Used 2003 Hyundai Tiburon
Edmunds' Expert Review
The Tiburon has moved upmarket and now beckons buyers with sleek sheet metal, V6 power and an available six-speed manual gearbox. Put it on your test-drive list if you're shopping for a sporty coupe under 20 grand.
Introduction: For those who may not have known (or cared), Hyundai's initial attempt at a sport coupe was the 81-horsepower Excel-based Scoupe introduced in 1991. A suspension tuned by Lotus and a shorter final drive ratio helped to make the Scoupe a bit friskier than the sluggish Excel. Later model years (1993-1995) saw the availability of a turbocharged engine in the Scoupe, but even that motor wheezed out only 115 ponies on aptly named Turbo models (and just 92 hp on base and LS trims).
Around the same time, Hyundai displayed a mouth-watering concept car at national auto shows -- the HCD-II. Show-goers could hardly swallow the fact that the same company that produced the dowdy Excel could, or would, dream up something like this futuristic sport coupe. Hyundai execs promised that a production version of the show car was on the drawing board. The following year, HCD-III arrived and contained an innovative sidesaddle 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 backseat.
Alas, it was not meant to be. The 1997 Tiburon arrived as a compromise between federal regulations and designer fantasy. Still, the Tib's controversial styling, spunky performance and sporty interior got the attention of younger buyers who didn't want a boring economy sedan.
Now, Hyundai has released an all-new 2003 Tiburon that moves the nameplate upmarket. Much has been made of the styling; in profile, it almost looks like it could be a body double for a Ferrari 456 GT, due mostly to its rising beltline, scooped outside detail and sweeping roofline. Although this comparison may sound bizarre (and even sacrilegious to the Ferraristi), there's nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from one of Italy's lovely sculptures, provided it's done with discretion. The "gills" on the front fenders suit the car, as Tiburon is Spanish for shark. "Pinched waist" side sculpting and five-spoke alloy wheels wearing Michelin performance tires complete the car's head-turning looks.
Riding a wheelbase of 99.6 inches and measuring 173 inches in length, the new Tiburon is about 2 inches longer in each category than the previous model. It's also heavier -- 2,940 pounds (base Tiburon) versus 2,633 for the prior version. Compared to the lightweights of the sport coupe class, such as the 2,500-pound Toyota Celica GT-S and 2,700-pound Acura RSX Type-S, the Tiburon GT V6 may seem plump at 3,023 pounds. But to be fair, the RSX and Celica are both powered by inline fours. Compared to other V6 sport coupes, such as the 3,053-pound Mitsubishi Eclipse GT or the 3,200-pound Dodge Stratus R/T, the Tiburon's weight is a non-issue. Available with a leather interior, the '03 Tiburon should appeal mainly to people in their 20s and 30s who want a car that's sporty and well-equipped, yet affordable.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: Base and GT V6 models are available. Base coupes come with a 140-hp inline four and either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes air conditioning; six-speaker stereo with CD player; side airbags; cruise control; sport seats; power windows and locks; keyless entry; four-wheel disc brakes; 16-inch wheels and tires; and foglights. The GT V6 obviously adds V6 power along with leather, a seven-speaker Infinity sound system, a sport suspension, 215/45R17 Michelins mounted on 17-inch wheels and a rear spoiler. ABS and a moonroof are optional for all coupes. Powertrains and Performance: The base engine is the previous Tiburon's 2.0-liter DOHC inline four that makes 140 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 133 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm; it also powers the Elantra GLS sedan and GT hatchback. While this engine isn't the pinnacle of refinement, it feels surprisingly energetic when revved. Bear in mind, though, that the redesigned Tiburon is more than 300 pounds heavier than its predecessor, resulting in a less favorable power-to-weight ratio for the base coupe. You can choose either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway with the manual and 23/30 with the autobox. Step up to the GT V6, and you're rewarded with a 181-hp 2.7-liter V6 pulled from Hyndai's Santa Fe SUV. You have three transmission choices -- a five-speed manual, a four-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. Fuel economy is rated at 19/26 with the five-speed, 18/26 with the six-speed and 20/26 with the automatic.
