Compact cars are great for commuting. With low prices, sensible seating, a small footprint on the road, and great fuel economy, there’s a lot to be said for the class in general. In today’s comparison, we’re looking at some of the most inexpensive models available. Because a commuter car is probably a second car. Get something in your price range that you’ll still love to drive.
While the Elantra wins in this category, the difference in price is only $690, probably not enough to be a deal-breaker for anyone if the value is there one way or another. But that’s only if you don’t mind driving stick, the default on an Elantra. If you want automatic, the Sentra is more affordable. The 2019 Nissan Sentra, which starts at $17,790, includes a standard continuously automatic variable transmission, cloth upholstery, rearview camera, infotainment system on 7-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, USB port, Siri Eyes Free, and four-speaker audio system, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.
The 2019 Hyundai Elantra, starting at $17,100 comes with standard cloth upholstery, rearview camera, infotainment system on 5-inch display screen, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, and USB port. You can replace the manual transmission for a six-speed automatic transmission for an extra $1,000.
These two compact cars are unbelievably safe. The Sentra received a Good rating, the highest possible, in every test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In addition to the standard rearview camera, there’s available driver assistance features that include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
The Hyundai Elantra also earned top marks from IIHS, netting this compact car a Top Safety Pick + distinction. Like the Sentra, the Elantra earned a four out of five score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). And also like the Sentra, the Elantra has only a rearview camera for standard safety. But available active safety features include driver drowsiness monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and safe exit assist.
Legroom: 2019 Nissan Sentra
The Nissan Sentra offers more legroom in front and back than the Hyundai Elantra, along with more cargo room, which we’ll discuss in the next category. That’s probably because the Sentra is both taller and longer than the Elantra, which in itself is quite the design feat since the base Sentra is only 40 pounds heavier than the Elantra. There’s only three-tenths of an inch more legroom in the Sentra’s front seat. (But, hey, we’ll take it!) But that advantage increases to nearly two inches more room for back seat passengers.
Cargo Room: 2019 Nissan Sentra
The 2019 Nissan Sentra also has more cargo room, which is a precious commodity in the compact car class. The Sentra boasts 15.1 cubic feet of storage in the trunk while the Elantra offers only 14.4 cubes in its sedan. So while the Sentra and Elantra are pretty even when it comes to safety and starting price, you’ll have more room to stretch and store in the Sentra.