Affordable luxury sounds like a contradiction, but Hyundai has shown it can (and does) exist with its redesigned 2012 Azera.
The Azera scored big with my family. With all its modern-day conveniences and tons of room inside, each of us had different reasons for loving it. Even my toddler showed signs of relaxation inside the Azera, and she's not one for long rides in the car. She logged some serious hours inside the Azera because I always found a reason to drive it. Whether I was in gridlock on one of the many congested Los Angeles freeways or just en route to the grocery store, the Azera was a pleasure to drive.
Enough gushing. Besides luxury, the Azera provides a great driving experience, too. With a ride soft enough to be comfortable but not so much that I could be lulled to sleep, it seemed to strike just the right chord. Its V-6 engine gives it a restrained power. In other words, I never really felt a surge of power when putting pedal to metal; it was more of a gradual, building power. It wasn't a problem for me, but the Azera may be a bit too subtle for some who enjoy the performance of a larger engine.
The 2012 Hyundai Azera starts at $32,875 (including an $875 destination charge), but the addition of the Technology Package boosted my test car's price to $36,875.
The Azera is a gorgeous sedan. Its redesign makes it almost unrecognizable when compared to the previous generation. It's similar in looks to the other Hyundai sedans like the Elantra and Sonata with its sculpted frame and fluid design; the Azera is just a little larger. It looks mature and just a touch no-nonsense, but it's still a looker all the same.
Despite its sleek profile and seemingly low-slung stature, the Azera is much easier to enter and exit than you might think. It's a nice surprise to find you don't have to sacrifice function for form. Grandparents all the way to young children should have no troubles getting in and out of the Azera, but they should take extra care when opening the doors. The sedan sits low and it seems easy to scratch the door's bottom when opening it near a curb.
The Azera's trunk is spacious; go ahead and pack the double stroller in it. With my single stroller, portable crib and quick jaunt to the supermarket, I did just fine hauling all I needed in the Azera's trunk.
The Azera has a 293-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 that's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The biggest fault I found with the Azera was its EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20/29 mpg city/highway. I averaged 16 mpg on city streets. Thank goodness the Azera only requires regular unleaded gasoline; with low numbers like 16 mpg and a large fuel tank, it makes for higher costs at the pump.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
Everything about the Azera is upscale — from the leather-wrapped steering wheel to the LED ambient lighting in the cabin.
Any seat inside the Azera is a great one to be in. In addition to its sleek center console with brushed aluminum-looking plastic trim, drivers will love the modern displays and graphics. Passengers will revel in the generous legroom and ample personal space, and everybody will enjoy standard heated leather seats (even the backseat passengers!).
Those who claim ambivalence toward the bells and whistles will be wowed the Azera's interior space. This is great news for gangly teens as well as front passengers with a child-safety seat installed behind them. My husband was a happy passenger all week long as he rode shotgun — legs outstretched and all. The backseat is huge. I easily fit two child-safety seats in the back, and if I didn't have safety seats, three passengers could sit comfortably in the second row.
Also standard on the Azera is Hyundai's Blue Link, which is similar to GM's OnStar, and offers personalized concierge service. Whether you need directions, reservations, emergency roadside service or even the lowest gas prices in your area, Blue Link can provide you with the information with just one touch of a button on the rearview mirror. It also can keep tech-savvy parents connected with the internet, and it even has a smartphone application. It allows parents to receive alerts when the car leaves an established perimeter or is driven after a designated time. Now that is family friendly!
As the mother of a toddler, my favorite features were the Azera's optional sunshades. On L.A.'s hot, sunny days, my daughter, who sits in a rear-facing car seat, was kept cool by the sunshades on both rear door windows and a power sunshade that covered the rear window. There aren't enough words to describe how wonderful these small details made my long commutes.
The Azera also has four cupholders, bottleholders in the door pockets, a large center console, an overhead compartment to stash your sunglasses and a big ol' glove box.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Azera has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this safety nod, a car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. The 2012 Azera hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are two sets of lower Latch anchors in the Azera's backseat. Although they appear to be buried by the seat cushions, the anchors are easily accessible. With such a large backseat, there's plenty of room to maneuver when installing a car seat. Find out how the 2012 Azera performed in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
The Azera has standard front-wheel drive, antilock brakes, an electronic stability system with traction control, a backup camera and nine airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and rear side-impact airbags. Rear parking sensors and xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are available.
Get more safety information on the 2012 Hyundai Azera here.