A couple of weeks ago I was given the opportunity to see the new 2008 Tiburon. I wasn’t expecting it to be resigned yet, but knew I just had to test the 2007 before the opportunity was gone forever (Watch this space for a future test on the 2008 version). With winter fast approaching I was happy to get my hands on the 2007 before the snow started to fly.
I was never a big fan of the first-generation Tiburon, I thought it was too odd-looking. With the arrival of the second-generation I was very interested in having a closer look. I knew it wasn’t going to be just another economy car tarted up to look like a sports car as I had watched Top Gear’s Richard Hammond put it through its paces when it was first out, and he was extremely impressed.
Opening the very long doors revealed a very sporty looking pair of seats with shoulder bolsters no less, and black leather seats with red stitching (in the U.S. the leather seats only come in beige). In typical sports car fashion it was a big drop down to the seat, almost a free-fall until I landed in the leather heated seat. Adjusting and setting the seat was very easy with no need to make further adjustments for the rest of the week. My initial impression on the seat was that it was extremely comfortable – firm, but comfortable. After a week and a lot of time behind the wheel my initial impression didn’t change one bit. These are some of the most comfortable seats I’d experienced all year. Unlike many sports car seats, these keep you firmly in place but they don’t feel like they’re made out of wood. The drivers’ seat has a manual lumber adjustment, but the passenger has to do without it which is a bit unfortunate because it would have made that seat a lot more comfortable.
The fat steering wheel tilts, but does not telescope and is perfectly weighted for parking lots and high-speed maneuvers alike.
Surprisingly the Tiburon’s steering wheel doesn’t have the customary audio controls. The cruise control lever sits at the 4 o’clock position and works logically and intuitively. The instrument cluster in front of the driver has the speedometer to the left and the tachometer to the right, which is backwards to most manufacturers’ setups. Sitting between those large gauges is a couple of small gauges for the engine temperature and the fuel, with a drivers information centre located below them. All of the instrumentation and switches in the car light up red, of which I’m not a big fan.
The centre console houses the large round HVAC vents with the hazard and fog light buttons, as well as the clock immediately below that. Further down is a cubby hole with the stereo unit beneath it in all of the models but the Tuscani. The Tuscani editions get a triple gauge cluster in this location which gives you a Torque dial (that didn’t work in the test vehicle – either that or there was zero torque coming from the engine), an mpg (L/100 kms) dial and an oil pressure gauge. Below the stereo is the automatic climate control, and still farther down is a cigarette lighter and ashtray. I would have much preferred that Hyundai reverse the location of the radio and the less important triple gauge cluster, as this would have made it much easier to operate the radio without taking your eyes off the road for more than a split second.
The shift lever for the Shiftronic automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual transmission is available) is perfectly placed where your hand naturally falls for it. Like other Hyundai’s, the upshift and downshift are backwards when compared to other manufacturers. For me the natural inclination is to push the lever forward to downshift and pull it back to upshift, but this Shiftronic operates in the opposite direction – something I wasn’t able to get comfortable with during my short stint with the vehicle, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem for someone living with it every day.
From the minute you climb behind the wheel, it all feels very familiar, with virtually no time needed to familiarize yourself with the vehicle – everything was very logically placed. There’s a nice big, perfectly placed dead pedal as well. As with all my tests, I go out of my way to find the bumpiest roads available, and the Tiburon excelled at handling all that I threw at it – surprisingly, even the worst of railroad tracks were a non-issue for this low-slung machine. Hyundai have done a fantastic job with the suspension, cornering was very flat with no body roll being evident.
The Tiburon is an average-sized car, but the driver and front passengers sit quite close together making it a constant battle for the armrest, and the continual bumping of elbows. Sometimes it almost felt like we were sharing a seat.
While the V-6 Tuscani’s horsepower is a reasonable 172, it’s the 181 lb/ft of torque at a low 3,800 rpm that makes the car feel so quick. Other cars with more horsepower usually see their maximum torque levels much higher up the rev range, so you really have to wind the engine up to get the power down. The Tuscani however, achieves well over the speed limit completely effortlessly and without any fuss – or even the sense that you’re traveling at such a high rate of speed – you have to keep one eye on the speedometer at all times – I found I was always driving WAY over the speed limit! One disconcerting trait was the transmission gave a sort of crunching feel when it shifted through one of the gears if you gave the go pedal a serious prod. Both my wife and I experienced it at different times, so it wasn’t just me. The car only had 5,000 kilometres [3,000 miles] on it, so it might be just a little adjustment that’s required to eliminate the problem.
