Used 1997 Hyundai Tiburon Hatchback Review




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Loosely based on the 1993 HCD-II concept car, the Tiburon (Spanish for shark) debuts as a budget sport coupe that promises to gobble competitors such as the Toyota Paseo like so much chum.

vehicle overview

Four years ago, Hyundai displayed a mouth-watering concept car at national auto shows. Called the HCD-II, showgoers could hardly swallow the fact that the same company that produced the Excel could, or would, dream up something like the HCD-II. Hyundai execs promised that a production version of the showcar was on the drawing boards.

The following year, HCD-III arrived and contained an innovative side-saddle rear seat that a passenger could sit in sideways and stretch out. Excellent concept, Hyundai. Young consumers drooled in anticipation of the forthcoming HCD production car with the cool back seat.

Alas, it was not meant to be. The Tiburon arrives at a compromise between federal regulations and designer fantasy in base and FX trim levels. Tiburon is based on the same platform as the Elantra, and base models share that sedan's 130-horsepower 1.8-liter engine. FX gets a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, along with rear disc brakes, alloy wheels, and other goodies. With just over 2,600 pounds to motivate, the FX's engine moves the Tiburon along reasonably quickly, but we think this shark's bark is worse than it's bite.

Just look at that sheetmetal, would you? Looks like some Hyundai stylists pilfered sketches for the next zany Toyota Celica. This car will definitely get you noticed, but not for blazing performance. This is a car for stylin', dude. Inside is a snug but attractive interior that borrows design cues from several popular sport coupes, past and present. Dual airbags are standard, while ABS is optional only on the upper-level FX.

Tiburon is a belated replacement for the Scoupe, which disappeared last year. Improved all-around, Hyundai's sport coupe is much better, but will it sell? Obviously, the target market is the same young, style-conscious, and financially-impaired bunch that buy the Toyota Paseo, Volkswagen GTI, Dodge Neon Sport, and Pontiac Sunfire GT. We think that the stylish Tiburon will compete very well from a design standpoint, but without improved acceleration from the FX to compete with the Pontiac and Dodge, and consumer confidence in its ability to hold up as well as a Toyota, this species may be doomed to the same fate as the late Mazda MX-3: extinction.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.