In this corner... well it is not really a knock down, drag out boxing match, but in the automotive world these cars operate in the same space and compete for buyers. This post will give you my impressions of each car based on real world experience as I have owned both. My opinions are just that, my feelings about each after having the chance to drive them in everyday situations.
So here are the two contenders: A 2022 Honda Civic Si
Fighter #1, the Honda Civic Si with a 1.5 liter Turbo 4 and Scrapper #2, a 2.0 liter Turbo 4. The Honda weighs about 200 pounds less but has 200 HP compared to the brawny Hyundai with the greater weight but more horsepower at 276 ponies.
The Si only comes in a manual and sports a 6 speed stick that's as good as my Porsche Boxster's and the N car has one of the slickest 8 speed, wet DCT's on the market. I thought the ZF 8 auto (not a DCT) in my Alfa Romeo Giulia was good- this is better.
All these numbers only tell a little part of the story. What matters is how do the cars drive? How do they feel? This is where it is very subjective but I'll describe matters as best I can.
The Honda Si- Looks - This is a great looking car, mature, simple, clean and a design that will age well over time. I get a lot of compliments at stop lights and even when at the grocery store. Of course the Blazing Orange Pearl paint and aftermarket wheels add to the looks IMO and others too.
Interior - This is where the car got rave reviews from many journalists when it came out. I agree to a point. The interior is spacious, you have great visibility forward and to the side, but after living with it for seven months the wow factor wore off for me. A couple of minor compliants are the armrest material that feels like burlap and poor visibility out the rear window with a massive hump in the middle for the center brake light. It really takes away from all the goodness of the forward visibility. There's a lot of hard plastics too so as Joe Raiti of Raiti's Rides would say, I'm giving it a few Zonks on the interior. I must say the instrument cluster is one of the clearest and easiest to view and the Infotainment system is really nice. Very intuitive and easy to use with Apple Car Play.
Seat Comfort - I think seat comfort is one of the biggest factors that make you love or hate your car. Both of these cars excel in this area but I give the Si an 8 out of 10 here and the Elantra a 9 out of 10. Close but the Si is a little softer and less supportive and again the cloth material is good but not up to the materials used on the N car- more on that later.
Handling and Steering - The Honda is very nimble and reacts to steering inputs quite quickly but with the 40 ratio sidewalls, not as sharp as the Elantra. (I have Michelin PS 4S tires on it- same as the Elantra) So this comparison should be apples to apples using the same tires, only the Civic's are 235/40R 18 while the Elantra's are 245/35R 19's. The Civic turns in what feels like a lot smaller turning circle (I have not measured ) but the feel is of a smaller car even though they are almost the same wheelbase and the same in almost every other exterior dimension. You really notice it when pulling into a parking spot or doing a U turn. The Honda rides stiff, but not rough. On smooth roads it is as smooth as my Honda Accord Sport. A very nice feeling ride. It helps that I'm in Florida and the ambient temperature is nearly 80-90 every day for the last several months. I have heard in cold weather this car can feel rough as there's no adaptive dampers. Honda has tuned this well- kind of a middle ground.
Driving Fun Factor - Here's where comparing these cars is tricky. First, the Honda is a stick and the Hyundai is an automatic. The Honda has 76 less HP and there's 97 pound feet less torque. However both cars are FUN to drive for different reasons. The Honda is lighter, reacts well to downshifts and can be tossed around and in and out of traffic easily. All fun stuff. But there's little aural excitement, there's not much power and you barely hear the exhaust and it is slightly softer riding (not much) but enough to know it.
Overall Verdict on the Honda - With it's far superior gas mileage (32 in town and 38 on the road that I observed for months), it's lower MSRP by about $6,000. compared to the Elantra with DCT it is a screaming deal for the money. It should satisfy 90% of those looking for a sport performace sedan. I enjoyed every minute of the car, but I traded it last week for contestant #2, the Elantra N.
The Elantra N - Looks- Here's a point of debate by many- Overall I like the looks, especially as I get used to it. It is now not as alarming as when I first saw the front grill. I think the side and rear 3/4 view is agressive and tasteful. The front grill is huge and the black mask look will either turn you off or you may say, that looks mean and aggressive. We shall see with buyers adding different wheels, stripes, aero kits and such to customize it but make no mistake you can't miss one of these when it is coming towards you. The snowflake wheels I can do without, leaning more towards the great wheels on the Civic Si. ( I ordered a set of Enkei TSF's in Storm Gray today for the Elantra)
Interior - Here's where I disagree with almost every review I've seen on this car. First of all it is a $35k purchase. What do you expect to get? In my opinion a lot nicer space to sit in versus the Civic Si. Sorry Honda fans but the plastics are just as hard and cheap in the Civic as they are in the Elantra and there's plenty of it. The cloth material in the Honda is just plain scratchy and cheap looking. What's in the Hyundai- really nice door cards with Alcantara like material and the seats are far nicer looking than the red checkered cloth on the Civic. They even have the N badge light up at night on the Hyundai seats. The instrument panel comprised of two 10+ inch computer screens contain so much information you would have to have a co pilot to help read it all. Everything you can think of is included in the menus. Pilot training required! But I like it. Anything you need is at your fingertips including on board telemetry like in a race car. Fantastic! Overall I rate the interior far superior to the Civic for these specific things. And visibility is quite good all around and the rear view is slightly better than in the Civic. So both cars rank a tie for visibility.
Seat Comfort - Totally subjective and subject to the size and shap of the driver, but for me at 6' 200 lbs, the Elantra seats are slightly better. They fit me better, feel a tad more supportive and the seating position allows me to enter and exit the car easier. They are some of the most comfortable seats I've driven in.
Handling and Steering - Having only driven the car for 4 days it is a bit early to rate it but my immediate reaction is the car steers quicker than the Civic (35 aspect tires vs 40), is tight as a drum with all the chassis stiffening and the rear strut bar, yet it is amazingly adjustable. From boulevard cruiser in normal mode to track ready tiger in N mode. You get two different cars, a daily driver and a track champion for the weekends. Not bad for $35k. I would say the Civic would have been as good if they offered it with adaptive dampers like the previous gen Si. Again, the Hyundai wins out with all the adaptabiliy.
Driving Fun Factor - There's not a contest here with the crazy options you can dial up on the dashboard for the N car. Just the sound of the exhaust alone is worth the price of admission. The dashboard feedback, the snappy acceleration, the handling, the seat of the pants feel when going through a turn. Oh is it good! The only buzz kill is the average fuel economy compared to the Honda, but who cares. Horsepower costs money and that's why you buy this car.
Overall Verdict on the Hyundai - If you have a few thousand dollars more, the Hyundai is worth it. If your budget is tight the Honda will do just fine. It is a very good car. But if you want the best (even though it is slightly out of the Si's segment) the Elantra N is a fantastic buy for the money. And yes, there's things I miss about the Honda that the Elantra does not give me (Simple wireless Apple Car Play) but you can't have everything.
I want to give a shout out to Crown Hyundai of St. Petersburg, FL, They treated me fairly and did not play the mark up game many other dealers I talked to were doing. Jody Lindsey, my sales person is a car guy himself and we had many conversations about cars- not just how he could sell me a car, which is refreshing!
Future Updates- Look for future updates on the Elantra N and any mods I may do. The first one is new aftermarket wheels ordered today.
See you all soon- Paul Ziegler, Publisher Carcamerastory.com
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