Full 2008 Hyundai Tiburon Review
What's New for 2008
Satellite radio and an upgraded Kenwood stereo system are now standard on every 2008 Hyundai Tiburon.
In Spanish, Tiburon means "shark." In Hyundai speak, Tiburon is a compact sport coupe that does what the Korean carmaker is best known for -- offer a generous warranty and a lengthy features list at a low price. Beyond these aspects, though, the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is a mere sea bass in an ocean filled with more competent, vicious predators.
That's not to say the Tiburon isn't without merit. Appearance counts for a lot in the sport coupe world, and the Hyundai Tiburon has the sort of sharp lines that make a car stand apart from the pack. In profile, it's especially eye-catching, with a rising beltline, scooped outside detail and a sweeping roof line. The Tiburon's upscale look is topped off with side sculpting and slick alloy wheels shod with performance tires. Sadly, a midlife styling refresh robbed it of its nifty sharklike side gills.
The current-generation Tiburon debuted back in 2003. This is a fairly long time for sport coupe design; as a result, the Tiburon can't keep up with newer sport coupes. Its suspension is on the soft side, resulting in lackluster handling that driving enthusiasts will certainly notice in a simple back-to-back test-drive with other sport coupes like the Honda Civic (especially the Si), Mitsubishi Eclipse, Mini Cooper and Saturn Astra. For those who value comfort over performance, the Tiburon's ride is rather forgiving, but those buyers may find the also-comfy Scion tC provides them with a more complete package.
A more serious problem is engine power, as even the Tiburon's V6 is now outclassed by the four-cylinders of many competitors. And though standard equipment is plentiful, you're not going to find some of the more recent high-tech features like Bluetooth or navigation. Given these weaknesses, we think shoppers would be better served by the competitor coupes, which have a lot more bite than this aging shark can muster.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is a compact coupe available in GS, GT, SE and GT Limited trims. Standard equipment for the GS includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, foglamps, full power accessories, air-conditioning and a six-speaker Kenwood stereo with CD/MP3 player and satellite radio. The GT adds 17-inch wheels, automatic climate control, cruise control, a trip computer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery with black leather inserts, and chrome interior accents. The SE reverts back to manual climate control but gains a higher spoiler, red leather upholstery inserts and aluminum pedals. The GT Limited adds a sport suspension, red brake calipers, a sunroof (optional on other trims), full red leather upholstery and automatic climate control.
Powertrains and Performance
The GS comes with a 138-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4. Step up to the GT, SE or GT Limited and you'll get a 2.7-liter V6 rated at 172 hp and 181 pound-feet of torque. Although smooth, the V6 is considerably down on power for this segment. The GS and GT are available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while the SE can only be had with a six-speed manual. The GT Limited comes only with the automatic. Fuel economy for an automatic-equipped V6 2008 Tiburon is 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
All Tiburons come standard with side airbags for front occupants and antilock brakes. Traction control and electronic stability control are standard on the SE, but aren't available on other models. In government crash tests, the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon earned a full five stars for driver protection in frontal impacts and four stars for the front passenger. The Tiburon earned a four-star rating for side crash protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Tiburon has a simple but handsome cockpit. At first glance, it's evident that the interior designers wanted to impart a high-quality look and feel to the cabin. Everything is laid out in a straightforward fashion, free of gimmickry. Fiddle with the climate-control knobs and the silky fluidity with which they move would do a Honda proud. Bolstered sport seats help keep occupants in place during enthusiastic cornering, and the large speedometer and tachometer are easy to read at a glance.
The four-cylinder engine provides barely adequate power for this 3,000-pound coupe, so upgrading to the V6-powered GT, GT Limited or SE is strongly encouraged. When the Tiburon is driven hard, it lacks the athleticism of its more nimble competitors. The SE offers a sport-tuned suspension for more responsive handling and a tauter ride, but even that Tiburon is not as light on its feet as the class leaders. The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is confident but not eager, and its steering is a bit slow and numb. However, when driven in a relaxed manner, this Hyundai performs capably and delivers a smooth ride.