2016 Hyundai Azera Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 28, 2016

For those who don't want or need the Genesis' price tag, the 2016 Hyundai Azera satisfies the near-luxury need for style and features.

The Hyundai Azera is the South Korean automaker's full-size sedan, a rival for cars like the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, and Chevy Impala. Like those vehicles, it's been restyled and repositioned as a more dramatic-looking companion to less-expensive mainstream sedans. And like those vehicles, the Azera offers a raft of technology and luxury features that wouldn't be out of place in cars with very expensive badgework.

Overall, the Azera remains one of the better efforts in this class—a half step down from luxury brands, but a solid step up from mass-market mid-size sedans.

The Azera is still aimed at the mass market, but also at those car buyers looking for a dashing design. The Azera hits that high-water mark, only exceeded at Hyundai by the new and sleekly styled Genesis. The Azera is heavily sculpted and dynamic-looking, with a lot of attention paid to the details. It wears a lovely set of curves, and caps them with LED taillamps, side mirrors with built-in turn-signal indicators, and HID xenon headlamps. For the 2015 model year, Hyundai updated the grille shape and the front end to come closer to that of the new Genesis.

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Inside, the layout is definitely more cockpit-like than in most other large sedans, but the dash pushes outward at the corners to help free up a little more space. Cool-blue accent lighting keeps with the ambiance, and there's a very distinctive two-tier layout, with some combinations pairing a lighter-tone lower tier with a darker upper tier that matches the upholstery.

For performance, the Azera relies on some of the same hardware as the Sonata family sedan, with one big exception. The Azera offers more than adequate straight-line performance from its 3.3-liter V-6, which makes 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque—on regular gasoline. It's smooth and responsive, thanks in part to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which includes a Shiftronic manual mode. The transmission has a wide range of gear ratios to allow quick takeoffs, strong passing ability, and relaxed cruising.

The Azera's ride and handling give priority to comfort, but that doesn't mean they lack control. Its electric power steering is confidence inspiring and special Sachs amplitude-selective dampers not only help filter out minor bumps but provide the comfortable ride that most large-car shoppers are after. Thankfully, automakers have realized that vehicles in this segment don't need to be so floaty and motion-sickness-inducing.

The Azera has the seating space, smooth ride, and luxury-car feel for fussy family members or business meetings alike. It's a luxury car, in terms of seating, ride, and interior appointments. Front seats are adjustable to a wide range of sizes, and you can get heated-and-cooled ventilated functions. In back, there's lots of sprawl-out legroom, as well as just enough headroom for adults—thanks to two recesses carved out of the headliner. Getting in and out of the back seat isn't as easy as some might hope, though.

Based on IIHS testing, the Hyundai Azera offers great safety and security. It earned top "Good" scores in frontal, side, and rear impact testing, and in the roof-strength test it withstood 4.76 times its weight. The IIHS has not yet subjected the Azera to its tougher front small overlap test, so it can't be considered for the current Top Safety Pick status. The federal government has not put an Azera through its test regimen. A rearview camera system is included, as are those improved blind-spot mirrors this year, and dual rear side-impact bags are among the nine standard airbags.

The Azera is offered in two models: Azera and Azera Limited. The base Azera includes keyless ignition, proximity-key entry, Bluetooth connectivity, power front seats, navigation, full leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, heated front and rear seats, and a 6.0-inch audio display system with six Mobis speakers. Hyundai also includes the latest version of its Blue Link system on all Azeras; the system works with a smartphone app and can allow for parental controls to be set for vehicle use.

Limited models upgrade to the 450-watt Dimension sound system, which includes XM satellite radio, HD Radio, iPod/USB connectivity, and an auxiliary input jack, a hands-free trunk opener, rear reading lights, a power-adjustable steering wheel, a power sunroof, rear parking assistance, and power-folding side mirrors. Adaptive cruise control and stop/start are new to the Limited model for the 2016 model year, as is an electronic parking brake.A Premium Package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking assistance, a power rear sunshade, and manual rear side-window sunshades.

Fuel economy is decent for the class, with ratings of 20 mpg city, 29 highway, 23 combined. That puts it just behind the Impala and non-hybrid Avalon, but all of them are nowhere near the gas-electric Toyota, which hits a highway rating of 40 mpg.

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2016 Hyundai Azera

Styling

The Azera is a handsome, dynamic-looking sedan that's distinctive enough from the rest of the Hyundai lineup.

