I want a car I can keep for about 10 years, so gas mileage and reliability are crucial.
The Elantra has a couple of advantages over the Sentra that should appeal to you. One is a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and another is a better reputation for reliability. On the other hand, the Sentra, which was redesigned for 2013, offers a slight advantage in fuel economy — at least on paper.
In comparison to Hyundai’s 10-year powertrain warranty, Nissan’s is for five years/60,000 miles. The Elantra’s basic comprehensive warranty is five years/60,000 miles, and the Sentra’s basic warranty lasts three years/36,000 miles.
The Elantra had the third fewest problems among compact cars in the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures problems in 3-year-old vehicles; it ranked second the year before. Those surveys covered the previous Elantra and Sentra generations, so there is no guarantee the current versions will fare the same. However, the Sentra didn’t rank among the top three compacts either year, and in both surveys Hyundai vehicles in general had fewer problems than Nissan vehicles.
In regard to fuel economy, a Sentra with a continuously variable automatic transmission earns EPA estimates of 30/39 mpg city/highway. Hyundai recently corrected overstated fuel economy estimates for the Elantra, and with the six-speed automatic transmission the ratings are now 28/38 mpg. How much you would actually get from either car depends on your driving style, traffic, weather and other factors, so we can’t declare the Sentra a clear winner on gas mileage.
The Elantra also was a Cars.com Best Bet for 2012 — jurors are still deliberating over the 2013s — and in overall performance and accommodations we think the Elantra has the edge over the Sentra.
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