All of the talk about Hyundai for the last year or two has been in regards to the Genesis sedan and coupe. Sure, the new products sound much more exciting than anything Hyundai dealers have ever sold, but it also means products like the Tiburon have been completely forgotten.
If you can get past the looks, the Tiburon is a pretty solid car. The six-speed manual and V-6 aren’t the best in the business, but they provide ample power. The seats are comfortable, and the standard equipment list isn’t too shabby. No, the Tiburon isn’t exciting enough to steal away sales from the V-6 Ford Mustang, but the forthcoming, rear-wheel-drive Genesis coupe should be. Heck, the Genesis coupe should even steal some Mustang GT sales.
The most surprising part of the Tiburon was the radio. At first glance, I thought this car had an aftermarket head unit, but a second look revealed it to be a Hyundai-branded Kenwood unit. I don’t know if that decision was made so tuners could replace the stock stereo with an aftermarket unit or if the Hyundai folks just thought the Kenwood unit looks cool, but it certainly was unexpected.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
The Tiburon is probably the coolest car in the Hyundai lineup right now, but it is definitely long in the tooth. Although the ride is a little brittle, the Tib at least is more fun to drive when you start pushing it, which is one reason it remains popular with street tuners. That said, at normal speeds, the Tiburon doesn’t feel as special as a small hatchback coupe with sporting intentions should.
The hatch itself definitely enhances interior space, but it just adds to the excessive wind and road noise that filter into the cabin. The interior design is quite nice, although the materials aren’t great. The Kenwood head unit looks cool but is hard to use because of its shallow knobs and small buttons.
Since Hyundai has positioned itself as the more refined of the Hyundai/Kia team, I wonder if the tuner-car-wannabe Tiburon will disappear completely (or perhaps become a Kia) when the upcoming Genesis coupe arrives.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Since its introduction, the Tiburon has never really gotten a lot of attention from the public. Hyundai, too, seems to have forgotten its “sports car” and put all its energy into its SUVs and more recently the Genesis sedan.
As with many Hyundais, the Tiburon’s exterior design is an amalgamation of design cues from various makes. If you squint your eyes, the front end of this car looks like a baby Jaguar XK/Aston Martin, which is not a bad thing. The hatchback is definitely more user-friendly than a trunk which is great because, as in most coupes, the Hyundai’s back seat is hard to access and offers little storage space.
The interior is tight but nice, and the cool blue lighting on the gauges and controls dress up the interior. Although the red seat inserts are presumably supposed to give the Tiburon a sporty feel, they seem out of place and clash with the blue lighting.
The driving experience is mediocre and the Tiburon feels only slightly more like a sports car than Hyundai’s more pedestrian Sonata sedan. The steering is uncommunicative but direct and although the gearshifter is notchy, the clutch take-up is linear. Low-end grunt is minimal but there is enough midrange power to manage highway merging and passing without too much drama.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
I don’t particularly like the Tiburon’s exterior redesign. The models before this latest refresh looked a lot better – now the car looks too cheesy and obviously shark-like at the nose (I know I know, “Tiburon” means “shark” in Spanish). I also prefer the older model’s side air vents. One of my neighbors has an ’06 Tiburon with a body kit and I have to say it looks really mean. I’m not so sure if that kit would have the same effect on this car.
The Tiburon’s interior has me torn. I like Hyundai’s red leather-type seats and the corporate blue Hyundai lighting. Yes, the blue may clash with the red, but it’s Hyundai’s interior lighting color now. However, the Kenwood aftermarket radio looks absolutely ridiculous shoved into the center stack. Very tacky. Fit and finish could also be improved.
I didn’t really get much time behind the wheel, but I wasn’t too impressed with the clutch/throttle relationship. It seemed particularly difficult to find the clutch’s grab point (and it felt kind of cheap). For $23,000, Hyundai gives you a V-6 engine with only 172 hp – not a great selling point considering the 262-hp Mazdaspeed 3 starts at $23,000.
David Yochum, Assistant Editor
The Tiburon is indeed tired, but the basic car has been on the market for years, and Hyundai has been busy refining its Santa Fe and Veracruz crossovers, making its Sonata mid-size sedan into a credible Honda Accord competitor, and developing its new flagship sedan, the rear-wheel-drive Genesis, which will also spawn a coupe. The company has been able to give only passing attention to its sport-compact coupe, but it’s my understanding that Hyundai will still build a new-generation Tiburon, since the Genesis will play in a more expensive segment.
Dr. Dong Jin Kim, Hyundai’s vice-chairman, recently admitted that “in the past few years, we neglected the small-car segment,” so it’s little surprise that the Tiburon is past its prime. What you’ve got here is a car that still appeals to people based on its styling, even though we find it ersatz; its economy; and its ability to be gussied up with all manner of aftermarket street tuning equipment. For my money, I’d much rather have a Scion TC, a cheeky little coupe that’s newer, better looking, and better built than the Tib.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor