There are fewer players in the compact car segment than there used to be, but the ones that have survived the SUV popularity wave are very strong propositions. That's the case with the two we're measuring here, the 2021 Honda Civic and the 2021 Hyundai Elantra.

What's interesting about them is that the former is in its last year on the market while a new model will debut this summer. As for the Elantra, it has just been redesigned.

This might lead us to believe that it could have all the tools to put the current Civic in its little pocket. But that's not the case. Let's take a look at what keeps Honda's star performer in the game.

The choice

Hyundai offers its Elantra in a sedan configuration. It also offers a regular model, as well as a sportier version, the N-Line, plus a hybrid livery. At Honda, the choice is more extensive. In addition to the regular model, there's a hatchback and two sporty variants, the Si and the Type R. In the latter case, there's no equivalent at Hyundai.

More convincing engines

Hyundai has made huge strides over the past 10-15 years in terms of engines. However, the company has had some problems in recent years, especially with fire hazard recalls.

At Honda, one word sums up the behaviour of all the proposed engines: reliability.

As for the mills offered, Honda also has an advantage in terms of power. The company's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine offers 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. That's better than the 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque of the Elantra's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder.

And as for the Elantra’s N-Line version, its 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder may offer 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, but that's less than the Civic Si's 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder; 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The difference isn't great on paper, but in real-world driving, it's striking.

Finally, when it comes to driving, we're comparing apples to pears here. While the Elantra's handling is sound and interesting, nothing beats the balance and fun behind the wheel that's guaranteed with the Honda Civic. A road test will convince you of this.

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