It can be tempting, when buying a commuter car, to get one that's as small as possible. Usually more affordable and offering better gas mileage, small cars are attractive options. But we sometimes forget what we give up buying tiny. There's the obvious passenger space and front-seat legroom, but there are a few hidden compromises you might not be ready to make. In this comparison guide, we pair the compact mid-size Altima with the compact Elantra to shake out what's the good and bad about bigger and smaller.
Engine Options: 2019 Nissan Altima
The Altima is only 400 pounds heavier than the Elantra, but for whatever reason, the Altima has far superior engine options. Why is that? Chalk it up to people's expectations of a mid-size sedan versus a compact. All we do know is that the Altima's engines outstrip the Elantra's by more than enough to compensate for the weight difference. The base Altima engine is a 2.5-liter inline-4 delivering 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, while the upgraded is a 248-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged engine making 280 pound-feet of torque.
Meanwhile, the Hyundai Elantra has a whopping four engine options, but even the exclusive turbocharged engine found only on the top-tier trim level pumps out 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Hardly a game-changer. The base engine generates 128 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque. Maybe we just don't compare numbers across classes too much. But in this case, a marginally heavier car has a vastly superior engine.
Cargo Space: 2019 Nissan Altima
This category might have been one you considered but it bears exploring because storage impacts your daily life. The 2019 Nissan Altima offers 15.4 cubic feet of storage space. In addition, the trunk mouth is particularly wide allowing for larger-sized items to pass through. Meanwhile, the Elantra has 14.4 cubes, which is very good for a compact but, of course, won't carry as many pieces of luggage or bags of groceries.
Front Legroom: 2019 Nissan Altima
Another common consideration is passenger room, specifically the all-important front legroom. We specify front legroom here because both the Altima and Elantra have good second-row legroom, enough even for adults to ride in the back. But the Altima has an extra two inches of legroom than the Elantra, 44 inches versus 42. For taller drivers, that might be a deal breaker. Think about how much you'd like just an extra two inches of legroom on long flights. Why bring economy-class thinking into the daily commute?
Standard Features: 2019 Nissan Altima
The Nissan Altima has more standard features than the Hyundai Elantra, which means you'll have to tick a few more boxes to get the features you want on the Elantra. The 2019 Altima gives standard features, like an 8-inch touch screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, four USB ports, six speakers, Bluetooth, voice recognition, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, push-button start, rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning. By comparison, the Elantra has no standard smartphone integration, a smaller touch screen, and only about half of those features found in the Altima. If more space for your stuff and your legs, more standard features, and more power are at all enticing, you may want to pick the bigger Altima over the smaller Elantra.