You’re forgiven if you’re looking at this picture, scratching your head, and saying to yourself: “Azer-Wha?” This is a 2014 Azera, and Hyundai sells more than twice as many of them as it does its Equus flagship luxury sedan.
Now, before you think that I’m alluding to an impressive number, that’s actually a kind way of saying that Azeras sit on Hyundai dealership lots collecting dust. Having just spent a week driving one all over Southern California, I saw only one other Azera, and it had those rental car barcode stickers in the windows. If nothing else, then, if you get an Azera, you won’t see yourself coming and going everywhere you drive it.
Hyundai’s full-size sedan, which slots into the automaker’s lineup between the Sonata and the Genesis, deserves better. This is a good car at what constitutes a good value, and there can only be one reason for its utter absence from American roads: Hyundai offers nothing beyond a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, and Blue Link telematics service in terms of safety technologies.
If that’s not a problem for you, and you’re interested in a big, quiet, powerful sedan, the 2014 Hyundai Azera is an impressive car, easily worth a starting price of less than $32,000.
2014 Hyundai Azera Review and Quick Spin: About Our Test Car
Hyundai offers the Azera in standard and Limited trim, the latter commanding a $3,750 premium over the Azera’s $31,895 base price (including a destination charge of $895).
My test car is the Azera Limited, painted Diamond White Pearl and featuring Graphite Black leather. Limited models include, in addition to standard equipment, power folding side mirrors, Xenon headlights, electroluminescent gauges, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a power adjustable driver’s seat cushion extension, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, ambient cabin lighting, a premium 14-speaker audio system with HD Radio, and a navigation system with an 8-inch color touchscreen.
A Premium Package ($2,150) is offered only for the Azera Limited, and includes 19-inch aluminum wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a power rear window sunshade, manual rear side window sunshades, and rear parking assist sensors. Add a set of floor mats, and my test car’s price comes to $37,920. A handful of additional options are available, and if you check every box, this car can sticker for as much as $38,365.
For comparison purposes, a loaded 2015 Sonata runs $35,035, while a base 2015 Genesis costs $38,950. That doesn’t leave much room for the far, far, far less popular Azera in Hyundai’s lineup, does it?
2014 Hyundai Azera Review and Quick Spin: Styling and Design
In my opinion, the 2014 Azera is an attractive car, appropriately more upscale than a Sonata. The upgraded 19-inch wheels definitely add presence, and there’s plenty of character in the styling. Plus, I’m a big fan of how neatly the exhaust outlets are integrated into the rear bumper. This is an example of the attention to detail that can be found throughout this roomy sedan.
Inside, the Azera is appropriately dramatic in terms of design, but remarkably subdued in terms of pomp and circumstance. That’s the case with the relentlessly monotone Graphite Black interior, anyway, which is why I’d probably pick between the Camel or Chestnut Brown colors instead.
Now, while the black interior could benefit from greater contrast, the quality of the materials is high. For instance, the hard lower dashboard plastic matches the soft upper dash material in terms of both texture and tone, eliminating what usually results in an inexpensive look and feel to the lower portion of the cabin. Additionally, plush, cloth-wrapped, roof pillar trim is employed all the way to the Azera’s rear window. These are more examples of Hyundai’s attention to detail with this car.
2014 Hyundai Azera Review and Quick Spin: Comfort and Cargo
Thanks to a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat, the Azera Limited is quite comfy. The power extending bottom cushion significantly contributed to comfort levels, as did ventilated seats during a SoCal heat wave. Combine this excellent driver’s seat with soft places to rest elbows, a thick steering wheel wrapped in smooth leather, and a very quiet and composed ride quality, and you’ve got a great car for piling on highway miles.
The front passenger is also happy, thanks to a 10-way power seat, so there shouldn’t be any fighting over who gets to drive. The only problem is that if you like to sit up nice and high, like my wife and I do, you’ve gotta watch your head on the Azera’s dramatically swept roof when you’re getting into and out of the car.
Got some lanky teenagers, or tall adults to carry? The Azera obliges with its roomy rear seat. Personally, I think the seat cushion is mounted too low, but it sure is comfortable, and the rear center armrest is long, softly padded, and contains useful cupholders. Heated rear seats are standard for the Azera Limited, and my test car’s Premium Package added a power rear sunshade, manual side window shades, and a panoramic sunroof bathing the entire cabin in natural light.
Around back, the Azera boasts a 16.3 cu.-ft. trunk that sure looks bigger than that measurement might suggest. The trunk is nicely lined, and a 60/40-split folding rear seat allows for expansion of the space. When you’re ready to close the trunk, a grab handle helps to swing it shut.
2014 Hyundai Azera Review and Quick Spin: Features and Controls
It’s easy to get used to where things are and how they work, so drivers should acclimate quickly to the Azera’s artistically detailed control layout. Everything is located where you expect to find it, is clearly labeled, and is simple to use.