The Hyundai Azera used to be the most formal, least expressive sedan in the company's lineup. Now it's at the forefront of a dramatic design movement at Hyundai, and it's one of the more attractive full-size sedans on the road.

Like many of Hyundai's current models—and building on the "Fluidic Sculpture" theme that made its debut in the Sonata—the Azera has two distinctive side creases in the sheet metal, which don't quite meet but together form a strong expression. In the Azera, one of them starts just behind the headlamps, flowing along the top of the fender and upward to the back of the front door; meanwhile, another starts just ahead of the rear door handle, flowing upward, then across and forming the actual decklid crease around the back.

For 2015, Hyundai updated the Azera's shape with a fresh front end that factored in more angular lines to the formerly softly creased nose. New LED fog lamps were added on Limited versions, and the grille was reshaped into a more rectangular shape with a gentle arc at its bottom.

The Azera's interior feels more like that of a luxury car in that it has a very distinctive, cockpit-like two-tier layout, with some combinations pairing a lighter-tone lower tier with a darker upper that matches the upholstery. There are soft-touch and matte surfaces within reach of the driver and passenger. It's all tasteful, with interior brightwork kept to a minimum, and done in a cloudy matte-metallic finish. Models with the Tech Package include blue ambient lighting tucked under that top tier of dash and door trim, as well as in footwells.

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2016 Hyundai Azera

Performance

The Hyundai Azera is a confident performer, but comfort is its primary mission.

Just slightly larger than the Sonata sedan, the Hyundai Azera has one major difference that separates it from its more mainstream sibling: a V-6 engine that's standard, and its only powertrain. The Azera is also front-wheel drive, and like the Sonata, has a quick and refined attitude, with a suspension designed for comfort as well as relatively responsive handling.

The Azera uses a MacPherson strut-type front system, and a multi-link setup in back, while Sachs amplitude-selective dampers help filter out minor bumps without reducing body control. Special attention has been paid to side loading, to help increase confidence on curvy roads, and body motion is better controlled than in other luxury cars with a soft ride. Ride quality is superb, with only the most jarring bumps heard heard and felt in the cabin.

The 3.3-liter V-6 in the Azera is the only powertrain Hyundai offers in the big sedan. It's rated at 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, and factors in a host of technical goodies like direct injection, four valves per cylinder, dual continuously variable valve timing, double overhead cams, and a three-stage variable intake system.

The V-6 has a dual personality of sorts, revving high and eagerly, making its peak power at 6,400 rpm, just short of redline. Yet it already makes 200 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm, so it's also quite torquey at low revs—at least compared to Hyundai's former V-6 engines. Hyundai likes to point out that it has a higher specific output than other engines in this class, but that's mostly offset by its smaller displacement. It is hooked to a 6-speed automatic that shifts pretty smoothly.

The Azera's driving character is responsive enough to meet most drivers' expectation, but it's also easygoing enough to compare well with cars like the Avalon and LaCrosse. The transmission includes a Shiftronic manual mode, although it's responsive in "Drive" and has a wide ratio spread for relaxed highway cruising or quick takeoffs. The electric power steering system in the Azera feels more comfortable and better tuned than what's used in other Hyundai front-wheel drive products, with a good sense of center and predictable weighting.

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2016 Hyundai Azera

Comfort & Quality

With the Azera, Hyundai offers real luxury-car ambience, spacious accommodations, and a smooth ride.

If you thought of the Azera as a luxury car minus the prestigious badge, you're not alone. It has almost all the amenities, comfort, size, and even design of high-priced luxury cars, perhaps without the last layer of refinement.

The Azera slots between the Sonata and the Genesis in the Hyundai lineup. The wheelbase is a couple of inches longer than that in the Sonata, and overall length is up 3.5 inches. It's also wider; in all, the Azera is nearly as spacious inside as some flagships from luxury brands.

Ride quality is superb, with only the most jarring bumps heard heard and felt in the cabin. And inside, it's quiet—very quiet—with nearly all road noise filtered out; likewise, you hear engine noise only when accelerating hard. The Azera also cuts through the air easier than any large sedan (tied with the Avalon, at 0.28), which helps keep wind noise down and efficiency up.

