emphasizes that you can’t compare front-crash ratings between different classes. (Side impacts, on the other hand, all simulate an SUV barrelling into the side of your car, so they can be compared.) Keep this in mind when shopping for a new car. [...]
About newer safety ratings:
In other news, the NHTSA is now rating vehicles using a revised crash-test rating system. Results can be viewed here. Some cars that have actually done quite well in IIHS tests have not done particularly well under the new NHTSA tests, such as the Nissan Versa, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota RAV4. So far, vehicles that have had top results in both sets of tests include the Chevrolet Cruze, 2011 Hyundai Sonata, 2011 BMW 5-Series and Volvo XC-60. The current-generation Honda Accord also got 5 stars under the new NHTSA criteria, and has missed out on an IIHS Top Safety Pick only because its roof strength is Acceptable rather than Good. [...]

The current-generation Ford Fusion gets 4 stars. It's another IIHS top safety pick (since 2010) that fails to get the top grade in the new NHTSA tests. That leaves the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata as the best affordable choices among cars at the moment, and the Honda Odyssey as the standout minivan.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:06 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I own an Elantra and completely agree with bartonlong that the difference between the brands is not as noticeable today as it was in the late 90s. I've also owned other Hyundais before and I have found them incredibly fuel efficient compared with other vehicles (admittedly probably because they use lighter components like plastic), which will become more important as fuel prices increase.

Do your own independent research, but I recommend buying the Elantra and spending the money you save on a holiday.
posted by smithsmith at 1:19 PM on March 28, 2011

LobsterMitten, much obliged for the shout-out and helpfully extracting some of the relevant tidbits from my long-winded commenting in that thread.

I would encourage your friend to wait a few months and compare the redesigned 2012 Civic against the 2011 Elantra. Nothing rankles faster for me than dropping a bunch of money and then seeing my purchase dated almost instantly.

To pick up on what LobsterMitten alluded to, the Civic has not done very well in the revised government crash tests. That doesn't mean it's unsafe, but it's something to consider. It'll take a little while before the 2012 Civic and the 2011 Elantra are tested, unfortunately.

If your friend wants a smaller car with top-notch crash-test ratings, I would recommend that she look at the new Chevrolet Cruze. Not only has it gotten the best rating in every crash test, it's slightly larger than some other compacts, which helps in a two-car crash. I would also suggest that she look at the 2011 Hyundai Sonata or the 2011 Kia Optima. They're going to be a bit more expensive than the other cars she's looking at, but if their price is not prohibitive, they're very safe and still very fuel-efficient.

If she wants to save money and drive a very safe car, I would suggest she consider a 2008 Honda Accord. You can buy a lot of gas with the money that you save buying a used car over a new one, and because it's a Honda it'll last a long time (she could look into Certified Used if she wanted a little more security in terms of quality).
posted by Dasein at 2:33 PM on March 28, 2011

The 2011 elantras all get 40mpg. That is good enough for me. My wife has a 2002 elantra and has not given her any problems.

40mpg would be a HUGE plus for me.
posted by majortom1981 at 3:24 PM on March 28, 2011

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