Brand names really do have us fooled, don't they? As hard as I try to fight the name game, why is that cute summer cami I ogle even cuter when branded with three of my favorite letters: "G," "A" and "P"? Yes, I stand guilty as charged and admit that I am not immune to clever marketing tactics. This is also the case with wine; I ponder what effect the covert switching of bottle labels would have on the "oohing" and "aahing" factor of this lovely libation. I concede I've been enticed by a sommelier's flowery description of a vintage and, dare I say it, price - only to walk away wondering if that "brilliant" choice was really all that different from the bottle I've got kicking around on our sun-drenched counter top.
Enter Hyundai. An example of what I've always considered to be a mediocre mode of transport. My first (and simultaneously last) Hyundai outing years ago with a college study buddy left lots to be desired. I'm not sure which was tackier, the car or the acquaintance. Needless to say, I hesitantly walked up to my Azera test car expecting the bare minimum: four tires, a shell and a motor.
The pretty powder-white exterior catches my eye, and as I enter the vehicle I am surprised by the pleasant use of wood trim, steering wheel and all. There is a hint of "cheap," but as long as I turn a blind eye to the plastic-like door handles, everything else is in line with the luxury car big boys. I'm stunned at the collection of features Hyundai has managed to squeeze into the Azera, and begin to look at Hyundai in a whole new light.
I notice an overhead console box for sunglasses, which I'm a big fan of. Additionally, I am delighted to come upon a huge fuzzy storage compartment in the dash, which holds a couple more pairs of shades, finally organizing my family's optic wear effectively. This does not take away from typical storage space; in the Azera's case a two-part center console, four cupholders, driver- and passenger-side front and rear door compartments, plus a few others. And let me not forget the cargo area's stellar recessed plastic compartment holding the wine I bought solely for the groovy label.
Driving into the setting sun, I fold down the visor and notice that there is also a 3-inch visor extension and a card/brochure clip. Clever! Curious as to what other thoughtful features Hyundai is hiding, I consult the owner's manual and come across another crafty something: a small separate portfolio is included with the manual to hold insurance cards, registration information and a maintenance log. What a simple idea, yet so sensible. A quick reference guide is also provided for my convenience. Furthermore, there's an easy-to-read pamphlet on airbag safety, with some of the best illustrations I've come across detailing the numerous airbags included in Hyundai's standard package.
The Azera's steering-wheel buttons, which operate audio and cruise controls, are a welcome addition, but I am specifically fond of the steering wheel's mute button. It's easy to use and allows me to limit the noise pollution that apparently comes standard with our family (those sneaky outdoor voices tend to reign without any sign of surrender). Hey, Hyundai, how about crafting a couple of those clever little levers for each of my kids, indulging this mom in just a few (or maybe more) "Now I hear you, now I don't" moments?
Some other niceties I enjoy in the Azera are the rain-sensing wipers, the automatic headlights, fold-in mirrors and the compass in the rearview mirror. Also, because the gas-tank lever is right at arm level in the door, I don't have to stretch (or search) for it.
On a downside, I must not have a Hyundai tush, because even though the Azera has six-way powered memory seating and a power pedal adjustment, I just can't get as comfortable as I would like. I feel like I'm on one of those outdated puffy leather couches. My husband, however, seems perfectly content, and I suppose I could distract my non-Hyundai-compatible-tush with the front seat heaters (in the winter, that is). One last gripe I have with the Azera is that I have to dig into the seat to get to the Latch connectors. Once the car seats are finally installed and we're on our way, I'm able to keep my kids happy with the rear temperature controls, the power rear sunshade and the sunroof.
Typically, I have a strong first impression of a test car and gradually discover all the little nuisances that make me wish for bigger and better. My Hyundai experience is opposite. The minor annoyances are spotted straightaway, but as I continue driving the Azera I uncover all the helpful features Hyundai has styled the car with. This is a brand to reckon with, offering us great quality at a fair price. Keep up the great work, Hyundai. You've just won yourself another fan.
*For more information on the Hyundai Azera and its safety features, visit www.cars.com.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
LATCH Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair - Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some-Good Times
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||April 29, 2005|
|Mark Glover||The Sacramento Bee||August 4, 2006|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||May 31, 2006|
|Colette Fischer||Mother Proof||May 30, 2006|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||May 14, 2006|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||March 26, 2006|
|Anita Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||March 15, 2006|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||December 1, 2005|
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