Fresh off last year’s restyling, the Hyundai Tiburon has few changes for ’08. The sporty compact sits somewhere between a mild-mannered coupe — think Scion tC — and a genuine performance car, like the V-6 Mitsubishi Eclipse. As such, it roughly competes with both.
Hyundai’s sporty two-door was first offered in its current body style for 2003. The car received updated front and rear styling for 2005, and it did again for 2007. Top-of-the-line SE models also added an electronic stability system and upgraded brakes.
Upscale touches for the GT include automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while the SE has a sport-tuned suspension and six-speed manual transmission.
Styled in South Korea, the Tiburon coupe blends straight and curved lines in what Hyundai calls an effort to “emphasize vitality and strength.” The body features a high belt line and a short greenhouse, with a steeply raked windshield and back window. Tiburons are equipped with all-disc brakes, which feature larger, cross-drilled rotors on the SE model. A fully independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars is standard on all Tiburons.
Built on a 99.6-inch wheelbase, the Tiburon is 173 inches long overall. A deck-lid spoiler is mounted on the GT coupe, which has 17-inch alloy wheels. The SE model gets a high deck spoiler. The GS has standard 16-inch alloy wheels, but 17-inch wheels are available.
Up to four people can fit inside the Tiburon. Air conditioning, keyless entry, a CD stereo, and power windows, locks and mirrors are standard in all Tiburons. Automatic temperature control and cloth upholstery with leather bolsters are installed in the GT model. The seats in the GT feature red leather accents. Full leather seating is available. The SE coupe has aluminum pedals, metal-style trim, a trio of auxiliary gauges and a Kenwood CD/MP3 audio system. Cargo volume totals 14.7 cubic feet.
Rated at 172 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, the 2.7-liter V-6 teams with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission in GT models or a six-speed manual in the SE. The GS carries a 138-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that mates with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard. For 2007, the SE adds an electronic stability system. Side curtain airbags are not available.
The Tiburon’s shapely lines don’t quite translate to the sporty driving experience one might expect. In performance-oriented models, the ride is bouncy on rough pavement. Even though the car stays properly on course, it doesn’t impart a full sense of security.
Handling is good; the GT coupe steers easily and maneuvers with some nimbleness in corners. Stable on the highway, the Tiburon takes curves reasonably well, but it falls short of some rivals. Road and tire noise is prominent, but the engine — if anything — is too quiet for easy manual gear shifting.
The Tiburon’s seats are supportive. Legroom and elbow space are good, but headroom is meager.