• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Unquenchable thirst

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 Are you that auto freak with vast knowledge of Hyundai as top player in the automotive circles? If you are, then you would recall that Azera was away for a while, and it is hard to imagine that many people missed it. Years back when the Sonata was ably serving in the midsize sedan segment and the Genesis sedan providing a premium, rear-wheel-drive move-up option, it looked as though the Azera had been squeezed out of its place in the Hyundai lineup.

But today, Hyundai product planners have discovered a sliver of space between the Sonata and the Genesis, or maybe they were just hewing to the company’s secret decree to have a direct competitor for every Toyota model (the Avalon, in this case).

Hyundais are known for value, and there’s plenty of that here. The Azera comes only two ways with or without the technology package. The standard car is extremely well equipped; it comes with leather, navigation, a backup camera, heated front and rear seats, keyless entry and ignition, dual power seats, and 18-inch wheels.

For additional bucks, the technology package adds a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, Xenon headlamps, ventilated front seats, front seat cushion extenders, a rear parking sensor, a power steering column, a power rear sunshade and manual rear side window sunshades, a fancier stereo, interior ambient lighting, and 19-inch wheels. Either way, that’s a long list of equipment for the money.

For buyers who equate size with value, the interior is huge and the cabin is well finished. The rear seat is stretch-out spacious, and the trunk is generously sized. Designed by the manufacturers with traditional driving experience in mind and with the Genesis courting premium European sedan intenders, the Azera’s target is for drivers looking more for comfort and quiet. And, truth be told, it hits its target more successfully than the Genesis does.

This is a quiet cruiser that sops up bumps with little fuss. The steering may be wooden, but it’s linear and well weighted. Unlike its predecessor, the Azera doesn’t wander woozily in its lane; it tracks cleanly and it does not feel like it would trip over its tyres in an avoidance manoeuvre. On the road, it still does not incite any hooligan behaviour on the part of its driver, though.

Although the Azera is reasonably flexible, the 3.3-litre’s modest torque output of 255 lb-ft arrives fairly high in the rev range (5200 rpm), and so the six does not feel as muscular as one might hope. However, it spins smoothly and throttle response on the road is predictable. Working with a six-speed automatic transmission, the engine’s EPA ratings are 20/29 mpg, not bad for such a big car. So is it a success?

As much as the Azera delivers, it has not seen that many deliveries. However, Hyundai claims that Azeras don’t linger long on dealer lots, so it could be that the company so far just isn’t putting a lot of cars out there. Based on Hyundai tradition, that probably won’t be the case for long.

With Hyundai already performing well in high-volume segments, the company will likely open the taps and send more Azeras to dealers as it seeks further sales growth – because Hyundai’s most characteristic value of all is really its unquenchable thirst for ever-higher sales.

 

MIKE OCHONMA