The Hyundai Azera full-size sedan got an extreme makeover (auto edition) for 2012. In size and price, the Azera competes with the Toyota Avalon, versions of the Ford Taurus and even the Hyundai Genesis sedan, though the latter is rear-wheel drive while the others have front-wheel drive.
The redesigned 2012 Hyundai Azera has almost everything you'd ever want in a large luxury sedan, for half the price, but a couple of shortcomings annoyed me day in and day out.
Rather than getting customers in the door with the promise of a great price tag then up-charging for every little feature, the Azera comes in just one trim level, and the only option is a $4,000 Technology Package comprised mainly of convenience features. The fully loaded Azera is a bargain at around $36,000.
The 2012 Azera is a sexy, sleek, swooping sedan that owners would enjoy gazing at in their driveway every day. Others agreed; several of our editors noted compliments from passers-by. Its downward-sloping rear quarter panel and wide, low stance give the car an upscale, slightly Jaguar-esque look.
Of course, a sedan with a low step-in height makes it easy for kids on small legs -- like my 7- , 9- and 11-year-old daughters -- to climb in easily. There's so much backseat space that they had tons of legroom to spare. There's enough legroom for full-sized adults, as well. I wouldn't be embarrassed to pick up my parents for a family dinner in this car, as I am when I try to squeeze them into the tiny backseats of so many of my other test cars.
Backseat passengers have access to in-door storage bins with bottleholders, as well as cupholders and another storage bin in the fold-down center armrest. Due to a heat wave in the Denver area, my family got quite a bit of use out of the Azera's sunshades (which are included in the optional Technology Package). A power-operated shade on the rear window (the control for which is up front), along with manual sunshades on the two rear side windows helped keep the car's black interior at a manageable temperature even when parked in the sun.
The large, panoramic moonroof included in the Technology Package was great for keeping the Azera's interior from feeling too cavelike. However, one editor noted that its sunshade automatically closes when you close the roof. To keep the shade open, you have to stop it after the roof closes. Another editor complained about the inability to vent the sunroof without first opening the shade all the way, noting that any of the desired cooling action when parked is lost due to the "greenhouse effect."
Up front, the driver's seat got mixed reviews from my 6-foot-plus husband and me. He raved about how comfortable and supportive the large, soft driver's seat was. The multi-adjustable seat is controlled by Mercedes-inspired buttons that are visible and easily accessible on the door panel, rather than tucked out of view on the side of the seat bottom. A powered tilt/telescoping steering wheel and driver's seat cushion extension -- both part of the Technology Package -- help customize the fit. However, despite all this adjustability, I had a tough time finding a position perfect for my 5-foot-3 frame. I tried raising and lowering the head restraint, adjusting it forward and then back again, fiddling with the seats and the lumbar adjustments -- I felt like Goldilocks trying to find the rocking chair that was just her size. Unfortunately, I think the Azera is just better suited to a bigger driver. I'd be more comfortable as a passenger.
Once I'd switched on the ventilated seats (again part of the Technology Package) in 90-degree weather, all was temporarily forgiven while I drove in temperate bliss.
The Azera's center control panel appears to float in midair, just like those in Volvos. A storage bin behind it is great for holding loose items, like my husband's wallet and phone. The ceiling console above the rearview mirror -- which houses the interior lights, a sunglasses holder and the moonroof button -- was cheap and plasticky looking, out of place in an otherwise well-thought-out interior. One of our editors called the car's blue accent lighting "cheesy."
The Azera offers a large trunk with plenty of space for family essentials, and my golf clubs fit easily without finagling. With 16.3 cubic feet of volume, it doesn't compare with the Taurus' 20.1 cubic feet, but few cars do. The 2012 Avalon's trunk is smaller still, at 14.4 cubic feet. Interestingly, the larger Genesis sedan has less room than the Azera: 15.9 cubic feet.
The Azera's rear seats split 60/40 and can fold in the event more space is needed. The backseats in the Avalon and Genesis don't.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
Behind the wheel
The Azera manages to filter out quite of bit of road and wind noise, leaving the cabin peaceful and quiet. I appreciated the smooth, easy acceleration from a stop and the predictable braking. In my experience, the suspension was soft enough to even out bumps and rough pavement in suburban driving, however, another editor said the Azera on 19-inch wheels should have had better ride quality for such a large car, and that city pavement divots jolted the cabin. The 19-inch wheels are optional; the standard 18-inch rims might soften the ride a bit.
Our team of editors took issue with the Azera's steering. Words such as "touchy," "jittery," "fatiguing," "oversensitive" and "disappointing" were used to describe it.
The Eco mode attempts to improve the estimated 20/29 mpg city/highway fuel economy. It does just that, and fairly discreetly. The average driver may not even notice the changes to the driving feel in Eco mode.
Funny music plays in the Azera upon startup and shutdown, which was a novelty during the two weeks I drove it, seeming to act as a score for a soap opera. I'm sure the novelty would wear off quickly if I owned this car, so you'll be glad to know the jingle can be turned off.
Crash tests have not been conducted on the 2012 Hyundai Azera. As is required of all 2012 models, it has standard antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control. The Azera has nine standard airbags, including a driver's knee airbag, two front airbags, side-impact torso airbags for the front and rear, and side curtain airbags for front and rear outboard occupants.
The Azera comes standard with a backup camera that turns on immediately upon putting the car into Reverse (even if you have the radio/nav screen turned off, unlike in many cars). Rear park assist sensors are included in the optional Technology Package. The Azera also comes equipped with Hyundai's Blue Link system, which offers emergency roadside assistance, theft recovery, remote vehicle access, navigation assistance and traffic information. Blue Link also offers the ability to set driving curfew limits, speed-limit notifications and geofence limits in the event you share your car with a teen driver.
The one thing the Azera oddly doesn't have is a blind spot warning system. This seems like a glaring oversight considering even budget compact cars like the Dodge Dart are adding blind spot monitors.
My kids in the backseat were easily able to buckle their own seat belts even when in high-back booster seats (and despite the buckles being on flimsy bases) thanks to the Azera's flat, wide seats. The lower Latch anchors are stored within the seat bight rather than being visible.