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Tim O'Brien | Jun 20, 2008

Hyundai's Tiburon is too easily underestimated, and overlooked. It's a much better mid-sized coupe than many realise.

The fact is, it's not a bad sporting drive, and, from behind the wheel, feels robust, durable, and reasonably well-sorted. It can't be accused of being overly sharp at the wheel, nor over-endowed with kilowatts, but it's not sloppy either and carries adequate muscle in the context of its place in the market: the affordable coupe segment. (But don't stand it up next to a HSV, that's not where it competes though, as an aside, Hyundai's recent unveiling in the US of the turbo 4-cylinder and naturally-aspirated 6-cylinder Genesis Coupe suggests a challenge might be on the cards.)

tiburon_01

We liked the Tiburon well enough when we first drove it three years ago. With neat styling, a torquey V6, and a nice low burble from the twin pipes, that first iteration won over more than a few cold black hearts of the motoring press and found its own niche in the market.

Having sampled Hyundai's latest Tiburon, TMR is happy to report it's still an enjoyable drive at a very sharp price. And while it's not a howling brat like the high-revving Civic Type R, nor a missile like the Focus XR5 Turbo, the 123kW 2.7 litre V6 sitting up front in the Tiburon is no indolent slouch. The secret is to keep things spinning between 4000 and 5500rpm. (Above that it gets a bit breathless, and below it's a tad flat.) Keep it humming in the sweet spot, where the torque is working for you, and you will be surprised at how ably it goes about the business. In the traffic light derby, it will get you to 100kp/h in the mid-eights. (C'mon, that's not too bad.)

The striking electric blue TS 6-speed manual we drove was well-finished and as tight as a drum. The new model is recognisable by its sharper nose and better-integrated headlights than the "square eyes" of the preceding model. There is also a bigger wing on the back and 17inch alloys. Otherwise, the swoopy roof-line and high haunches are little changed, and still look ok. They're derivative, sure; the Tiburon is an amalgam of borrowed features, but overall it works.

tiburon_02

While in our care, more than one passed favourable comment on the Tiburon's style.

"What's that you've got?"

"Tiburon Hyundai."

"Yeah? Looks alright"

That's the way it went.

From the wheel, if you're really rowing it along, you'll notice a bit of torque steer and a tendency to run a little wide should you overcook things. The good news is you can quickly and predictably tighten the line by lifting off sharply, deep into the corner. (One of the benefits, of course, of a front-driver.) It also sits nice and flat, although, for real performance cornering the front end could be firmer, and the suspension displayed more finesse in dealing with bumps and breaks in the bitumen than the older model.

tiburon_03

We put it through its paces along a favourite stretch of road and came away with renewed respect for this little Korean coupe. You get a sense it will happily take a fair whacking without any mechanical complaint (and, after all, with just 127kW from 2.7 litres, it's not "wound" overly tight). There are no serious flaws exposed in the handling and the six-speed box works well, with nice firm slots (although the throw is a little long).

The only thing we reckon has gone backward in the current model is the sound, our memory may be playing tricks, but we're pretty sure the first Tiburon had a deeper throttle-body growl and more-evident burble from the twin pipes.

Of course, that's nothing some good aftermarket tubing couldn't fix. I'd have to throw away the factory mags as well: some aftermarket tougher rims would give the styling a bit more street edge.

tiburon_04

So, starting from $34,990, what do you get? Leather everywhere, contoured buckets, well-finished inside and out (but few cars these days can be exposed there), handsome lines though they're now becoming dated and a nice enough steer.

That's the Tiburon. It's still one of the better value medium-small coupes on the market. It's also one of those cars that creeps into your affections. It may not grab you straight away, and there are rortier drives to be had (at the price), but the longer you live with it, the more you'll respect it.

It's not simply a "hair-dressers car" (er... sorry hair-dressers), and certainly worth a look.

The Insider

insider-likes1

  • It's a better drive than expected
  • Nicely balanced design
  • A value for money proposition
  • Reasonable handling and chassis balance
  • Under-stressed 2.7 litre six

insider-dislikes2

  • Controls and console design a bit clunky
  • V6 donk gets a bit "breathless" up high
  • Ridiculous North/South engine cover (on an East/West donk)
  • Dash design doesn't quite "marry" into the door trims
  • That 2.7 litre six should be asked to work a lot harder
 

The Insider's big statement:

When Hyundai's Genesis V8 comes to this market (which it will, even with murderous petrol prices), a high-powered coupe won't be far behind. When that happens, an epidemic of shock will sweep the country and hospitals will fill with catatonic petrol heads unable to cope with the brave new order of things, and the rise of Korea as serious automotive power.

specs3

Configuration: Transverse V6 driving front wheels

Cylinder capacity: 2.7 litres (2656 cc)

Valve system: Quad cam, 24 valves

Maximum power: 123 kW @ 6000 rpm

Maximum torque: 245 Nm @ 4000 rpm

Fuel System: Multi-point electronic fuel injection

Bore x stroke: 86.7 mm x 75.0 mm

Compression ratio: 10.0:1

0 - 100 km/h: 8.5 seconds

Transmission: Manual 6 speed close ratio

Automatic adaptive 4 speed (electronic sequential manual mode)

Final drive ratio: 4.428 (manual) / 4.042 (auto)

Steering: Power assisted rack and pinion. Turns (lock to lock) 2.57

Brakes: Front 280 mm ventilated discs. Rear 258 mm solid discs

Weight: Kerb / GVM (Manual) 1409/1770kg. Kerb / GVM (Automatic) 1420/1770kg

Consumption: Manual 10.3 litres/100km. Automatic 10.2 litres/100km

Fuel tank volume: 55 litres

Prices: 2.7L V6 $34,990.00

2.7L V6 (with sunroof) $36,490.00

2.7L V6 TS $37,590.00

Auto: add 1,790.00

Metallic/mica paint (excl. TS) add $350.00

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