The Tiburon rides on a chassis loosely based on the current Elantra's, which Hyundai says is stiffer and more refined than the previous-generation coupe's. All Tiburons feature a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink rear. The GT V6 features a tauter ride, thanks to higher spring rates, stiffer shock absorbers and larger front/rear antiroll bars. Disc brakes are standard across the line. Safety: All Tiburons come standard with side airbags, and ABS is optional. This model has not yet been crash tested. Interior Design and Special Features:Bolstered sport seats help keep you in place during enthusiastic cornering, and a large speedometer and tachometer are directly in front of the driver. One of the most interesting features available for the Tiburon is the six-speed manual -- a first for Hyundai. Driving Impressions:When the Tiburon is driven hard, it lacks the athleticism of an Acura RSX or Toyota Celica -- its V6 is confident but not eager; its steering is a bit slow and numb, and with a curb weight of about 3,000 pounds in GT V6 form, it's heavy for a sport coupe. However, when driven sanely, this Hyundai performs capably and delivers a smooth ride. Factor in a generous standard features list, competitive pricing and elegant styling, and the Tiburon is definitely worth a test drive.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Hyundai is at a crossroads. It's firmly established as a solid company selling affordable cars carrying an epic 10-year warranty. But selling on low sticker prices and expensive-to-support guarantees isn't a formula for fat profits. Chunky bucks in the car business come from products that sell on their own merits without discounts or far-horizon service commitments. Hyundai needs a car that people would buy even if it were priced like a Honda (or, even better, a BMW) and backed by nothing more than a slightly moist handshake. Is the new third-generation 2003 Tiburon coupe that car? Is this the Hyundai buyers actually want, and for which they don't just settle?
Probably not. But it's yet another nudge closer for Hyundai to the automotive promised land.
Based (loosely) on the same platform as the compact Elantra front-drive sedan, the Tiburon has a 3.1-inch-shorter wheelbase (down to 99.6 inches) and is 4.1-inches-shorter overall (at 173 inches) than that car. Not surprisingly, the Tiburon shares the Elantra's 140-horsepower 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve four as the base powerplant backed by either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. And, like the Elantra, the Tiburon keeps its nose in the air with a MacPherson strut front suspension while the hind end stays up with struts in an independent system. But the essence of the Tiburon isn't what it shares with the Elantra, but where it differs.
From an engineering standpoint, the most exciting addition to the Tiburon is the 181-horsepower 2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 from the larger Sonata sedan. Available in the Tiburon GT V6, this V6's advantage is further pushed by Hyundai by the company's backing it with a five-speed manual, four-speed automatic or, for the first time in a Hyundai, a six-speed manual transmission. The V6 and transmission combination gives the Tiburon a real advantage over other more expensive sport coupes like the Acura RSX (no V6), Toyota Celica (no V6) and Mitsubishi Eclipse (no six-speed). So attractive is the V6 that Hyundai expects up to 80 percent of Tiburon sales to be so equipped. Putting a big engine in a small car isn't particularly innovative (see every muscle car ever made) but it's also proven effective (ibid).
Also in the great muscle car tradition, Hyundai has cribbed the styling from Ferrari. Much as the '70 1/2 Camaro was a lift of the classic Berlinetta Lusso, the new Tiburon is a mini-me clone of the 456GT. From sculptured flanks to greenhouse, the Tiburon's resemblance to Ferrari's current V12-powered four-seater is unmistakable. Frankly, if you're going to steal your styling, it pays to steal from the best, and in profile and general shape, the new Tiburon is contemporary, attractive and distinct from its competition (if not from the 456GT). Considering Hyundai's history of awkwardly proportioned machines, the new Tiburon counts as a breakthrough of sorts.
But the designers at Hyundai didn't quite know when to stop. Instead of leaving the shape to speak for itself, they added surface excitement and embellishments where they're just not needed. There's not one, but two non-functional side vents in each front fender. The headlights are compound projector beam units that don't need blisters on their leading edge, too. And while there's something inherently wicked/cool about fuel doors that look like quick-fill receptacles, it seems a distraction on this car. If they'd cut the overblown details down by, say 43 percent (leaving those side vent gills after all, tiburon is Spanish for shark but cutting back on some of the lower body cladding, for instance) those that remain would be better appreciated.
