Hyundai Elantra or Toyota Altis?

Help our letter sender decide
Mar 17, 2012

Hi, Botchi!

I hope you can help me as soon as possible, I'm torn between the Hyundai 1.6 Elantra with manual transmission and the Toyota Altis 1.6 E, also with manual transmission. This is my first brand-new car so I really need your expert opinion about it. I need to decide this week because I was able to sell my old car already.

By the way, I'm a lady lawyer in my early 30s and I often drive only in the city. I fell in love with the features and looks of the Elantra but I have doubts about its durability when compared to a Toyota car. Since this is my first brand-new car, I'm planning to keep it for five to seven years. Would the Elantra be worth it or is it all just looks without proven durability?

I don't really have an issue on the price since the Altis and the Elantra are priced at almost the same level. But is it true that Hyundai has a lower resale value?

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Please help me. Thank you very much in advance and more power!

Little Miss Lawyer

Hi, Little Miss Lawyer!

What a nice and cute name you got there! I hear female lawyers are tough customers!

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I recently drove the Hyundai Elantra 1.6 and I am smitten by the six-speed manual transmission. The clutch isn't as light as a typical Toyota clutch but it's still effortlessly easy compared to cars from a generation ago. Power delivery is good, and the extra gear means the first- to fifth-gear ratios are closer. Power is better spread out and accessed easier, and driving on the highway means the Elantra is more relaxed. The gearshift itself isn't super precise. Drive a Mazda or a Honda with manual transmission and you'll see what I mean. But it is decently precise, and gets into gear quite satisfyingly. You'll want to keep rowing through the gears anyway just for the heck of it. Blipping the throttle and rev-matching by double de-clutching is a lost art, but I digress as a sensible lawyer such as yourself probably won't even consider the things I am saying anyway.

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In short, the Elantra is a great car--fun to drive, easy to handle, and offers a pretty good value for money. It looks great, too--far more stylish and adventurous than the safe, rather bland, Toyota Altis. Admittedly, the Elantra still doesn't feel as tight and as solid as the Altis. The suspension is a bit clunky, plus the electronic power-steering feels a bit weird. I liked it, but I feel a test drive for you should be in the cards to determine if you can live with its quirks.

Now, let's talk about the resale value. In the past, it is true that Hyundai was a laughingstock. Not many people cared about it. But fast-forward a generation later and it can rightfully hold its own against the more established Japanese brands with good, well-engineered and stylish cars.

As for the Toyota, here's the best way to sum up: there's nothing bad or wrong with it. The Altis is very refined, safe and solid. But I find no emotional connection or attachment to it. It feels rather boring, too. I haven't driven the manual 1.6 Altis yet so my comments are based on the image it manifests upon me. Driving it will be safe rather than exciting.

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I fear my comments might not be as conclusive as you had hoped for but I hope that, somehow, you might find a better grasp on your dilemma on which car to buy. Me? I'd stick with the Hyundai because it looks better, it drives well, it has a very good driving position for aggressive sports driving and yet is still ergonomically and anatomically correct, even if the power steering is kinda weird.

Good luck, God bless and drive safe!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

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