2013 Hyundai Elantra vs. Honda Civic

By Teddy Field

With gas prices firmly attached to an invisible yo-yo, the compact car segment is really starting to grow. For well under $20-Grand, you now can get a practically sized car, that gets great gas mileage without skimping on the toys or the style. One of the surprise compact hits comes from Hyundai, which recently restyled its anonymous Elantra using the same ‘fluidic’ design language that made the Hyundai Sonata so popular. But are stylish lines and heated seats enough to topple the re-redesigned 2013 Honda Civic? Lets pit the two against each other for a compact car comparison and find out…

2013 Hyundai Elantra

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe

In the past, Hyundai’s were about as interesting as a boiled egg. Then spices were discovered in South Korea, and things started to get a lot more interesting. Curry and salt were added to the main-course Fried Sonata, and folks actually started to eat at the Hyundai Room. Then the chef had a fit of brilliance, and added some cayenne pepper to the tasteless Elantra Rolls. As Emeril would say; “Bam!”, Hyundai had another best-seller!

Now offered in coupe, sedan, and hatchback form, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra is set to take on the Civic model-e-model. The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe has a sport-tuned suspension, and a unique interior arrangement. The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Sedan offers most of the toys that you would get on a more expensive car, with the versatility of 4-doors. And the hatchback 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT serves up a wagon-like 51 cu-ft of stuff-room, with a sport tuned chassis, and racy good looks.

But is all of that good enough to beat the newly refreshed 2013 Honda Civic? A car with a recipe that took decades to perfect? That’s why we do these car comparisons.

First off, the 1.8 liter 4-pot feels like farm equipment, when compared to the Civic’s powerepant. That’s not to say it’s a bad engine, 148-hp and a 6-speed (auto or manual) aren’t a bad combination. But the motor doesn’t belye the smoothness of something built by the planet’s largest internal combustion engine maker (Honda).

The 2013 Hyundai Elantra sedan comes with a generous amount standard equipment, and it can be optioned into a pretty nice car. It rides, and handles competently too. On a day-to-day basis, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra would be a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation. Ditto the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe. But if you want a car that “begs to be driven”, you’d better look elsewhere.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

The hatchback 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT uses an entirely different chassis, and the handling is pretty good. The coupe also has more aggressive suspension tuning, but all Elantra’s use an electric steering system, which doesn’t provide enough feedback to inspire confidence. Add to that, a 6-speed autobox that’s constantly trying to upshift, and you have a rather sedate driving experience. But that’s just fine for most buyers.

2013 Honda Civic

2013 Honda Civic EX-L Sedan

Responding to criticism of its redesigned 2012 Honda Civic, Honda returned to the drawing board, immediately after the ‘12 Civic went on sale. This swift action is certainly commendable. But even with it’s boring looks, cheap interior, and lackluster handling, the 2012 Civic still outsold the Elantra almost 2 to 1. So the meaningful updates to the 2013 Honda Civic should put the Civic’s sales tally out of Hyundai’s reach.

Among the 2013 changes are a stiffened body structure with an even safer version of Honda’s ACE architecture (i.e. ACE II). The suspension has been completely reworked, and the bushings are now Teflon-lined, to provide faster response to driver inputs. On cars equipped with the automatic (5-speed), the front brake rotors have grown by 20 mm, and the electric steering has been recalibrated for faster reaction.

2013 Honda Civic EX-L

The front and rear of the 2013 Honda Civic have been heavily revised, and now contain more chrome than some Cadillacs. The stripper DX model has been retired, and the now-base 2013 Honda Civic LX comes with a bunch of upmarket standard features. Including a backup camera, Bluetooth everything with Pandora support, a new interior design with more soft-touch-points than an inflatable bouncy-castle, and lots of extra sound insulation. A Lane Departure Warning System, and a Forward Collision Warning system (in case you can’t see the Ford Expedition that you’re about to rear end) have also been added to the options list.

Even though the 2013 Honda Civic isn’t available as a hatchback, it should have no problem outselling the 2013 Hyundai Elantra…again.

SPECIFICATION 2013 Hyundai Elantra 2013 Honda Civic
Price $16,815 – Sedan $18,165 – Sedan
$17,445 – Coupe $17,965 – Coupe
$18,395 – GT $26,455 – CNG Sedan
$24,360 – Hybrid Sedan
Fuel Economy 28/38/32 1.8L / MT 21/28/24 2.0 liter / AWD
28/38/32 1.8L / AT 19/26/21 3.0 liter / AWD
(both sedan & coupe) (both sedan & coupe)
27/37/30 1.8L / AT 29/41/33 1.8L / AT – HF
26/37/30 1.8L / MT 27/38/31 1.8L / AT – CNG
(GT) 44/44/44 1.5L / Hybrid
Suburban Snob Factor 7 / 10 Camrys 9 / 10 Camrys
IIHS Ranking Top Safety Pick = Y Top Safety Pick = Y
IIHS Ranking Top Safety Pick = N Top Safety Pick = Y
NHTSA Ranking 5-Stars N/A
Why Buy It?
While the Honda Accord may have lost some of its Suburban snob appeal over the last few years, the 2013 Honda Accord proves they can still build a car that we’ll buy.
If you want to drive one of the most popular compact cars…ever, the 2013 Honda Civic is what you want. Plus, all the changes for ‘13 make it that much better.