Hyundai has quite an array of sedans, from the Accent economy car to the Equus luxury machine. Hatchbacks, coupes and SUVs are in the mix, but sedans are the brands core.
The Sonata midsize sedan is perhaps the best known. And for people who want a bit more in size and features than that — but not the luxury trappings of the Genesis or Equus — the automaker redesigned its Azera sedan.
You can think of it as a bigger, fancier Sonata and youd be close enough. Its often compared with Toyota Avalon and Buick LaCrosse, which are about the same size.
Those are what pass for full-size cars today, but they really all are closer to midsize inside, offering about the same total passenger space as a Honda Accord, which is midsize.
Azera, at 107 cubic feet of passenger space, is the overall leader, but the range in the segment is small. Accords is about 103 cubic feet.
A higher or lower roof can affect the overall passenger space measurement quite a bit, so dont take those numbers as a perfect index of roominess. Azera shines in the space race in front-seat legroom. Its about 45 inches, which is 5 inches more than for most cars. The tradeoff is modest rear legroom, a few inches less than in rivals.
Unfortunately, theres not a lot of lateral leg space up front in the Azera. The center stack control panel that runs from the bottom of the dashboard to the floor console is wider than it needs to be. And the door handle/power-window-switch pod is your legs enemy on the other side.
After a short while, based on Test Drives time in a nicely equipped Azera, you can begin to feel a little pinched up front, especially if you like to lean your legs sideways instead of keeping them perfectly straight. The rivals, such as LaCrosse and Avalon, dont seem to have that problem.
Physiques and driving positions differ, so the space issue might be a bigger deal, or a smaller one, for you.
The bigger point, though, is that you shouldnt have to worry at all about such things if youre buying what you thought was a big car.
Also worth noting about the Azera:
Fuel economy. By our heavy-footed standards, it was terrific, nearly 20 mpg in a challenging mix of driving including some dense city-center traffic. Azeras only engine is a 3.3-liter V-6 rated 293 horsepower and 255 pounds-feet of torque. Those are competitive within the class.
Performance. Ho-hum. That engine runs well but isnt much fun. Floor the gas, no joy. Adequate, but nothing that makes you want to drive in sporting fashion. Which no doubt contributes to the good mpg.
Handling and ride comfort. A bit heavy-feeling in corners, as in the old days of front-drive cars. But the suspension tames wrinkled asphalt pretty well, and thats probably more important to buyers of large, premium sedans. Thing is, others do it better. Toyota, for example, did such a great job on the Avalon overhaul that it is both sporty and comfy and thus more appealing to drive.
Interior. Nicely done. Surfaces and textures and shapes are pleasing to see and touch. Controls are mostly logical and easy to operate. Leather upholstery is standard, as are navigation and heated front and rear seats. Hyundai has not forgotten that being a good value is a huge part of its brand appeal
Styling. Its what Hyundai calls the fluidic look, matching Sonatas theme. Test Drive finds it appealing, though thinks it may look dated in a few years. Porsche 911 sports cars have looked different over the years, but they never look out-of-date, or wrong. So its possible to be both stylish and enduring.
Pickups are that way. Some look older, some newer, but they all look right. You might refuse to buy a used truck because of its equipment or the miles it has gone, but youd be unlikely to reject it because of looks.
Reasonable people often disagree on matters of taste, so your eye might give you other signals.
A word about that $4,000 technology package a lot of Azeras will have. Its not a tech package, its a comfort/convenience package. The car has so much tech stuff standard that its hard to figure why Hyundai uses technology as the name for a suite of features headlined by bigger wheels, brighter lights and an adjustable steering column.
And, a word about the cars turning-circle diameter. Its not very big, tighter, in fact, than some midsize sedans. That makes Azera, despite its hefty exterior dimensions, a snap to park. Theres been a tendency toward ever bigger turning circles, often due to todays trendy big, wide tires. A car thats hard to turn around, or requires you to stop, back up, then finish the turn, doesnt do anybody any good. Thanks, Hyundai.
Azera has a lot going for it, but it wont satisfy people who like sporty engagement with their cars.
HYUNDAI AZERA DETAILS
What? Not-quite-full-size, four-door, front-drive sedan that slots into Hyundais lineup above the Sonata and below the Genesis; redesigned for 2012 model and unchanged for 2013.
When? The 2013 has been on sale since September after a brief 2012 model year after the redesign rolled out earlier in the year.
Where? Made in South Korea.
How much? Starts at $33,145 including shipping. Many will have the technology package, a $4,000 option.
What makes it go? 3.3-liter V-6 rated 293 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, 255 pounds-feet at 5,200, six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode.
How big? About the same as Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse.
Passenger space, 107 cubic feet. Trunk, 16.3 cu. ft.
Turning circle diameter, 36.5 ft.
How thirsty? Rated 20 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, 23 in combined city/highway use.
Trip computer in test car registered 19.5 mpg (5.13 gallons per 100 miles) in mix of routine suburban driving, fast highway driving and a heavy dose of urban stop-go.
Burns regular, holds 18.5 gal.
Overall: Spiffy looking, lavish standard features, but unexciting to drive.