What It Is
A near-luxury Hyundai sedan that's a size bigger than a Sonata, but not quite the more posh, sporty Genesis.
Beautiful styling inside and out, maybe the best in its class.
Brand new, but feels dated.
The 2013 Hyundai Azera looks great, is comfortable, and offers up plenty of space inside. So why don't we like it more?
After coming back from a weekend spent behind the wheel of the 2013 Hyundai Azera Limited, I sat down at my keyboard to take a few notes about it. Lessee...it was pretty, black, and it had a nice brown-over-tan interior. I vaguely remembered something about a decent navigation system and radio. Oh, and the back seat was pretty big. And, um, the trunk...uh...steering...engine....
Despite having put nearly 300 miles on the Azera, I was hard pressed to come up with many details on it. There was nothing that stuck out. It's neither perfect nor terrible. It's just...nice. No glaring flaws, but nothing that grabs your attention beyond the exterior and interior styling. It went, stopped, and turned as well as anything. It was very comfortable and quiet on an impromptu road trip. But as soon as I closed the door and walked away, it was clear the Azera hadn't made much of an impression, and with that many miles, if a car hasn't made its imprint yet, for better or worse, that's a bad thing.
What We DroveThe 2013 Hyundai Azera Limited we drove came well equipped right out of the box. For its $33,125 base price (which includes an $875 destination charge), we got a 293-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 engine connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, leather seats that are heated in front and in the rear, a high-resolution touchscreen navigation and infotainment system, and touches like pushbutton ignition, an eco mode for the engine, and Hyundai's Blue Link, similar in concept to GM's OnStar telematics system.
The only option was a $4,000 Technology Package, which added super-bright HID headlights, a panoramic sunroof, 19-in. polished wheels, an upgraded Infinity sound system, extendable driver's seat bottom cushion, ventilated front seats, power rear sunshade, and a power adjustable steering wheel. Throw in $100 worth of floor mats, and you ring up a grand total of $37,225. That's not exactly cheap, but in the context of what Hyundai considers competition--the 2013 Toyota Avalon and 2014 Chevy Impala primarily--it's in the ballpark.
The Azera's safety features are fairly par for the course. Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, as is a knee airbag for the driver. The LATCH points in the rear were easy enough to reach, and crash test scores are pretty good so far, scoring Good in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's front, rear and side crash tests, earning it a Top Safety Pick; no federal tests so far.
The CommuteThe Hyundai Azera's size and comfort give it all the makings of an excellent upper-class commuter. It's roomy inside, but you never feel lost in all the space. The armrests aren't too far from your elbows, the switches and buttons are easy to reach and operate, and the car does a good job keeping unwanted outside noises away at both low and high speeds. The 3.3-liter V-6 offers up plenty of power at a tickle of the throttle, and combined with the light steering, it makes darting into those brief holes in traffic a snap. The long legged of us especially liked the Mercedes-Benz-inspired seat controls on the door panel, with the extendable thigh support. There's good knickknack storage as well, with deep cupholders, a hidden storage panel at the bottom of the dash, and a good-sized center console storage bin. We especially liked the Infinity audio system, which delivered soft-spoken NPR banter and head-banging rock 'n roll with equal clarity.
But the suspension is a mess. While the Azera is styled, priced, and advertised as a near-luxury sedan, the suspension thinks it's in a sport sedan. Problem is, it's not a great handling car, so you're stuck with a harsh ride that's out of character with the vehicle's apparent classy-cruiser mission. It's not that we want it to be floating and bouncing around like your grandfather's Oldsmobile, but the thup-thup-thup of the suspension over freeway expansion joints, the steady juddering of the chassis over the same, and the occasional "What did I just hit?" of a larger bump felt wrong for the car.
Some of us were also surprised about how dated the car felt. For example, the multi-information screen nestled between the gauges was a straight-up black and white display, with noticeable pixels. It worked fine, but it was ugly, and looked very mid-2000s, especially considering that the older Hyundai Sonata has a full-color display. Some of the materials felt a little chintzy, too, and in some ways the Azera felt a half-step behind its Sonata sibling.
The Grocery RunThe 2013 Hyundai Azera is a big sedan, and its trunk has more than enough space to carry everything everybody in the car may need to stow. Loading it up with a week's worth of groceries is a snap. The gooseneck hinges slip into covered recesses in the trunk, and there's enough room for all 20 of our grocery bags when we tested it out, with room to spare. Even with our Britax stroller taking up space, we could still get 14 bags in. the trunk opening was large, and even though it was a bit of a reach to get to items that had rolled toward the rear seatbacks, it wasn't as difficult as in other vehicles. If you need to haul long items, that seatback folds down, too.