Adults will find plenty of sprawl-out leg room in front or in back. Front seats are adjustable to a wide range of sizes, and we like how Hyundai has assembled the power-seat controls, Mercedes-Benz style, along the upper door trim. As for the back seats, head room is the limiting factor, although there's just enough for taller adults, thanks to two recesses carved into the headliner. If anyone ends up in the middle, they might not be as happy, as the headliner's lower there and the bench position is notably harder (the back of the center console is there as well).

Ingress and egress is disappointing, and it's the only real price of the fashionable exterior. Taller folks will have to lean forward and duck their heads under the curved-down roofline when getting in.

It's a very thoughtful interior, otherwise. Under the audio and climate controls, there's a large hinged bin with a felted interior housing auxiliary and USB ports, and a hinged compartment next to the shift knob containing a couple of cupholders. The space behind the center stack has also been used—a la Volvo—with a tray at the bottom, and the center console itself has the capacity to hide a camera or small purse. Cupholders and bottle recesses, along with map pockets, are included along all doors, too. And there's a useful pinch point that lines up about where you might splay your knees.

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2016 Hyundai Azera

Safety

The Azera earns good IIHS crash-test scores, but the NHTSA hasn't reported yet.

The Hyundai Azera has a strong set of safety features and some good crash-test scores in its column, but the picture remains incomplete.

The Azera includes a total of nine standard airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and separate rear side-impact bags. Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and an impact-reducing front-seat design are all part of the standard kit.

We don't think outward visibility is as good as in some rival models—although the rearview camera system helps make up for it. Perhaps to compensate further, Hyundai recently added standard blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist functions.

The federal government's NHTSA hasn't yet rated the Azera. The IIHS has awarded the Azera top "Good" scores in moderate frontal, side, and rear impact testing, plus roof strength: It did particularly well—withstanding 4.76 times its weight. The Azera hasn't been subjected to the IIHS' small frontal overlap test, and so cannot be considered for Top Safety Pick status.

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2016 Hyundai Azera

Features

The Azera is a good value for its size, but then again, so is Hyundai's less-expensive Sonata.

The Hyundai Azera comes in two trims, base and Limited. Overall, it's a strong value, but if you're not attached to V-6 power, much of the same goodness is available in Hyundai's latest Sonata sedan.

All Azera sedans come with power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; an AM/FM audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming, and six speakers. Base cars also include leather upholstery; power front seats; keyless ignition; heated front and rear seats; heated side mirrors; a hands-free trunk opener; navigation; and an 8.0-inch touchscreen display.

The Azera also gets Hyundai's subscription-based Blue Link system, which offers a suite of services like vehicle location, remote vehicle access, emergency and roadside assistance, turn-by-turn navigation, and traffic and weather updates. The system was updated for 2015 and now includes a smartphone app for remote control.

Limited models upgrade to the 450-watt Dimension sound system, which includes XM satellite radio, HD Radio, iPod/USB connectivity, and an auxiliary input jack. The Azera Limited also adds rear reading lights, a power-adjustable steering wheel, 19-inch wheels, a power sunroof, rear parking assistance, a panoramic sunroof, and power-folding side mirrors. Adaptive cruise control and stop/start are new to the Limited model for the 2016 model year, as is an electronic parking brake.

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2016 Hyundai Azera

Fuel Economy

The Azera's fuel economy is in the middle of the full-size pack.

Without a hybrid in its lineup, or even a smaller-displacement engine alternative, the Hyundai Azera scores only middling fuel-economy ratings.

The Azera has an Active Eco feature, which helps somewhat with gas mileage. Activated by a button, the car's drivetrain draws out throttle and transmission responses, and runs accessories (such as climate control) more conservatively. Hyundai says it's enough to trim fuel consumption by about 7 percent.

Active Eco isn't factored in to the Azera's EPA ratings of 20 mpg city, 29 highway, 23 combined, according to the EPA. The Azera, at least, doesn't require premium fuel. The Azera Limited is rated separately—mostly because it weighs about 200 pounds more than the entry-level car—and manages 19/28/22 mpg, according to the EPA.

However there's still no hybrid version, which both the Lexus ES and Toyota Avalon offer with ratings of up to 40 mpg highway. And even the Buick LaCrosse comes with an eAssist mild-hybrid system that helps it achieve a highway rating of 37 mpg. For now, if you want a hybrid from Hyundai, you'll have to move down a size to the Sonata—which in non-hybrid form earns EPA ratings of up to 37 mpg highway.

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