Modestly priced sedans with good gas milage are nothing new. Chevrolet and Hyundai have been cranking them out for years. But unlike their previous high-volume compacts, the current Cruze and Elantra don't require buyers to make a raft of concessions.
These are cars consumers should want to buy, not settle for. But which one impresses us more?
What We Like About the Cruze
Although the Cruze isn't big enough to qualify as a family car, its quality and features are right up there with larger sedans, as is the generous trunk. Buyers also get competent handling coupled with a pleasant ride. The sport-tuned suspension on the upper trims is on the firm side, but the impact on riding comfort is minimal. In terms of overall consumer appeal, the Cruze ranks just as highly as the best-known imported compacts.
The base Cruze runs with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 138 horsepower, but most versions carry a 1.4-liter turbo that delivers more torque and slightly better fuel economy. Eco versions of the Cruze are good for 42 mpg on the highway. There's also a new 2-liter turbo-diesel that generates 151 horsepower and reaches 46 mpg.
What We Like About the Elantra
The Elantra nameplate has been around for a while, but today's model shares little DNA with its so-so ancestors. It's a sophisticated little sedan with expressive styling and a roomy interior that mixes flair with function. The generous standard equipment list includes heated mirrors and satellite radio -- and heated rear seats are available.
The sole engine is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 148 horsepower, which returns 32 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The Elantra's suspension is tuned for smooth, quiet running on par with many larger sedans.
The Best of Each
The Cruze challenges more expensive hybrids in efficiency while offering plenty of space and features for couples and young families. Refined and handsome throughout, the Elantra adds a touch of class to the daily commute.
Our Verdict: Chevrolet Cruze
The Chevy's engaging road manners make it a more interesting choice.