The Tiburon GT V6's innards continue the themes established by the exterior with thickly bolstered front seats, a rear seat that's not much more than an afterthought and a hooded instrument binnacle under which lives an oversize speedometer and tach circled in silver paint. The six-speed shifter sticks straight up from a silver ring in the center console, imparting a certain appealing gravitas, and the pedals are covered in an aluminum finish. The GT V6 carries air conditioning, a CD player, cruise, power everything and even leather upholstery as standard (the stuff-that-used-to-moo is deletable).
However, as on the exterior, there are discordant elements inside, too. Hyundai's designers apparently never decided whether the dash vents should be square or round, so there's some of both. The steering wheel's airbag is big, in GM circa-1991 style, and it sometimes seems that for every switch aboard there's a block plate where another switch could go. Anyone who hasn't driven a Hyundai in five years will be startled at how much the interior materials have improved, how satisfying almost everything is to the touch and how logical the ergonomics are, even though the cockpit as a whole feels a half-generation behind Toyota or Honda.
With 177 pound-feet of torque available at just 4,000 rpm, driving the Tiburon GT V6 is quite different from piloting high-strung fours like the RSX Type-S or Celica GT-S. The character of this V6 isn't particularly sporting or eager, but it's confident, composed and produces a sweet note from the dual exhaust. It's easy to break the optional P215/45R17 Michelin tires loose (P205/55R16 Michelins on 16-inch wheels are standard) on launch, but torque steer wasn't particularly apparent in our initial drive. With an engine this friendly and flexible, the six cogs available seem almost like overkill.
Down a straight road, the Tib's ride is composed and quiet over most surfaces. It's in corners where the Tiburon's limitations become apparent. With the weight of the V6 on its nose, and rather slow, numb rack-and-pinion steering, the Tib's front wants to plow furrows like a Farmall. The four-wheel disc brakes (ABS optional) can be used to balance the chassis somewhat, but the athleticism of the RSX or Celica just isn't there. We haven't driven a four-cylinder 2003 Tiburon, but doing so may enlighten us as to the source of the GT V6's profound understeer.
That the Tiburon can be mentioned as a plausible alternative to the RSX or Celica purely on its merits as a car indicates how far Hyundai has come. Factor in that prices start at an almost absurdly cheap $15,999 and peak at just $19,997, and that long warranty, and this coupe becomes even more viable. But is this Tiburon good enough to break the Hyundai curse of miserable resale values? In early February 2002, 2-year-old 2000 Tiburon, which sold for $13,999 new, is now worth $7,429 as a dealer trade-in according to Edmunds' own True Market Value (TMV®) research . In contrast, a 2000 Honda Civic DX coupe, which carried a $12,680 sticker when new ($1,319 less than the Tib) is now worth $7,608 as a trade-in ($179 more than the Tib). Smart buyers keep that depreciation in mind when shopping for cars, and the relatively low residual value of Hyundai's limits them from being attractive lease candidates.
Our expectation is that the rising tide of Hyundai quality is lifting the resale of all its models and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The next car Hyundai introduces may be its Accord the car that propels the manufacturer to the forefront of the automotive consciousness. The new Tiburon may not be that car, but it shows that Hyundai is capable of building it.
Used 2003 Hyundai Tiburon Overview
The Used 2003 Hyundai Tiburon is offered in the following submodels: . Available styles include GT V6 2dr Coupe (2.7L 6cyl 4A), GT V6 2dr Coupe (2.7L 6cyl 5M), 2dr Coupe (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GT V6 2dr Coupe (2.7L 6cyl 6M), and 2dr Coupe (2.0L 4cyl 5M).
What's a good price on a Used 2003 Hyundai Tiburon?
Price comparisons for Used 2003 Hyundai Tiburon trim styles:
- The Used 2003 Hyundai Tiburon Base is priced between $4,700 and$4,700 with odometer readings between 140015 and140015 miles.
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