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REVIEW
From Edmunds.com
2011 Hyundai  Azera Picture
PROS
  • Bargain price
  • Ample feature content
  • Pleasant interior design with high-quality materials
  • Strong performance from 3.8-liter V6
  • Excellent warranty
CONS
  • Seating position is too high for some
  • Prone to a few squeaks and rattles
  • Navigation system limits audio options

Bargain prices are great, but they tend to come with compromises. Shop at a 99 Cent store and you'll find amazing deals, but you'll also find limited sales assistance and harsh fluorescent lighting. This is why the 2011 Hyundai Azera is such a standout. With a starting price of just over 25 grand, it's a low-price leader in the full-size sedan segment, but no corners have been cut to achieve its very accessible price tag.

Feature content is one area in which the Azera exceeds expectations. Even base models come generously equipped with amenities such as steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and heated side mirrors. The range-topping Limited model adds luxury-car mainstays like heated leather seats and a sunroof without an exorbitant increase in price; an Azera Limited starts at just over 30 grand, making it less expensive than a base-model Toyota Avalon. The Azera also impresses with its fit and finish and its materials quality, which are superb throughout. However, we should note that the Azera was a bit squeak-prone in its first year of production, but we're unsure if Hyundai has tightened things up since then.

This year, the Azera has gotten a couple of upgrades that make it even more appealing. Its 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter V6 engines are back, but with output increases of 26 and 20 horsepower, respectively. Fuel economy doesn't suffer as a result; in fact, mileage increases by 11 percent for the 3.3-liter V6 and by about 7 percent for the 3.8. Much of this improvement is due to the Azera's new six-speed automatic transmission that replaces last year's five-speed. There's also a new "Eco Indicator" gauge that helps drivers know when the vehicle is being driven in a fuel-efficient way.

With some of the top full-size-sedan picks having benefited from fairly recent redesigns, this segment is more competitive than ever. The 2011 Toyota Avalon is tops in refinement and the 2011 Ford Taurus has the most striking sheet metal, but both are costlier than the frugal Azera. The stylish 2011 Buick LaCrosse is also worth considering, provided you can live with its relatively limited cargo space. In the end, the 2011 Hyundai Azera stands tall as a solid pick for shoppers who want value and well-rounded competence.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2011

For 2011, the Hyundai Azera gets an all-new six-speed automatic transmission; additionally, both its 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter engines have been tuned to improve both power and fuel efficiency, with decent increases on both fronts. The Azera's sheet metal receives updated front and rear styling. Inside, there's new interior metallic trim, an "Eco Indicator" gauge and a new, one-touch triple-blink turn signal.

2011 Hyundai  Azera Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2011 Hyundai Azera is a full-size sedan that is offered in GLS and Limited trim levels.

The base GLS includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way driver and four-way passenger power front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a 60/40-split rear seat, wood-grain interior accents, full power accessories, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a six-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio connection. The optional Premium package adds a sunroof, leather upholstery and five-level heated front seats.

The Azera Limited includes all of the above plus a larger engine, power-folding mirrors, a power rear sunshade, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver-seat memory functions, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and a 10-speaker Infinity stereo. Limited buyers can opt for the Ultimate Navigation package, which adds a navigation system and an upgraded 12-speaker Infinity surround-sound system. Unfortunately, selecting this package will eliminate the six-CD changer and both auxiliary audio inputs. Bluetooth is a stand-alone option.

2011 Hyundai  Azera Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

The 2011 Hyundai Azera surrounds occupants with a level of luxury that is typical for a car costing much more. The quality look and feel of the faux wood and metallic trim complement the stately cabin design, as do the many soft-touch surfaces. Opting for the leather upholstery further enhances the premium accommodations. We will note, however, that in the year we spent with a 2007 Azera during a long-term test, we noticed that our test car's light beige seats were susceptible to wear and discoloration; the dark leather upholstery might be advisable.

The Azera's tall seating position may limit headroom for taller drivers, but aside from that, the cabin is quite spacious. The rear seats provide plenty of comfort for adult-sized passengers with ample legroom and headroom as well. All-around visibility is also quite good thanks to a low cowl and narrow roof pillars. The generous trunk can hold as much as 16.6 cubic feet of cargo, and the wide opening facilitates easier loading. When larger items need transporting, the 60/40-split rear seats fold down to further increase cargo capacity.

Standard safety equipment for the 2011 Hyundai Azera includes traction control, stability control, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags, rear outboard side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Antilock disc brakes are also standard and manage to bring the full-size Azera to a stop in an impressive 118 feet from 60 mph in Edmunds testing.

The Azera has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) resulted in a four-star rating for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Azera its top score of "Good" for its protection of front passengers in frontal-offset crashes and a score of "Acceptable" (the second-highest rating) in side-impact testing.

2011 Hyundai  Azera Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

The 2011 Hyundai Azera GLS is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 that produces 260 hp and 233 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. The Azera Limited sports a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 283 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is only slightly lower at 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all Azeras.

Despite the budget-friendly price tag, the 2011 Hyundai Azera delivers an impressive amount of refinement. Road and wind noise are minimal, allowing for quiet conversations even at highway speeds, and acceleration is strong with the Limited's V6.

While the Azera may lack anything resembling athleticism (even compared to a Buick LaCrosse), we're confident that most drivers will find this big Hyundai more than adequate. Handling is on the soft side, but the car feels predictable and secure around turns and has a reasonably precise steering feel.

VERDICT

The 2011 Hyundai Azera delivers a level of quality and feature-rich content typically found in higher-priced cars. It's a value-leading choice for a large sedan.

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