2012 Hyundai Azera: Up Close

By Kelsey Mays  on November 15, 2011

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Hyundai's lineup is taking shape. The Azera marks the seventh car to adopt the automaker's fluid design language, and the proportions beat the Sonata's: curvier rear flanks and a nose that hugs the front fenders tighter. Though it's a few inches longer than its family-sedan sibling, the Azera looks tauter — no easy feat, given that rival full-sizers like the Taurus and Avalon appear bloated from certain angles.

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Cabin materials are competitive, with plenty of glitz in the show car: piano blacks, chrome accents, soft leather. Still, product chief Mike O'Brien said the Azera will compete with front-drive, entry luxury sedans alongside traditional full-sizers. So think Acura TL, Buick LaCrosse, Lexus ES 350. The latest trend among the entry-premium crowd is to throw some leather — or faux leather — atop the dash. I'm surprised the Azera didn't go that route.

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The car's beltline creates some visibility issues. It seems lower around the side, rendering tall enough side windows. Decent side mirrors and manageable C-pillars help, too. But the dash ascends a long ways toward the high windshield, whose steep rake creates some Chevy Camaro effect out front. Like several other fluid Hyundai designs, the Azera’s windshield feels too small.

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Hyundai claims best-in-class front legroom and headroom. Numbers can mislead, but I had a ton of space up front to stretch my legs. Legroom in back is excellent, with a low floor hump making the center seat usable. Headroom could be better, however, and the seat sits a bit low to the floor for my 5-foot-11 frame.

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The Azera has a long hill to climb, and to the average car shopper, I suspect it sails in similar waters as the Genesis — a shrinking pond, if you look at sales for the leading full-size sedans (excluding the fleet-heavy Chevrolet Impala). The Azera shows promise; it’s arguably the best-looking Hyundai sedan yet. We’ll have to wait and see how it fares.


Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey


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