Hyundai is no longer the upstart kid on the block when it comes to quality, performance and styling. The Korean automaker is now turning heads with far more than just pricing as it offers a diverse lineup of attractive, efficient and technologically advanced vehicles that can go head-to-head with more established titans in the industry. In the spirit of Hyundai's renaissance, we've put together a quick comparison of four H-badged automobiles pitted against their Toyota equivalents. The results might surprise you.
Let's take a look at four automobiles from each brand and see how Hyundai stacks up to veteran Toyota for 2012.
The 2012 Hyundai Sonata is one of the most attractive entries into the mid-size sedan segment, with features such as a large, sloped rear window, a distinctive roofline and strong curves carved out of its sheet metal drawing the eye. The Hyundai Sonata is also quite large inside, offers a big trunk and can be had with the BlueLink telematics feature that provides a host of convenience and safety features at the touch of a button.
Underneath its attractive skin the 2012 Hyundai Sonata is thrifty and powerful, whether found in base (200 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder) or turbocharged (274 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder) editions. The latter returns 22-mpg combined, which is just two miles per gallon less than the entry-level unit. A hybrid edition of the Sonata is also available, and it offers up 37-mpg in combined fuel economy for those seeking the utmost in efficiency.
The 2012 Toyota Camry has been redesigned for the current model year. While the new look is quite similar to that of the older sedan, there is no denying that the Camry has picked up some additional swagger in its sheet metal. The Toyota Camry is still a roomy family option, and although its ride maintains the isolated smoothness that most drivers have come to expect from the automobile, it doesn't exactly differentiate itself to any great degree from the Sonata.
In the engine department, the 2012 Toyota Camry soldiers forward with revised versions of its four-cylinder and V-6 engines. The 2.4-liter four is good for 178 horsepower and 28-mpg combined - less robust, but also not as thirsty as the Sonata's base motor - while the 3.5-liter V-6 offers 268 horsepower and 25-mpg combined. The Camry remains a solid choice for drivers seeking a tried, tested and true daily driver, but the Sonata matches the Toyota in most categories and certainly exceeds it when it comes to panache.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra is another easy on the eyes offering from the Korean car company, this time aimed squarely at the pocketbooks of compact sedan shoppers. The Hyundai Elantra also makes a boatload of features available through options and packages, giving buyers the chance to install equipment such as a navigation system, a rearview camera, tinted windows and Hyundai's Active Eco system on the car (which can improve fuel mileage by up to seven percent). The 2012 Hyundai Elantra is outfitted with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 148 horsepower and posts a 33-mpg combined fuel mileage rating without Active Eco engaged.
The 2012 Toyota Corolla is one of the Elantra's chief competitors, and unfortunately it continues to garner sales based more on past glory than current competence. The Toyota Corolla lags behind most of the compact segment in terms of technology, and despite being quiet inside and doing a good job of insulating occupants from bumps and potholes, the Corolla's driving dynamics and overall refinement don't quite match those of the Hyundai. The 2012 Toyota Corolla is also down on power (132 horses from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder unit) and fuel economy (29-mpg combined) - no doubt feeling the pinch from its antiquated five-speed manual / four-speed automatic transmission lineup versus the pair of six-speeds found in the Elantra.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring doesn't use the same, fully-modernized platform as its sedan namesake, but it does offer a practical and affordable compact hatchback option that features 65 cubic feet of total cargo space. The Hyundai Elantra Touring puts in a respectable performance in terms of road manners, but it doesn’t have the flash of its more recently-redesigned siblings, not does it offer the same level of interior fit and finish or even options availability. Under the hood, the Elantra Touring's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine generates 138 horsepower and returns 26-mpg in combined driving, with a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic representing the vehicle's gearbox choices.
The 2012 Toyota Matrix might borrow its bones from the fading Corolla, but it manages to overcome its humble beginnings thanks to greater variety in the engine department as well as appreciable utility in the form of a flat load floor and a useful 50 cubic feet of available storage space. Although the Toyota Matrix might not be as capable at hauling gear from point A to point B as the Elantra, it does manage to deliver better fuel economy from its standard 132 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (28-mpg combined), as well as offer the option of a 158 horsepower, 2.8-liter four-cylinder that returns 24-mpg combined. Another pleasant surprise with the Toyota is the ability to order all-wheel drive, giving the Matrix the edge when it comes to poor weather traction. Transmission choices for the hatchback include a five-speed manual and a five-speed automatic, although the all-wheel drive edition of the Matrix is saddled exclusively with a four-speed autobox.
The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe is a very credible compact crossover effort that counts value as one of its primary features. The Hyundai Santa Fe, like the Elantra Touring, is not going to win any beauty contests but it does come up big with its generous level of standard equipment, its 78 cubic feet of available cargo space and its reasonable fuel economy rating. In fact, the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe's optional 3.5-liter V-6 engine (276 horsepower) is good for 23-mpg in combined driving, which matches the rating given to its 2.4-liter, 175 horsepower four-cylinder engine. The V-6 also opens up the availability of all-wheel drive, making it the clear choice for shopper with a little extra room in their budget.
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 is one of the stalwarts of the compact SUV class, and as might be expected it trumps the Hyundai Santa Fe in several categories. The Toyota RAV4 can be ordered in a three-row, seven passenger edition, and it also throws down 73 cubic feet of total cargo space with the rear accommodations folded forward. Toyota's small crossover also makes all-wheel drive available regardless of whether the vehicle is ordered with the entry-level, 179 horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (24-mpg combined) or its 269 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 (22-mpg combined). Although these numbers might seem close to those offered by the Hyundai, the interior quality, available third row seating and more engaging personality of the RAV4 from behind the wheel help it to emerge as the clear winner in this particular comparison.