2012 Hyundai Azera Road Test Review
All-new 2012 Hyundai Azera comes loaded with features, technology and value
Scores High: Densely-packed standard features list, fuel-efficient engine, roomy interior, quiet cabin and luxurious ride quality.
Scores Low: Hyundai still emerging as a viable alternative to traditional premium brands.
Total Car Score Analysis
In 2011, and for the first time in its 25-year history of selling cars in this country, Hyundai held more than 5% of the U.S. new car market share. It is now the sixth largest U.S. automaker by sales volume. According to company CEO, John Krafcik, Hyundai’s increasing presence on U.S. roadways doesn’t reflect overnight success. Instead, it’s the result of Hyundai’s slow-and-steady progress in effectively meeting U.S. car-buyers’ demands. The all-new 2012 Hyundai Azera is meant to continue that steady growth by filling a gap between Hyundai’s highly successful Sonata midsize sedan and increasingly popular Genesis luxury sedan.
The 2012 Hyundai Azera fits so cleanly between those two models one could argue Hyundai’s engineers took the physical dimensions of the midsize Sonata and luxurious Genesis and simply split the difference when creating this new premium large car. This “stepping stone” philosophy for Azera goes beyond its physical size, as the car’s V6 engine and $32,000 starting price also fit neatly between Hyundai’s other sedans. And given the company’s claim of “over 750,000 Sonata owners that will soon be coming back to the market and looking to step up to a larger sedan” the 2012 Azera’s role is suddenly much more critical than it would have been just a few years ago. So can it play the role of a step up vehicle for Sonata buyers, and maybe even pull in some Acura TL and Lexus ES350 buyers in the process?
The heart of any luxury car will always be its drivetrain. If the engine and transmission don’t provide a smooth and refined driving experience even the brightest chrome trim and softest leather interior surfaces won’t convince potential buyers. The 3.3-liter V6 in the 2012 Hyundai Azera uses direct-injection and a three-stage variable intake system, all hooked to a six-speed automatic, to deliver 293 horsepower in an elegant-yet- fuel-efficient manner. The EPA rates the new Azera at 20 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway and 23 combined, which happen to be best fuel economy figures in the segment. There’s also an “Active Eco” setting driver’s can select that will smooth out (some might say “deaden”) transmission and throttle response to deliver a 7% increase in fuel efficiency.
Like the drivetrain, Hyundai wanted the Azera’s ride and handling to convey a premium feel. Riding on MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link, independent rear suspension the Azera insulates passengers from all but the largest pavement imperfections. Like most modern cars the steering is electric and not hydraulic. And like an increasing number of modern cars, the Azera’s steering wheel offers more road feel and feedback than almost every manufacturer’s earlier attempts at electric steering just a few years ago. It’s no sports car, but the Azera’s confident steering system, combined with its relatively small size and light weight, results in a surprising level of agility on twisty roads.
On the highway, the 2012 Azera maintains its composed demeanor, with barely a hint of wind or road noise invading the cabin. There’s a reason the car remains so placid at high speeds. Its exterior design is described by Hyundai as “Fluidic Sculpture” and is supposed to be inspired by aircraft. If the flowery language doesn’t impress you the real-world effectiveness should – the Azera’s coefficient of drag is a class-leading 0.28. The slippery shape comes not only from flowing body lines but from the addition of air deflectors around the wheels and flat underbody panels that reduce air turbulence.
Interior Design and Function
Despite being smaller on the outside than many competitors, the 2012 Hyundai Azera offers the largest combined interior-plus-cargo capacity in the segment at 123.3 cubic feet. This creates enough space in both the front and rear seats for even the tallest of folks to pile in and not feel cramped. Leg- and headroom is almost ridiculously abundant, with a six-and-a-half foot tall rear passenger sitting behind a six-foot front passenger – both with space to spare – during our testing.
A center console that flows up and into the dashboard continues Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy on the inside. Small openings in the dash and floor area allow optional ambient interior lighting to waft into the cabin when it gets dark while narrow roof pillars contribute to an open, airy feel (and excellent outward visibility) any time, day or night. There are also large, clearly marked buttons on the steering wheel, in the center stack and on the upper door panels that make basic control functions easy to accomplish.
Primary Features and Options
Filling the Azera’s cavernous interior is a long list of standard features, including supple leather upholstery, a navigation system with 7-inch touchscreen, heated front and rear seats, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, a cooled glovebox, a rearview camera and electroluminescent gauges. The standard audio system consists of an AM/FM/SiriusXM receiver with CD and MP3 capabilities. An iPod/USB auxiliary jack is also included, as is HD radio technology.
While all of these items are part of the Azera’s starting price of $32,000, an extra $4,000 buys the Technology Package that adds a panoramic sunroof, power rear sunshade, Infinity Logic7 audio system with 12 speakers, a dedicated subwoofer and an external amplifier (good for 550 watts), plus ventilated front seats and a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with driver’s seat memory. Those interior features from the Technology Package are combined with exterior upgrades like 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights and rear parking sensors.
It’s Perfect For…
Buyer’s seeking a premium vehicle often seek upscale design accents, advanced technology features as well as a luxury nameplate. Those buyers might not consider the new 2012 Hyundai Azera when shopping more traditional luxury brands. That’s too bad, because like most modern Hyundais there’s no denying the value equation the Azera presents in terms of standard features, interior space, refinement and fuel efficiency. Shopping it against similarly equipped models with luxury badging shows a price advantage ranging from a few thousand to several thousand dollars.
Premium sedan shoppers more concerned with smart spending than luxury branding should give the 2012 Hyundai Azera a serious look when it goes on sale in late March.
Vehicle Tested: 2012 Hyundai Azera
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $$32,000
Options on Test Vehicle: Technology Package ($4,000 -- includes 19-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, HID Xenon headlights, power rear sunshade, manual side sunshades, Infinity 12 speaker Logic7 audio system with subwoofer and external amplifier, power adjustable tilt & telescopic steering column, Integrated Memory System (IMS) for driver’s seat, exterior mirrors and steering column, driver’s seat cushion extension, ventilated front seats, rear parking assistance sensors, interior ambient lighting)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $36, 875
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The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.