2013 Hyundai Azera2013 Hyundai AzeraWe gave Hyundai’s Azera a ringing endorsement after it debuted for the 2006 model year, and it remains a highly likable full-sized sedan in 2013. True, it’s significantly more expensive, and it’s a bit of a third wheel wedged between the popular Sonata and acclaimed Genesis sedan. And its endless standard-equipment list, combined with its high price, add up to a puzzling marketing strategy.

Case in point: Our 2013 Azera had a sticker price of $37,225, with just one option: a $4,000 Technology Package that elevates it from near-luxury to true luxury status. The entry-level, full-size 2013 Toyota Avalon, similar to one we test-drove recently, has a base price about $1,300 lower than that of the Azera. It’s not as lavishly equipped, but it’s a Toyota.

Hyundai has done exceptionally well in the U.S. market, but it may not yet be the right time to base-price its products higher than Toyota does. After all, Hyundai made its name by combining low price with long lists of standard features, while rapidly improving quality. The Azera is an exceptionally nice car, but low-priced, it’s not.

So what’s so special about the Azera? It’s big, roomy and luxurious, with a powerful 293-horsepower V-6 engine and 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission. 

For the $32,250 base price, you get leather seating surfaces, keyless ignition, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation system, rear backup camera, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics with 90-day free trial. Blue Link provides point-of-interest search and download; voice text messaging; location sharing; Geo Fence (if the car goes outside predetermined boundaries, it will send the owner an alarm); and enhanced roadside assistance.

Automotive navigation systems aren’t quite the valuable options they used to be, since anyone with a smartphone can install one at very low cost. And some owners would be happy to do without things like chrome-insert body moldings and door handles; chrome-tipped dual exhaust; leather upholstery; and other flourishes to bring the Azera to a lower-than-Toyota price point. But there is no such Azera, at least not in the 2013 lineup.

We were impressed with our Black Onyx Pearl Azera’s strong, quiet performance. While the ride is on the firm side, it’s smooth enough for this segment.

The front-wheel-drive Azera test car did spend an extra day or two in the driveway because it wasn’t the best alternative at our disposal for foul-weather driving in early March, but we soon learned it handled snow and icy conditions quite capably. Its cavernous, 16.3-cubic-foot trunk and roomy back seat led us to give it high marks for versatility. All-wheel drive is unavailable.

The Azera has been rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A comparatively slow seller in recent years, it nevertheless has acquired a reputation for solid reliability, and the new model reportedly is selling well. It also delivers respectable fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 29 highway. 

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $37,225

Engine: 3.3-liter V-6, 293 horsepower, 255 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Weight: 3,605 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19-in. Hyper-silver alloy (optional)

Tires: 245/40R19 (optional)

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 16.3 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons

Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular