Don’t plant the bicuspids into more than you can devour at one sitting.
Or, as they say in plain English, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
A lesson Hyundai needs to learn.
The South Korean automaker is hell-bent on expansion. In 1999, it sold more than 160,000 vehicles, up 82 percent from ’98, and has its sights set on topping 200,000 for 2000.
In keeping with its growth theme, Hyundai is adding a pair of new vehicles in segments from which it has been absent–sport-utility vehicles and mid-size sedans.
This summer the 2001 Santa Fe sport-ute arrives built off the Sonata sedan platform. Santa Fe is slightly larger than the Honda CR-V and will start at about $17,000 with 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive, about $20,000 with 2.7-liter V-6 and all-wheel-drive.
First-year sales forecast is 20,000 units, double that amount the next year.
Joining Santa Fe in the fall will be a midsize sedan sold in South Korea as the Grandeur. It will take on a new moniker here. The front-wheel-drive, V-6 sedan will compete against the likes of Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Target price: $22,000 to $24,000 with power sunroof the only option.
First-year sales forecast is 12,000 units. The sky is the limit after that.
Looking ahead, Hyundai has a hybrid multiactivity vehicle in the works being displayed in concept form at the Chicago Auto Show as the CrossTour, or HCD-5. Like the Santa Fe, the all-wheel-drive CrossTour is built off the Sonata platform.
Not at the show, and not in Hyundai’s plans, is a pickup truck of any stature.
Time, perhaps, for Hyundai to stop and smell the decaf, however. All those growth and expansion plans are wonderful, but we recall back in 1986 when the first Hyundai arrived in the U.S., the tiny Excel.
It was a $4,999 new car that was supposed to attract people who normally would spend $4,999 on a used car.
Sales skyrocketed and, by 1988, Hyundai sold a record 264,282 Excels in the U.S., so many that some of the Japanese were looking over their shoulders at the upstart.
Then quality issues caught up with quantity, and consumers went back to buying $4,999 used cars.
Hyundai shouldn’t forget how quickly fortunes can tu rn, because the car-buying public won’t let them. Once, my fault, twice your fault.
The reason the South Korean automaker’s plight in the U.S. came to mind is that we just tested the 2000 Tiburon, the sport coupe that may be the best-looking subcompact economy car in the market.
For 2000 Tiburon sports new front- and rear-end styling, its first redesign since entering the market in 1997 as the long-awaited production version of the HCD-I and II concepts that caused eyes to pop on the auto-show circuits for years.
Just the right sheet metal curves and hood bulges on the outside for the look of sporty get-up-and-go performance.
Just the right touches inside, too. Clever metallic-looking knobs to activate the controls. Everything within easy reach and use. Ample dimensions upfront so you don’t feel claustrophobic.
Sure, the rear seat has precious little room and unless you fold your head into your chest, your noggin will do a continuous dance against the hatchlid window. Best to drop the rear seat backs and turn the area into a cargo hold rather than try to stuff it with people. But most small sports coupes render the same indignity so it would be unfair to single out the Tiburon as unusual.
And when you open the hatchlid, the cargo hold might not be super spacious, but it’ll hold the golf clubs or a suitcase or two or a few bags of groceries–just not at the same time. But as with cramped rear seats, small hatchbacks aren’t designed to serve as U-Hauls so that can’t set the Tiburon apart from the pack.
Where Tiburon starts to make you wonder how a car that looks so good fails to live up to expectations is when you turn the ignition key and start to drive.
The 2-liter, 140-horsepower 4-cylinder is for show and not go. It’s a high-mileage engine that obtains a 23 m.p.g. city/32 m.p.g. highway fuel economy.
The vehicle we tested came with standard 5-speed manual that was fairly smooth. But while a manual typically will wrestle every bit of energy out of an engine, regardless of size, there is just so much energy the 2-liter could give it.
We’ve often tested cars that look as if they would be at home on the track but are economy cars posing as muscle machines. Tiburon is one of those.
Youth and those on limited budgets, such as first-time new-car buyers, often are more than pleased with a car that looks sporty but doesn’t intimidate them with aggressive manners they can’t handle. Good looks and great mileage can be an attractive package and in that respect, Tiburon delivers.
But Tiburon had one annoying problem that high mileage can’t compensate for. It squeaked and rattled and made too much noise.
Hyundai says pains were taken to reduce noise/vibration/harshness by making the body more rigid and adding more padding and squirting more foam into cavities. Needs more work.
Quiet is the sound of a well-made car. Usually the bigger and the more expensive, the quieter a car is. Has to be to justify the size and cost. We accept that the Tiburon isn’t going to hum like an Audi TT coupe because it isn’t going to sprint from the light like one, either. But squeaks and rattles are not acceptable.
And while Tiburon has fully independent, sport-tuned suspension, gas-charged MacPherson struts plus front and rear stabilizer bars, ride is more than a bit harsh. You feel every tar mark.
Before Hyundai gets all wrapped up in growth and expansion, we would hope it goes back to the insulation bin and gives the Tiburon a heaping helping–and fine tunes the suspension.
The Tiburon we tested starts at $13,999 and includes a host of standard equipment, such as air conditioning, power rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch alloy wheels with Michelin performance tires, power windows/door locks/mirrors, AM/FM cassette stereo, cruise control, intermittent wipers, rear-window defr oster, dual air bags, tilt steering, reclining front seats, split folding rear seat, remote hatchlid/fuel door/hood releases, cloth seats, quartz digital clock, side window defoggers, trip odometer and tinted glass.
Sadly, anti-lock brakes are available only as an option and only in a package that runs a startling $3,250 and includes CD/cassette player, power tilt sunroof, leather seats and deck-lid spoiler. Traction control is not offered.
Hyundai offers a very long warranty–five years/60,000 miles on the vehicle, 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain, five years/100,000 on anti-perforation to the body and five years/unlimited miles on roadside assistance.
>> 2000 Hyundai Tiburon Wheelbase: 97.4 inches Length: 170.9 inches Engine: 2-liter, 140-h.p. 4-cylinder Transmission: 5-speed manual Fuel econ omy: 23 m.p. g. city/32 m.p.g. highway Base price: $13,999 Price as tested: N16,014. Includes $1,300 for option package with power sunroof, 100-watt CD/cassette, stereo and speaker upgrade; $130 for console armrest; $75 for carpeted floor mats; $450 for rear spoiler; and $60 for mudguards. Add $435 for freight. Pluses: Styling gem. Cabin decor very sporty and attractive. Mileage excellent. Pleasant pricing, though the rear spoiler is a hefty option. Minuses: Needs quiet as standard. ABS available only as part of a $3,000 plus option package. No traction control. >>