2012 Honda Civic vs. 2012 Hyundai Elantra

All new for 2012, the Honda Civic has long been a leader in the compact car class, but the stylish and fuel efficient Hyundai Elantra is now challenging that in a well-equipped and value-priced package.

Powering the Civic is a 1.8-liter 4-Cylinder making 140 hp with either a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway using the automatic and 28/36 with the manual, though Honda claims using the car’s Econ mode will deliver a slight improvement. That’s good, because the Elantra, thanks in part to its choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, offers a 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway rating. The Elantra is also slightly more powerful, with a 1.8-liter 4-cylidner making 148 hp.

With top marks in the styling department the Elantra is a bold departure from past versions of the car. The Civic, however, sticks closely to previous styling cues – so much so it’s almost hard to notice it’s new.

Compare Specs

2012 Honda Civic
2012 Hyundai Elantra
Vehicle 2012 Honda Civic Advantage 2012 Hyundai Elantra
Engine Gas I4, 1.8L - Gas I4, 1.8L
Horsepower 140 @ 6300 rpm Elantra 148 @ 6500 rpm
Max. Torque 128 @ 4300 rpm Elantra 131 @ 4700 rpm
Fuel Economy 28 MPG city / 36 MPG hwy Elantra 29 MPG city / 40 MPG hwy
Head Room (front) 39.0" Elantra 40.0"
Leg Room (front) 42.0" Elantra 43.6"
Shoulder Room (front) 56.6" Civic 55.9"
Head Room (rear) 37.1" - 37.1"
Leg Room (rear) 36.2" Civic 33.1"
Shoulder Room (rear) 53.3" Elantra 58.4"
Trunk Space (cu-ft) 12.5 Elantra 14.8
Starting Price $15,605 Elantra $15,345

Criticized for being rather basic inside, the Civic is simple yet familiar, while the Elantra is again a bold departure from Hyundai’s past with equal if not better materials and plenty more design. Fit and finish on the Honda is still top notch, as are ergonomics. A point of contention for many buyers continues to be Honda’s two-tier dash, showing the speed displayed on the top and tachometer and other info below.

2012 Honda Civic EX

In terms of equipment, all Elantra and Civic models come with remote keyless entry and power windows as standard. Optional on both is air conditioning, Bluetooth, as well as an iPod and USB hookup. Hyundai offers a tilt steering wheel standard while all Civic models get both tilt and telescopic functions.

Available features on both cars include climate control, navigation, leather, heated front seats and upgraded audio systems. Hyundai also offers heated rear seats and a keyless access system with a push button ignition, while the Civic can be had with Honda’s new i-MID in-dash screen and 5-way steering wheel controllers to access trip info, as well as operate the different media types and Bluetooth.

2012 Hyundai Elantra

Driver and passenger room in both cars is roughly equal, with reasonable space for adults in the rear seat of either car. Trunk room in the Honda is rated at 12.5 cubic feet, with the Elantra slightly larger at 14.8 cu-ft.

As for safety, both cars get six airbags each, including front, front-side and side-curtain.

A bit softer than in the past the Honda Civic retains its responsive steering and thanks to its fully independent suspension remains composed even on rougher ground, whereas the torsion beam rear end on the Elantra allows more road harshness to be carried through into the cabin. For those with sporting intentions, Honda’s stability control system is much less restrictive, coming in later and more gradually. A continued critique of the Elantra, and the rest of the Hyundai lineup, is its numb on-center steering.

Equal cars in many respects, that also includes price. Honda lists the Civic as starting at $15,605 a slight bump over the Elantra at $15,345.