Hyundai's Azera may not come to mind when you think of a full-size sedan, but it would be a shame to overlook it — especially because it has been stylishly redesigned for 2012. (The '13 has no major changes.) The Azera fits into the Korean carmaker's lineup above one of our favorite midsize sedans, the Sonata, and below the luxury Genesis.
Appearance: Frumpy look, begone! Like the rest of Hyundai's lineup, which has been revamped using its "fluidic sculpture" design philosophy, the Azera finally gets its makeover. It's now a striking sedan whose flowing lines resemble its siblings, albeit less "wavy" than the Sonata. The Azera has a curved chrome grille and other bold details such as jewel-like headlights with LCD accents, chrome-trimmed fog lights in the front fascia and taillights that wrap all the way around the rear. Chrome-tipped dual exhaust and 19-inch alloy wheels also add bling.
Performance: The 3.3-liter GDI V-6 makes 293 horsepower and provides plenty of pickup with a smooth-shifting 6-speed transmission. Still, the Azera won't be confused with a sports sedan. The cushy ride is engineered more for comfort than performance, with a soft suspension that soaks up bumps but doesn't give in to the "floaty" feeling you get in some larger sedans. The electronic power steering feels a bit vague but the Azera's handling is precise. Lyra had to react instantly to evade a reckless driver on a rainy Interstate 4 — jerking the wheel sideways. The car stayed planted and recovered well.
Interior: Little road or wind noise intrude into the quiet cabin. The Azera has a lot of standard features; it comes in just one trim level with a technology package ($4,000) as the only option. The fit and finish are good, even with an abundance of hard plastic. Hyundai says Azera has best-in-class headroom and legroom, and we found it spacious, although Peter felt the comfortable leather seats were positioned too high. We both liked the seat adjustment on the door — a Mercedes touch — but Lyra found it was located too far forward. Lyra thought the chestnut brown leather added warmth to the interior, but Peter saw it as an odd contrast to the rest of the black trim. We both loved the panoramic sunroof, which is part of the option package. There were some annoyances. The Blue Link buttons are on the rearview mirror and can be pushed accidentally while trying to adjust the mirror. And why no blind-spot warning system, even as an option? (There is a rearview camera and parking assist.) There is a big dial for the volume control, but no tuning dial.
Our 3 favorites
Controlled ride: It doesn't handle like a boat.
Upscale look: It resembles an expensive car.
Standard features: Lots of them in one trim level.
Sedan style: It's looks like a hybrid of a Sonata and Hyundai's corporate cousin, Kia's sleek Optima sedan (my favorite).
Cushy seats: Comfortable and impact-absorbent.
Quiet cabin: Not much road or wind noise.
The bottom line: The Hyundai Azera carries an expensive look if not a price tag. Call it Luxury Lite. For those looking for a comfortable full-size sedan that doesn't sacrifice features or styling, this is your car.