The climate control buttons are reasonably easy to use, not quite as legible as a bare-bones HVAC system with large dials, but certainly not anywhere near as bad as other systems I’ve seen lately. Everything can be adjusted at a quick glance without having to study the diagrams that are commonly used in other vehicles. Likewise, the audio controls are easy enough to decipher, but the sound quality isn’t particularly impressive – I’d definitely budget for, and invest in an aftermarket unit and speakers if I were to buy a Tiburon. However, Hyundai do offer a number of different stereo options. There’s a decent-sized glovebox and a good-sized storage unit that sits between the front seats.
The power moonroof is standard in all but the base model of the Tiburon. I found it very noisy on the freeway even when it was closed, and we ended up closing the sunscreen on the moonroof for the entire week of the test drive. Even with the screen closed, it was still unacceptably noisy. There didn’t appear to be a problem with the seal, and the glass itself was perfectly flush with the roof, so I don’t understand why there was so much wind noise in the cabin. All in all this was a big disappointment since the whole idea of a moonroof is to let light and fresh air into the passenger compartment.
Rear seat accommodation is acceptable for dogs and cats. Entry and exit is typical for a coupe, but beware of banging your noggin on the sharp sweeping roofline. Once in back, it’s very comfortable for those without legs or even a head, so basically just a torso would be acceptable. There’s no leg, knee, foot or headroom to speak of – and that’s before putting the seatback in place for the driver to get in! I climbed back there and thumped my head on the rear window, and I’m pretty short. Anyone about 5’ tall would probably just touch the headliner. The Tiburon is definitely a 2-seater, not a 4-seater car. Both rear seats fold flat offering additional storage space for items too large to fit into the large cargo area. Entry to said cargo area is via a button on the driver’s door or the key. I found it very annoying that I couldn’t use the fob to unlock the rear hatch. Whenever I popped the trunk using the button, a loud clunk emanated from the rear lever, sounding as if someone had slammed the door closed. Opening the large rear hatch was reasonably easy, but my wife found it very heavy and cumbersome to close.
The Hyundai Tiburon comes in four variations: GS, GT, GT Limited & SE (only available in 6-speed manual) [Only three in Canada: Base, SE and Tuscani], with each version adding more standard features than the one below it. In the U.S. there’s a dizzying array of options, so contact your nearest dealer or the Hyundai website. In Canada the Tuscani is a completely unique model and there is no equivalent in the U.S. – it’s a combination of the U.S. GT version and the SE.
On the safety side, the Tiburon has plenty of safety features, for example: 4-wheel disc brakes, auto door lock/unlock, side-impact door beams, seat belt pre-tensioners in all seats, dual-stage airbags, an immobilizer system and anti-theft alarm. The Tuscani adds ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution).
The Tiburon is definitely a sports car and not an economy car in disguise. It’s a blast to drive and the price is quite reasonable for a sports car. Price-wise the Tuscani is right in line with the Honda Civic Si and all the other cars in its class. I didn’t like the fact that I had to use the key to unlock the rear hatch instead of using the fob. The ride, fit and finish are superb – it’s very much a driver’s car, but the front passenger gets to enjoy the ride too. The nicely contoured and bolstered seats are extremely comfortable for long drives.
Back Seat Driver Test: 3 out of 10
Excellent for transporting stuffed animals you’ve won at the carnival – try doing that Corvette owners! Small children can sit quite comfortably back there in their car seat, but getting them buckled in takes a bit of work.
Pricing for the 2007 Hyundai Tiburon Tuscani
As tested: $22,995 (approx.) [$28,688 Cdn]
Base price starts at $16,695 and rises to $22,095 [$20,675 – $28,975 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: $500 [$1,395 Cdn]
Bumper To Bumper Warranty: 60 months/60,000 miles [100,000 kms], same for the powertrain. Roadside assistance is 3 years/unlimited miles [kms]
Fuel Consumption: [regular]
The V-6 automatic is rated at 19.6 mpg City [12.4L/100 kms] and 29 mpg Highway [8.3 L/100 kms]
I averaged 24.6 mpg [9.9 L/100km] combined in aggressive driving
A sports car without the high price
Very large cargo area – especially if you include the back seats
Definitely a 2-seater – not a 4-seater.
Average stereo system
Very noisy because of the moonroof
Would I Spend My Money On It?
Chevy Cobalt SS, Ford Focus ZX3, Ford Mustang, Honda Civic Si, Mazdaspeed3, MINI, Mitsubishi Eclipse, VW Rabbit/GTI
By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 2.7L, 24-valve, DOHC, V-6; 4-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic; FWD
Horsepower: 172 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 181 @ 3,800 rpm
9 – Quality
6 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
9 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
8 – Special Features (Sat Nav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)
8 – Ease of Entry/Exit
7 – Front Roominess
3 – Rear Roominess
9 – Driving Position/Controls
8 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling
8 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy
124 Total / 150
Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland