New styling adds sports appeal, refinements add value.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price $13,999
As Tested $17,169
New styling has given a fresh appearance to the Hyundai Tiburon, while a higher level of standard equipment improves its value.
Its design is even bolder than last year. But its spirited performance hasn't changed, with a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, a fully independent sports suspension and four-wheel disc brakes with optional ABS. The Tiburon offers a good bang for the buck as most sport coupes with this level of performance come at a higher price, while similarly priced coupes can't match the Tiburon's performance.
It is a fun car to drive. It's balanced well in corners. It offers brisk acceleration performance. And it's backed by Hyundai's warranty, which has been extended to five years or 60,000 miles. It comes with five years worth of free 24-hour roadside assistance that covers emergency towing and lockout service. So the Tiburon is a great value wrapped in a sporty package.
The base model has been dropped in favor of one well-appointed Tiburon that retails for $13,999. Standard equipment has been added without raising the price. Air conditioning, power windows, four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch alloy wheels, a rear wiper/washer with intermittent mode and other features that came on last year's FX model are now standard.
A twin-cam 2.0-liter engine rated at 140 horsepower powers Tiburon. An automatic transmission is available for $750.
Sporty full cloth seat trim is standard. A leather package ($2,475) features two-tone leather seats, steering wheel and shift knob along with a rear spoiler, cassette/CD upgrade and power sunroof. ABS adds another $775.
The Tiburon presents a bold stance in what is becoming a bland world of sport coupes. Bulging fenders and sharp creases give Hyundai's little shark an aggressive appearance. The grilleless front end is low with a one-piece body-colored wrap-around bumper with an integrated air dam that channels cooling air into the engine compartment.
For 2000, the Tiburon is updated with a sculpted look. The most dramatic change is to the front end where four new projector-beam headlamps designed for improved lighting performance that are set off by character lines extending into the hood. The one-piece front fascia now includes a bold lower air intake and large air dam with built-in fog lamps. The front fenders have also been redesigned. The rear end has been redesigned to have a stronger look with new, larger taillamps and air vents. The exhaust tip is now a larger, single design more in keeping with current trends.
Frameless doors with flush-mounted glass and aerodynamic side mirrors help minimize interior noise. With a coefficient of drag of 0.33, the sleek lines help minimize noise and maximize fuel efficiency.
For 2000, the seats have been upgraded with additional lumbar support and improved cushions. They are firm, supportive and comfortable, with thigh bolsters that provide good side support during hard cornering. The 2000 Tiburon gets a six-way adjustable driver's seat with tilt adjustment and extra lumbar support. Still, I felt it could use a little more lumbar.
The interior is sporty and functional and we give it a big thumbs up. There is ample leg, head and shoulder room up front. The wraparound contoured dash makes the driver feel like a pilot without inducing claustrophobia. Attractive curves over the top of the vents are reminiscent of bygone era of sports cars. The ventilation controls look really cool and feature big Lexus-like knobs that are easy to operate when the car is moving. The stereo is mounted too low, however, and suffers from small buttons that are hard to operate.
High-tech trim from the Audi TT industrial-design school of thinking surrounds the big ovoid speedometer and tachometer, which are highly legible. Slender front roof pillars contribute to excellent forward visibility, a view enhanced by bulging front fenders clearly visible from the front seats. The back seats are roomier than those are in the Celica or Eclipse. Three of us plus a huge load of camera equipment, test equipment and luggage were comfortable in a lengthy morning rush ride drive around downtown Montreal.
The trunk is surprisingly roomy. The Tiburon offers more trunk space than a Pontiac Sunfire, but not as much as a Mitsubishi Eclipse. It swallowed a king-size presentation portfolio laid flat, the passenger car equivalent of putting a sheet of plywood in the back of a pickup truck.
This car handles very well with good braking, a nice shifting action and snappy acceleration. A day turning hot laps at a small road racing circuit north of Montreal impressed me with the handling and overall performance of the Tiburon. Predictable handling at the limit -- even while braking and turning at the same time -- make the Tiburon a lot of fun to drive.
The 2.0-liter engine provides quick acceleration on back roads and plenty of torque for cruising around town. It employs double overhead cams, 16 valves, electronic fuel injection and a distributorless ignition system. A knock control system permits a high 10.3:1 compression ratio for improved output and a modified pentroof combustion chamber with a tumble port design and dual-aperture spray injectors provide optimum responsiveness and performance while reducing emissions. Hyundai worked hard to minimize friction and vibration by using lightweight parts, silicon-impregnated pistons and fluid-damped engine mounts. While it's neither the smoothest nor the quietest engine on the market, it falls well within acceptable bounds.
Hyundai definitely did its homework on the Tiburon's chassis. It's among the stiffest in its class, which may be one of the reasons the Tiburon weighs a bit more than its competitors. Chassis stiffness is where agile handling starts and we were very favorably impressed with the Tiburon's athletic responses in quick maneuvers. MacPherson struts are used for the front suspension, while the rear is a dual link design. The shock absorbers are gas-charged units mounted inside the coil springs, which resist heat buildup and deliver a controlled ride over rough surfaces. Antiroll bars fore and aft reduce body lean in corners. All the components are aimed at delivering the agile handling qualities we expect from a sport coupe.
Even in extreme lane-change and slalom exercises, the Tiburon feels balanced and stable, and the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is quick and accurate. The Tiburon is one of those cars that made us go out of our way to give it some exercise on favored stretches of winding back roads, something that can't be said for some of its competitors.
If there's any downside to the Tiburon's dynamic traits, it lies in the action of the five-speed manual gearbox, which feels less precise than some others in this class do. In particular, low-speed downshifts into first gear can be a challenge. Making a proper upshift in hard low-speed cornering also requires a little extra care, a trait that's not at all uncommon in small front-drive hot rods such as this. However, at higher speeds the gearbox works fine and the gearing is well suited to the engine's power characteristics. The optional four-speed automatic takes much of the sport out of this--or any--sport coupe, but the 140-horsepower engine offers sufficient torque to work well with the automatic.
With fresh styling, Hyundai Tiburon offers a sporty alternative to the relatively bland sport compacts that compete with it. The Tiburon may not have quite have the biggest teeth in this class, but it can swim heads up with other compacts. It's well worth checking out if you're in the market for an inexpensive sporty coupe that's fun to drive.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.