Sedans & Coupes

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Can’t Keep Up with the 2021 Hyundai Elantra

Cheap cars are the best they’ve ever been. A highly competitive compact car segment means that carmakers are forced to offer more options for less money. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra takes it a step further by offering a digital instrument cluster, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and even a digital key. The result is that established segment favorites like the 2021 Toyota Corolla can’t keep up.

The Hyundai Elantra offers more power for less money

According to Toyota, the 2021 Corolla has a base price of $19,825. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra, on the other hand, starts slightly below at $19,650. Despite this, the Hyundai offers more powerful engine options.

A photo of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra outdoors.
Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

Powering the base Hyundai Elantra is a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine developing 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque. The Toyota Corolla also has a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, except it is slightly smaller at 1.8-liters. The Toyota’s engine is also slightly weaker at 139 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. Both cars come standard with variable transmissions.

If the standard cars are a bit too boring, Toyota and Hyundai offer sportier variants with more powerful engines. In the case of the Corolla, it’s called the SE Apex Edition, and it starts at $25,070. The sporty Corolla features a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder producing 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. A variable transmission comes as standard, although a six-speed manual is available.

A photo of the Toyota Corolla outdoors.
Toyota Corolla | Toyota

The Hyundai Elantra’s sporty variant is the N-line, which starts at $24,100. Powering the Elantra N-line is a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine producing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. While a six-speed manual transmission comes as standard, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available. The result is that the Elantra offers more powerful options regardless of the trim level.

The Hyundai is more fuel-efficient

Aside from having a more powerful standard engine, the Hyundai Elantra also offers greater fuel economy than the Toyota Corolla.

A photo of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra outdoors.
Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

The Hyundai Elantra manages to consume 31 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 35 mpg. On the other hand, the Corolla consumes 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 33 mpg. While the difference may seem slight on paper, the Elantra is the cheaper car to buy and to run in the long term.

Toyota Logo | Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Elantra offers high-tech interior options

One of the benefits of shopping at the cheaper end of the compact car market is that upgrading to higher trim levels doesn’t break the bank. In this regard, both the Hyundai Elantra and the Toyota Corolla excel. The Elantra, however, offers greater interior options.

A photo of the Toyota Corolla outdoors.
Toyota Corolla | Toyota

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Both the Hyundai Elantra and the Toyota Corolla offer premium packages for their mid-range trim levels. The Corolla’s fully-loaded Premium Package with options costs $2,865. The optional package offers a JBL audio system, an 8-inch touchscreen, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross Traffic-Alert.

The Elantra’s premium package offers more options but is slightly more expensive. Unlike the Corolla, the Elantra’s Premium Package costs $2,100 by itself but requires the Convenience Package for an additional $950. Aside from offering extra safety features and an upgraded sound system like the Corolla, the Elantra takes it a step further.

A photo of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra outdoors.
Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

The upgraded Hyundai Elantra now includes a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. The display is configurable and offers tons of useful information to the driver depending on their desired layout. A digital key is also now available, allowing owners to unlock and start their vehicles directly from their smartphones. Lastly, the Elantra also benefits from wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

While compact sedans are excellent choices, the Elantra’s improvements over the Corolla mean that the segment favorite might not be the best choice anymore.