The cars we loved.
The small two door, four passenger sport coupe known as the Tiburon in America goes by other names elsewhere like Tuscani or Hyundai Coupe. It rose from meager beginnings to become a formidable value in the small sporty coupe market. Like other cars from Hyundai, its a good example of company’s gradual rise to prominence.
The word Tiburon means shark in Spanish and describes the aggressive lines of this front wheel drive coupe. First introduced in 1997, the Tiburon was a small, scrappy, but distinctively styled 4 cylinder coupe that competed on the lower end of the sporty coupe market. It replaced the Scoupe which was Hyundai’s first attempt at competing with the likes of the Chevy Cavalier or low end versions of the Toyota Celica. With gradual improvements in build quality and refinement, the second generation car introduced in 2002 was a marked improvement on the original.
Still front wheel drive, it was now offered with a 2.7 L V6 (172 hp). A 2.0 L 4 with around 140 hp was a carry over from the previous car. All versions got a new fully independent suspension, while the top model GTV6 got a sport tuned version of it as well as unique spoiler and fog lights.
The biggest change however was the cars appearance and size. It grew larger with a more refined (if not stark) interior. The GTV6 was offered with everything you would expect in a modern sport coupe including premium stereo, leather seats, 17 in rims and a moon roof. The car’s upscaled styling was highly praised and often compared to Ferrari’s 456. Not bad for a car that barely cost $18,000.
With no less than four versions offered, it competed with everything from the Civic to the Eclipse. In performance tests it fared well against its main competitors, often besting them in handling and road feel regardless of which engine it had. This was primarily because the Tibuorn had a fully independent suspension while others like the Cavalier for instance made due with some form of torson beam rear suspension. Hyundai managed to keep the Tiburon’s sporting nature even as it grew larger and more comfortable.
In 2009 Hyundai set its sights even higher with the rear wheel drive V8 powered Genesis Coupe. Although Hyundai never admitted to canceling the Tiburon, it was not offered after 2008. Rumor had it that a new front wheel drive coupe was in development as the next Tiburon. Its difficult to understand why Hyundai jumped the gun to make a rear wheel drive Mustang fighter, just when the Tiburon was finally establishing a good reputation in the front wheel drive arena.
With Hyundai’s rapidly evolving car line-up, there’s no telling if or when we might see a true successor to the Tiburon. For now there are variants of the Elantra that Hyundai dealers would gladly sell you.