Latest Reader Question: Which Car to Pick?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply:

Dennis asks: I sent you a donation a year ago “by order of Tom Woods.” You said that I could contact you with any car-related questions that I might have. The lease on my 2016 Toyota Camry is going to be up soon. I’m looking to buy a car (by cashier’s check) and I’ve narrowed it down to the ones listed below. Whichever car I buy, I only plan to keep it for about three years before I trade it in. I want a car with Android Auto so it really comes down to these two. I’ve listed the out-the-door prices that I was quoted. 2018 Chevy Cruze LT (with Convenience Package) for $21,095 or a 2018 Hyundai Sonata SEL for $22,602.

Both have heated seats, heated mirrors, keyless entry, and push-button start. I really like the idea of being able to have a Wi-Fi hotspot with unlimited data through OnStar with the Chevy Cruze. The Sonata has the blind spot detection and lane change assist that the Cruze as shown above doesn’t have. I might be able to find one in inventory near me but I haven’t yet. What are some things that I might not know about each one? Which one would you choose based on the information I’ve given you?

My reply: This one’s easy – because these are two significantly different cars. The Cruze is a smaller car, for openers. It is 183.7 inches long vs. 191.1 for the Sonata. In general terms, the Sonata is a mid-sized sedan while the Cruze is closer to being a compact-sized sedan. The Cruze will take up less space in your garage and be easier to park curbside. But it is also less roomy inside, especially up front.

The Chevy has 42 inches of legroom – which is good. But the Hyundai has 45.1 inches – which is spectacular. It is comparable to what you’d get in a much more expensive full-size luxury sedan.

Both cars have roughly the same backseat legroom (36.1 and 35.6 inches, respectively).

The Sonata also has a noticeably larger trunk – 16.3 cubic feet vs. 14.8 for the Cruze  as well as a larger and stronger standard engine (2.4 liters, 185 hp vs. 1.4 liters and 139 hp). Also, the Chevy’s engine has a turbocharger – which may not be a factor for you given the three years you plan to keep the car. However, if you decide to keep it longer and post-warranty, be aware that turbocharged engines can hit you with repair costs that are non-issues with non-turbocharged cars.

The Cruze is noticeably easier on gas – 29 city, 40 highway vs. 25 city, 35 highway for the Sonata. That will definitely save you some money over the course of three years, so it’s a plus for the Chevy.

Both are nice cars and I doubt you’d be disappointed with either. So – other than price – I think your decision comes down to how much the listed differences matter to you – and (most of all) how much you like one car vs. the other car.

I strongly advise a test drive of at least one hour’s duration in each car, ideally on the same day – in order to get a feel not just for how each car drives relative to the other car but also how the seats treat you, whether wind/road noise is better or worse in one car vs. the other and how you like the amenities.

Speaking of which…

Android (and AppleCarPlay) as well as in-car WiFi have become very common features; the Cruze and Sonata are far from the only new cars which offer these features, so if that’s among your main criteria, you may want to consider some other makes/models as well before you decide.

Hope this is helpful – and please keep us posted!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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