Comparison: 2011 Hyundai Elantra vs. 2012 Ford Focus

Regis Lefebure
2011 Hyundai Elantra

Change has been a constant in our nation's capital over the past few years, as relative unknowns have swept into the halls of power. The very same might be said of compact cars, particularly the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. For years, these two cars have campaigned in relative obscurity as more established and better-funded offerings dominated the segment. Now, thanks to thorough redesigns, they're both frontrunners, promising more features and better fuel economy than we once thought possible for a compact car. But which deserves your vote? That's what we aimed to determine by journeying in both cars from still-chilly Michigan to cherry-blossom-lined Washington, D.C. As politicians haggled over the dollars and cents in our national budget, we put the Focus and Elantra through their paces and found which car brings change we can believe in.

Looking presidential

The right look doesn't count for everything - just ask John Edwards and Mitt Romney - but it sure helps. The Elantra and Focus both score big points here. They're stylish enough to stand apart from the bland appliances in the segment (Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Volkswagen Jetta) while avoiding weird design elements that turn off potential constituents (Mazda 3, Honda Civic). In fact, we were surprised by how similar the two cars look in person, even though our Focus was a hatchback. They share a sleek, sloping profile and feature similarly slanted head and taillights. Each has a few distinguishing details - we love how elegantly the Elantra's rear window flows into the trunk and were wowed by the Focus's hidden gas cap (once we found it). No doubt about it, these cars would look plenty comfortable in a televised debate -- no makeup required.

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yellow98cobra
Comparison? C'mon . . .a hatchback and a sedan. A top-line "Limited" and a mid-line "SE". A six-speed auto and a five speed stick! I know, I know, similar cars weren't available. In their rush to be first once again we get a comparison that's apples to oranges. If we can't get a real comparison of equivalent cars, don't bother.
QMan
This review is upside down. I have driven both cars. The Ford has MUCH more headroom and is easier to enter and exit, and it has more options. It is also a slightly smoother and slightly quieter ride. But it is much more expensive with the options. In every other respect the Elanta wins every comparison I can think of. Elantra every time for me.
fordfan4ever
tonkatoytruck i want what your smokin.price and gas mileage are important depending on who you are but the most important thing to most people when buying a car is how much they enjoy driving the car.this focus still gets great mileage and its cheaper.and how can you say the elantra is more reliable when the ford has'nt even been out for 1 month.even though its a economy car does'nt meen it has to drive like one.this new focus will win car of the year hands down.oh bye the way ford hater ,have you drivin a ford lately?
tonkatoytruck
One last thing, although the Elantra has had some reliability issues in the past, the newer Elantras are far more reliable than the Focus, which has never been very reliable and is only now delivering mediocre reliability. The newer Elantras are far more reliable than the Focus according to true delta.
tonkatoytruck
TBone85,You missed the point. I do NOT want a bigger car. I want a car with great gas mileage. That is NOT the Focus. I also want a cheap price. Again, not the Focus.My point is that if someone wanted an economy vehicle like this, they could get a bigger car for the same price with the same mileage. So, from a design standpoint, Ford failed on two of the most important aspects of this vehicle segment.I do understand that there are several different needs for a vehicle like this. For some, this is all they can afford and is a daily driver. But, for a growing segment of the population, it a solution to rising fuel prices. For the latter, it is all about saving money. The latter usually has more than one car and probably has a long commute. I would suggest that the latter is the growing segment of the population entering the economy car market.1fastone,I drove the Elantra and had no such issues with cornering. In matter of fact, its cornering abilites are remarkable. Probably the rental tires
1fastone.
Wondering if the Focus is as easily blown around as the Hyundai? I just rented an Elantra with the following observations: 1) excellent interior, 2) any wind stronger than a fart blows it all over the road, 3) the tires on the rental ought to be illegal--on even a moderate corner at a fairly slow speed, the car completely rolled over the tires, 4) after 3 days I returned the rental due to electronic failures (car would occasionally alarm when manually unlocking, manual unlocking was required because the remote only worked 10% of the time, after exiting the car for more than a few minutes every interior component would reset--radio shuts off, odometer resets, radio goes to FM channel 87, ventillation resets to blowing on driver regardless of where it was left, etc.). So final tally--excellent interior and fuel economy. Poor quality, terrible tires regardless of whether this was a rental or not, Hyundai's version of "flame surfacing" is already old, poor rear 3/4 visibility. How does Ford do against that?
Tbone85
Different buyers have different criteria. Driving dynamics were at the center of my decision matrix 4 years ago so I bought a Mazda3. Apparently other buyers agreed as the previous generation 3 saw an increase in market share versus it's predecessor. At least Ford offers model choices that trade off some driving dynamics for higher mileage. One size does not fit all. Some people actually want to enjoy driving their car even if it's a compact.The Sonata while a nice piece is obviously in a larger car class and doesn't come close to driving experience of the Focus. Sounds like the same argument of folks who say for the price of a fully loaded Sonata, they'd rather have a larger entry level Taurus. To each his own.
tonkatoytruck
The two most important categories of ecomomy cars is gas mileage and price. Driving dynamics take a distant third, especially when discussing the "limits" of these vehicles. If dynamics were important, they would call them sports cars. Based on these criteria, the Hyundai clearly wins the segment category. If I wanted a vehicle with the Focus' mpg and price, I would get the Sonata.
gmhonda
I think they should put the Elantra's front clip onto the Focus...otherwise both are ugly at different ends.

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