2013 Honda Civic vs 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
2013 Honda Civic vs 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT. Click image to enlarge

Originally published May 29, 2013

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Here in Canada, compact cars are the transport of the masses. Affordable, practical and efficient, a compact car can serve as anything from a teenager’s first car to a small family vehicle or from a template for tuners to a retiree’s transport. It has to be everything to everyone if it hopes to have the kind of success that the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla have had for years.

So what does it need to do well? Often as not, these small cars are a family’s only car, and all four seats, if not five, see heavy use, so it has to be spacious despite its compact dimensions. Then again, these also often serve as a family’s commuter car for mom or dad while the other schleps the kids around in a minivan or crossover. This is a smart choice, piling kilometres on the efficient and hopefully reliable vehicle that, because of its inherent simplicity and widespread availability, is also cheaper to maintain.

The wide variety of drivers means that these vehicles must offer as broad a spectrum of handling and comfort in order to appeal to the masses and styling that will attract new customers, or at least appease interested shoppers that are lured in by brand reputation. It’s a fine line to walk, but the rewards are huge sales volumes and capturing new drivers with the hope of keeping them loyal to the brand, and trading in for newer and bigger models down the road.

2013 Honda Civic2013 Honda Civic2013 Hyundai Elantra GT2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
2013 Honda Civic & 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT. Click image to enlarge

Right now, the two cars dominating the compact car sales charts are the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra. The Civic’s 2013 emergency refresh seems a moot point since it still managed to shift almost 65K units last year, its best numbers since 2008, but Honda doesn’t just want to sell cars, they want to maintain their reputation of building good cars. No question the 2013 Civic is a notable improvement, but is it enough to compare favourably to a car that won a previous Autos.ca Comparison Test of leading compact cars?

The Hyundai Elantra is a relative upstart in this segment, basically an afterthought until 2009, but since then steadily climbing, selling over 50,000 Elantras in 2012 as they rolled out a hatchback replacing the Touring wagon and an all-new coupe.

So far in 2013, the Elantra has sold 16,872 while the Civic is at 16,711 through April. Could it get any closer?

This new hatchback, the so-called Elantra GT, is the model that won the aforesaid comparison, and in our opinion, is superior to the Elantra sedan in many ways beyond simple cargo-carrying capacity. Is it an unfair advantage to compare the Elantra GT hatchback to the Civic sedan? I’d be more than willing to compare it to a Civic hatchback just as soon as Honda decides we North Americans deserve one again, but until then, the Civic faces this same disadvantage in the showrooms as they do in this test.

There are many other new entries in this segment that we are eager to test, but we await the arrival of a new Mazda3 and Corolla on the horizon before revisiting this segment in a compact car Battle Royale.

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