One thing that bugged me the entire time I had the car, though, was the lack of an exterior temperature display for the navigation map screen. While driving through California’s various microclimates, I had to keep switching to the radio display to find out how warm or cool it was outside. Hyundai could solve this by providing the temperature on a display within the gauge cluster information screen.
Visibility is also compromised by the dashboard’s plastic trim, which stretches up toward the glass from the center of the dashboard and, on a bright, sunny summer day, throws lots of reflections onto the windshield. That sure made it harder to see potentially drunk and stumbling revelers on busy Santa Barbara street corners in advance of Fourth of July fireworks.
2014 Hyundai Azera Review and Quick Spin: Safety Matters
Here’s where Hyundai needs to make significant changes to the Azera if it hopes to sell more of them, though, to be honest, it would appear that the new, bigger, redesigned Sonata and the new, more expressive, and more luxurious Genesis are going to squeeze the Azera right out of Hyundai’s lineup.
Anyway, if the company decided to keep the Azera, it’s gotta offer some safety technology for this car, even if it’s bundled into an option package. Want a blind spot warning system, a lane departure warning system, a forward collision warning system, an automatic braking system, or just about any other advanced safety feature? You can’t get it on an Azera. Personally, I don’t care about most of this stuff, but when somebody is spending about $38,000, they expect it.
What the Azera does offer, aside from 9 standard airbags, a reversing camera, and rear parking assist sensors, is Blue Link telematics technology. With an active subscription, which is complimentary for the first several months, Blue Link provides Automatic Collision Notification, SOS Emergency Assistance, and for parents with teenage drivers in the house, programmable speed, curfew, and geo-fenced boundary alerts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t performed crash-tests on the Azera, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the car its top rating of “Good” in all assessments except the small overlap frontal-impact test, for which the Azera has not been evaluated, therefore making the car ineligible for a “Top Safety Pick” rating.
2014 Hyundai Azera Review and Quick Spin: Driving Impressions
Every Azera comes with a 3.3-liter V-6 engine good for 293 horsepower. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, delivering power to the front wheels, and the EPA says this car ought to return 23 mpg in combined driving.
That’s slightly optimistic. I averaged 21.6 mpg during my week behind the wheel, and half the miles were covered with the car’s Eco driving mode engaged. I spent lots of time on the highway, too, as evidenced by an average speed of 40 mph over the course of 425 miles of driving.
The Azera’s V-6 engine produces plenty of power, and it’s well isolated from the cabin, further cementing the impression that this is a car sitting closer to premium status than some of its competitors.
As you accelerate from a stop, though, there is a slight vibration and shudder coming from the powertrain. You might not notice it, but it’s there, and once you’ve detected it you’ll be glad for the super-long 10-year/100,000-mile engine and transmission warranty. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a potential longevity problem here. More likely, Hyundai just needs to do a better job of isolating whatever is causing the vibration.
Hyundai could also spend some time refining the car’s ride quality. With time, you get used to how the suspension displays excess motion over undulations in the pavement, almost certainly a reflection of the company’s desire to provide a cushy, big-car ride. Still, I’d prefer quicker response to and control of ride motions.
What genuinely amazed me was how adeptly the Azera handled on a twisty mountain road. Despite high temperatures and hot pavement, the 19-inch tires never squealed, the brakes never faded, and the suspension did an excellent job of controlling roll in curves. Even the stability control system demonstrated remarkable restraint in terms of interruptions to the fun.
Yep, I said it. Fun. I’m just as surprised as you are.
Most people won’t ever drive an Azera near its limits though, preferring instead to settle into its comfy seats and quiet cabin, get out on the highway, and pass the miles in remarkable serenity. That’s what this car is made for.
But it’s going to take awhile to get used to the steering. Hyundai has a really hard time getting electric steering right, and that’s the case here. It feels like it’s tuned to deliver the syrupy heft of an older Jaguar, but when you’re barreling down a freeway at 75 mph, it just feels too sticky and resistant when you’re attempting to dial in subtle course corrections.
Eventually, you get used to it, until some situation causes another disconnect between what your hands want and how the steering is responding, and then you’re reminded yet again of that unsettling feeling that comes from vehicle behavior that is inconsistent with driver expectations.
2014 Hyundai Azera Review and Quick Spin: Final Thoughts
Aside from regular irritation with the Azera’s steering and a few other minor annoyances, there’s nothing wrong with this car, so Hyundai has only itself to blame for the Azera’s Invisible Man impression in the marketplace. I’ve got a few unsolicited recommendations that might help.
First, make the Sonata’s turbocharged 4-cylinder standard. Lots of people want a 4-cylinder engine, even in a big car like this, so give it to ‘em.
Second, make the 19-inch aluminum wheels standard for the Limited model instead of offering them as part of an upgrade package containing things about which people don’t really care.
Finally, and this is the big one, offer a reasonably priced package of modern safety features for both the standard and Limited versions of this car. Of any of the suggestions I’ve made above, this one solves the most glaring oversight that could be hindering this Hyundai’s success.
Hyundai provided the 2014 Azera Limited for this review
2014 Hyundai Azera Limited photos by Christian Wardlaw