For rear passengers, the doors open up wide, and our unofficial under-10 junior testers had no problem scrambling into their booster seats and buckling themselves in. Front passengers will have to scoot forward a bit to accommodate a rear-facing infant seat, but the Azera has plenty of front legroom, so it shouldn't cause any discomfort. And for anyone with kids, it's important to note that the leather upholstery wipes clean from little footprints, although the black hard plastic on the lower part of the center console scuffed and stained easily; keeping it clean will be a hassle.
The Azera's easy to maneuver in a parking lot despite its size, thanks to a clear backup camera, parking sensors, and pretty decent sight lines, at least for a modern car. The car responds quickly to the steering wheel, too, all of which combines to make it feel smaller than it is.
The Weekend FunThe big 2013 Hyundai Azera practically screamed "road trip," but without a long-distance destination planned, a day-trip to a not-so-local pie bakery was a fine replacement. The route involved about a 50-50 mix of highway and mountain road driving, perfect for trying out the Azera's ability at a steady cruise and on a more challenging two-lane stretch.
The hope was that at higher speeds, the Azera's highway cruising would smooth out, and some of the lower-speed bumpity-bump we felt commuting would disappear. It did, up to a point. The Azera still felt a little unsorted, floating some of the time, delivering a sharply heard and felt "thwack" other times, although it was notably better than when on city streets. The seat was certainly comfortable, and the cooling function was much-appreciated as the black car heated up quickly whenever parked during the day.
Maybe we're getting a bit spoiled, but we couldn't help but think that this car could really use active cruise control. Its two primary competitors--the Chevy Impala and Toyota Avalon--have it available, but it's not even on the options list here. Surprisingly, the long highway stretches didn't really help fuel economy much, either. It had been hovering in the 19- to 20-mpg range; even after nearly 100 miles, it only crept up to about 23 mpg, squarely in the car's EPA-estimated combined range.
When we got off the highway and hit the twisty sections, the stiffness in the suspension that we minded on the highway didn't pay off with agile handling. This is still a big car, and it never feels particularly at ease on a winding road. It can manage it, of course, it's not like it suddenly lurches into a ravine or something. But while the suspension, steering, and engine in some cars combine to be a devil on your shoulder, this one was just the opposite, advising us to play it safe as the road undulated through the hills near San Diego. However, it passed the only real test it needed: Three third graders traveling in back all day without getting carsick. We found the Azera plenty comfortable at those cruising speeds, despite the occasional, unexpected clunk that the Azera's suspension couldn't dampen.
SummaryThe problem with the 2013 Hyundai Azera is that Hyundai got caught out in the cold. While the current Azera debuted just a few months ago in the U.S., this exact car has been on sale in Korea now for a couple of years, and was designed to compete against the previous-generation Toyota Avalon. In that context, the Azera makes a lot of sense. It's quiet, comfortable, roomy, inoffensive, and ultimately forgettable, just like the older Toyota. But the new Avalon is a different animal, with dynamic styling, a fun to drive character, better fuel economy, more features, and just an overall better value proposition. The same holds true for the new Chevy Impala, although maybe not quite as strongly, since the Azera has an arguably higher-quality interior. None of that takes into account that there are a half-dozen other cars that also compete in this same mid-$30,000 price range that we'd pick over the Azera.
Hopefully a mid-cycle update will add a few more features to this Hyundai and sort out the suspension to something better suited to American roads. In the meantime, as pretty as it is, we'll pass.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $37,275
EPA City: 20
EPA Highway: 29
EPA Combined: 23
Cargo Space: 20-plus Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Good
Estimated Combined Range: 426 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Above Average
"There's nothing wrong with this car, per se, except that it feels dated and the suspension doesn't like city streets. I'd take the Avalon over this without hesitation." -Jacob Brown, Associate Editor
"Looks awesome. Great design language. Fresh, new, muscular. Except that it's not muscular. Heavy car. Very soft. Floaty feeling. These are critical words. But that's really just me being disappointed to find out that Azera isn't what I thought it was, and really, that it's just pretty danged good at being the exact opposite of what I thought it was" -Jason Davis, Associate Editor