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Comparative Test: Toyota Corolla 1,6 Prestige vs. Kia Cerato Sedan 1,6 EX vs. Hyundai Elantra 1,6 Premium

by CAR magazine on 15/04/2014

Comments: 12

THE ageing champ was a beaten fighter. Two Koreans in particular had come through the ranks to depose the Toyota Corolla as the best compact sedan in the South African market. Now, with the arrival of the 11th-generation Corolla (the seventh to be launched here), the former kingpin laces on the gloves once again and climbs into the ring. It’s going to be a bruising battle and the Corolla must take on rivals that square up to it in terms of specifications and affordability.

Consider the Hyundai Elantra, the elegant and refined two-time winner of CAR’s Top 12 Best Buys award in the compact-sedan segment, and the new Kia Cerato, which, like its Rio four-door sibling, offers elements of style and luxury that is predecessor never could.

So, we’ve sampled a trio of 1,6-litre compact sedans with pricetags below R250 000 from Toyota, Hyundai and Kia to see which manufacturer can rightfully claim to sell the best-balanced product in this segment.


In principle, while the issue of aesthetics shouldn’t be a clincher when considering a solid family car, that’s simply not the truth. People aren’t subliminally drawn towards the unremarkable and inoffensive, and as car owners we’re equally disinclined to select a set of wheels that suggests we’ve raised the white flag and embraced practicality and comfort. Thankfully, all of the gathered three are interesting to look at.

While a combination of dowdy styling and the ubiquity of being produced in dizzying numbers rendered the previous Corolla all but invisible, but the new car is decidedly good-looking.

The slash of swept-back chrome grille with louvres flowing into the headlamps, neat character lines on the bonnet and flanks, and crisp taillamp design topped with a rakishly curved roofline and bodywork with a satisfying interplay of curves and planes lend the new car a dynamic and upmarket air.

The Elantra’s curvaceous styling was suitably impressive when we first encountered it a couple of years back. And, while it continues to stave off any danger of being considered dull, there’s a twinge of doubt as to how well it’s aged. Viewed alongside the Corolla and Cerato, it looks a bit fussy and dated. There is, however, a facelift due this year, adding Hyundai’s now-signature blade daytime-running lights to the headlamps and some black surrounds to the brakelamps, among others. But the main blot on the Elantra’s canvas is the fitment of 15-inch steel wheels that make the car look slightly downmarket compared with the others’ 16-inch alloy items.

But it’s the angry slants of the Cerato’s LED daytime running lights that really catch the eye. It sits at the sportier, more youthful end of the spectrum and treads a careful line between the Hyundai’s intricate curves and the Toyota’s squared-off bearing.


In terms of packaging, it’s interesting to note that all the cars’ wheelbases stretch 2 700 mm. However, the actual utilisation of space is markedly different.

While the Koreans are pretty much level pegging in terms of rear legroom, the Elantra’s boot and utility space is considerably more capacious than that of the Cerato’s still-practical luggage compartment. The Hyundai also sports a noticeably higher – some testers considered a little too high – driving position.

Continue to page 2…

  • Miguel

    I´ll pick the Toyota for reliability and build quality, the Kia forspace and warranty and the Hyundai for durability and charm.

  • Freddie

    Why did Toyota chance their cars to look like a Kia, they have no imagination

    • Miguel

      As well as you!

  • Knormoer

    I would rather wait for the new Mazda 3

  • abmon

    Kia and Hyundai are waanabees!!!!! Ride and Dynamics, driver enjoyment and solid motoring are what matter to me. Keep your USB, ICU, RDS aka KAK….i can do without them.

    “A good few of the team experienced an imprecision to both its and the Elantra’s tillers that lead to a feeling of detachment from the behaviour of the front wheels. In the Cerato’s case, this is evidenced by a great deal of looseness around dead centre, and by contrast, the Elantra’s steering feels heavier at low speeds than one might expect.”
    Based on the above there should not even be a single Elantra or Cerato on the road….who the hell buys a car with the above behavior!!!! My 10 year old Tazz behaves better than them…..

    • Knormoer
      • abmon

        Cos they (and BMW and GM) care. And others should learn! GM sales went up 7% after their recall, beating the industry average.

        Regarding Toyota….none of the issues covered by the recalls caused injuries or fatalities, the issues appear largely minor. The recall is a sign of Toyota continuing to be extremely proactive. A recall may be something of a PR boon to automakers. It reinforces quality and safety with the consumer.

        During Toyota’s 2009-2010 recall over sudden acceleration, some owners seemed to appreciate how the company kept them informed, and the way it took care of the problem, and thus their resale is amongst the best.

        It was done in a very professional way. If it was a brand that sort of handled things in a lackadaisical manner, the outcome might have been entirely different.

        • Knormoer
          • abmon

            ooops that’s so bad! anyway I’m on my umpteenth Toyota in 16 years Toyota and never a hiccup from any oone of them ….. maybe I’m lucky. Anyway my choice will be the new corolla (or Golf), then the old shape corolla….

          • Knormoer

            Hold on to that Tazz. One of the most reliable cars ever produced and according to many in the security business almost unbreakable. Modern Toyotas can only dream about that level of uncomplicated reliability.

          • abmon

            right….its currently on 180 000km and still going strong, and cost pittance to maintain…..

  • Miguel

    Best budget Sedans.