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New Car Review: 2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT V6

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SEE ALSO: Hyundai Buyer's Guide

CLICK4 Video Walkaround From Hyundai


    If you haven't paid much attention to Hyundai recently, you're in 
for a surprise. The Korean manufacturer, once known for making 
cars people bought on low price alone, has gone considerably 
upscale in its offerings - but not at the expense of price. Today's 
Hyundais can go head-to-head with their Japanese, American, or 
European competitors in build quality, solid feel, standard 
equipment and appointment, and still usually beat them on price. 
Case in point: the 2003 Tiburon.

    The first-generation Tiburon, introduced for the 1997 model 
year, was a production version of Hyundai's 1996 Tiburon Show 
Car, which was a refinement of the radically-styled HCD II concept 
cat of 1993. That first Tiburon was competitive in the compact 
front-wheel drive sport coupe class, with a choice of 1.8-liter, 130 
horsepower or 2.0-liter, 140 horsepower engines. It was restyled in 
2000, and although the premium FX model was technically 
discontinued, all 2000 and 2001 Tiburons had Hyundai's 140 horse, 
2.0-liter ``Beta'' engine and many of the features of the FX, at a 
still very reasonable price.

    Those trends - less radical but still distinctive styling and well-
equipped value - continue for the 2003 model year with the 
introduction of the second-generation Tiburon. Underneath its new 
styling is a new chassis, and, although the 2.0-liter four-cylinder 
continues, for the first time, a V6 engine is available.
    The V6 is Hyundai's 2.7-liter ``Delta'' engine, the same 181-
horsepower aluminum alloy powerplant found in the Sonata sedan 
and Santa Fe SUV. As is usual for its class, a five-speed manual 
transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic with manual-
shift mode optional. Unusually, especially at the Tiburon's under-
$20,000 price, is an available six-speed manual with the V6.

    Other small sports coupes with the Tiburon's power and a six-
speed cost a few (or more) thousands more, so Hyundai is still 
selling on price. But, as I found after spending a week with a top-
of-the-line six-speed Tiburon GT V6, there is plenty of substance 
under the style. It feels solidly built, and has the quick acceleration, 
sporty handling, and fun-to-drive character that is necessary for any 
sports car to succeed. ``Value'' is more than just low price. 
Substance must be included, too. And the 2003 Hyundai Tiburon 
has plenty of substance. 

APPEARANCE: The new Tiburon's styling is a blend of 
contemporary and classic lines. It has the basic rounded small 
fastback sports coupe shape, with classic long hood, short rear deck 
proportions even though it is a front-wheel drive car. The general 
styling details all not that different from last year's model, 
particularly in the roof and rear fender lines, but there is less 
gratuitous swoopiness and so better definition. This is most 
apparent at the front, with new, angular wraparound faired-in 
headlights flank a small trapezoidal grille. The real air intake is a 
wide mouth below the integrated front bumper, incorporating 
foglamps. The faux air vents on the sides give a taste of Maranello. 
Contemporary large side sills actually add to the Tiburon's look, as 
does the GT V6's rear wing spoiler.

COMFORT:  You sit low inside of the Tiburon, and that 
impression is enhanced by the dark color scheme. That's standard 
fare for today's Asian sport coupes, as are the metal-bezeled 
instruments and metal-faced pedals with rubber inserts. Without 
care, the Tiburon's interior could be undistinguished; fortunately 
Hyundai's design staff took care. As on the outside, the interior 
strikes a balance between conservatism and trendy fashion. The 
manually-adjustable front buckets are comfortable, period, not just 
``comfortable for the price point,'' and have good bolstering for 
performance driving. Good seats, good visibility (except for the 
rear quarter, the bane of all fastback sports coupes), a tilt-
adjustable, leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-placed shift 
knob, and good foot pedal arrangement make the Tiburon suited to 
enthusiastic driving. Perforated leather seating surfaces are standard 
in the GT V6, as is a good seven-speaker AM/FM/cassette/CD 
Infinity stereo. The 2+2 rear seat works for passengers under 5' 4" 
maximum, not unusual for small sports coupes. The rear seatback 
folds with a 50/50 split, which gives the rear hatch area very good 
cargo carrying ability. Inside, the new Tiburon is stylish, 
comfortable (for the front passengers, at least) and functional.

SAFETY: The Tiburon's chassis has front and rear crumple zones 
and side-impact protection. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, 
with antilock optional.

ROADABILITY: The old Tiburon was built on a modified Elantra 
platform. The 2003 version has its own unique chassis. It's more 
rigid, for more precise handling, and the fully-independent strut-
type suspension takes advantage of this with a comfortably 
compliant tuning that combines real-world ride comfort with sporty 
handling. There's plenty of fun to be had driving the new Tiburon.

PERFORMANCE:  The Tiburon's optional twincam, 24-valve V6 
displaces 2.7 liters - 162 cubic inches - and makes 181 horsepower 
at 6000 rpm, with torque peaking at a healthy 177 lb-ft at 4000 
rpm. If that's 20 or so horses less than some competitive 3.0-liter 
V6es or high-tech fours, it's still not exactly anemic. A five-speed 
manual gearbox is standard, with a four-speed automatic with 
``Shiftronic'' manual mode available. But the optional six-speed 
improves performance with closer gear ratios. So equipped, my test 
car was a pleasure to drive, with good midrange and top-end power 
and smooth, positive shift linkage that will make any driver want to 
shift more just for the joy of it.

CONCLUSIONS: The Hyundai Tiburon combines style, sporty 
performance, and value. Plenty of go, little dough.

2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT V6

Base Price			$ 17,999
Price As Tested		        $ 19,344
Engine Type			24-valve aluminum alloy dual 
                                 overhead cam V6
Engine Size			2.7 liters / 162 cu. in.
Horsepower			181 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			177 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed manual (5M standard)
Wheelbase / Length		99.6 in. / 173.0 in.
Curb Weight			3,023 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        16.7
Fuel Capacity			14.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P215/45 ZR17 Michelin Pilot Sport
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
                                 antilock optional
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut / 
                                  independent MacPherson strut
Drivetrain			front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 26 / 19
0 to 60 mph				7.1  sec

Ultra Sports Package 2 - includes: 6-speed manual
 transmission, aluminum foot pedals, body-colored
 spoiler						$ 850
Destination charge					$ 495