Just a few years ago, the Hyundai lineup had about as much visual jazz as an ISO 9001 PowerPoint. Hyundai decided it needed big drama to make itself better-known, and that's why we have Sonata, Veloster, and Elantra.
The 2011 Azera's a hold-over from the old school. Granted, it's in the last year of its life in the U.S. market, but there's no getting around the fact that the Azera just doesn't look like a Hyundai anymore. The Sonata and Elantra are catchy, curvy, crested with chrome...and the Azera is anonymous in a way that probably makes Toyota's most cautious designers blush with envy. Anonymity has its place in the world, but not in a niche where the Nissan Maxima and Buick LaCrosse set the dashing pace. Setting the "statement" factor aside, there's everything to admire about the Azera's quiet attractiveness, the way it goes out of its way to attract attention--or to detract from bigger, more expensive Genesis or Equus sedans.
Inside, the Azera takes a bit more risk. The interior clearly preceded the carefully surfaced, well-executed piece on the Genesis luxury four-door. Some of the same sculpturing shows up on the Azera's dash, and it's handsome even alongside decent-quality woodgrain trim. It's a modern look circa 2009, all still perfectly tasteful, but without the adventurous take you'll see inside a Sonata.
Hyundai's made some minor tweaks to the Azera for 2011, but it's a challenge to spot them at a glance. The grille and decklid have been slightly reshaped; the wheels are new; and the center console has new graining on its metallic finish.