1998 Hyundai Tiburon Reviews and Ratings

Coupe 2D

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1998 Hyundai Tiburon
Mitch McCullough, Editor-in-Chief

Introduction
Like the shark that swims off the coast of Central America, Hyundai's Tiburon is quick when provoked and attracts attention when cruising about. With its bold design and spirited performance, the Tiburon offers a stylish alternative to other compact coupes.

Tiburon's aggressive, muscular styling is backed up by a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, a fully independent sports suspension and optional four-wheel antilock disc brakes. The smaller 130-horsepower engine offered last year has been dropped, yet the price of the base Tiburon was increased by just $100; most racers would be overjoyed to pay just $10 a horse.

Launched as a totally new model last year, the Tiburon is loosely based on Hyundai's Elantra sedan. The Tiburon is fun to drive, offering good handling, brisk acceleration performance and construction quality comparable to other vehicles in its class.

Two models are available, both with power steering and power windows. The $14,014 Tiburon is equipped with rear drum brakes and 14-inch wheels; however, a $1,383 package is needed by most folks to add air conditioning and a cassette stereo, which brings the total to a still reasonable $15,397.

The $15,314 Tiburon FX comes standard with rear disc brakes, 15-inch alloy wheels, a spoiler and fog lights, but air conditioning, cruise control and a stereo bring the total to $16,897.

Even with the options packages, those prices are very attractive when measured against the Mitsubishi Eclipse RS, Toyota Celica ST and Nissan 200SX SE-R. Among the primary competitors, only the Pontiac Sunfire GT Coupe is less expensive than the Tiburon FX.

The FX is distinguished from the base Tiburon by its rear spoiler, fog lights and alloy wheels, but for $1,000, those items can be added to the base model. Walkaround
The Tiburon has quickly attracted attention as one of the newest sport coupes on the street. Styling is half the battle in this class, and the Tiburon presents a bold stance in what is becoming a bland world of sport coupes.

Bulging fenders and sharp creases give Hyundai's new shark an aggressive appearance. The grilleless front end is low with a one-piece body-colored wrap-around bumper with an integrated air dam that channels cooling air into the engine compartment. Ellipsoid projector headlights are stylish and throw a sharply defined beam that minimizes glare to oncoming cars. Frameless doors with flush-mounted glass and aerodynamic side mirrors help minimize interior noise. Rear styling is rounded and aerodynamic with integrated bumper and elegantly shaped jewel-like combination lamps. FX models come equipped with a rear wiper and washer. With a coefficient of drag of 0.33, the sleek lines help minimize noise and maximize fuel efficiency.

In addition to the sports equipment, the FX gets nicer cloth upholstery, a six-way adjustable driver's seat, a more elaborate sound system, a lid for the center console, power door locks, power outside mirrors and optional cruise control. The FX fog lamps are integrated into the standard front air dam for a clean appearance, though they add little illumination. Two-tone leather seats with a matching steering wheel and shift knob are an option for the FX.

The Tiburon's chassis is commendably stiff, a key element in ride quality and handling. MacPherson struts are used for the front suspension, while the rear is a dual link design. The shock absorbers are gas-charged units mounted inside the coil springs, which resist heat buildup and deliver a controlled ride over rough surfaces. Antiroll bars fore and aft reduce body lean in corners. All the components are aimed at delivering the agile handling qualities we expect from a sport coupe.

As mentioned, the base model employs drum brakes at the rear, while the FX gets rear discs. Disc brakes resist fade better than drums, but only hard driving for extended periods reveals much difference in performance and both models use discs up front where 90 percent of the braking force is accomplished. Interior
The interior is functional and attractive. The formed foam seats are firm, supportive and comfortable, with thigh bolsters that provide good side support during hard cornering. The base model is comfortable, but the FX benefits from a driver's seat with tilt adjustment, lumbar support and fabric accents.

There is ample leg, head and shoulder room up front. The wraparound contoured dash makes the driver feel like a pilot without inducing claustrophobia. Attractive curves over the top of the vents are reminiscent of bygone era of sports cars. The ventilation controls are big Lexus-like knobs that we found easy to operate when the car is moving.

Power windows are standard on both models. The big ovoid speedometer and tachometer are stylish, as well as highly legible. Slender front roof pillars contribute to excellent forward visibility, a view enhanced by bulging front fenders clearly visible from the front seats. The back seats are roomier than those in the Celica or Eclipse.

Overall, we give the interior an enthusiastic thumbs up.

The trunk is surprisingly roomy. The Tiburon offers more trunk space than the 200SX and Sunfire, but not as much as the Eclipse. It swallowed a king-size presentation portfolio laid flat, the passenger car equivalent of putting a sheet of plywood in the back of a pickup truck. Driving Impressions
The 2.0-liter Tiburon engine provides quick acceleration on back roads and plenty of torque for cruising around town. It employs double overhead cams, 16 valves, electronic fuel injection and a distributorless ignition system. A knock control system permits a high 10.3:1 compression ratio for improved output and a modified pentroof combustion chamber with a tumble port design and dual-aperture spray injectors provide optimum responsiveness and performance while reducing emissions. Hyundai worked hard to minimize friction and vibration by using lightweight parts, silicon-impregnated pistons and fluid-damped engine mounts. While it's neither the smoothest nor the quietest engine on the market, it falls well within acceptable bounds.

Hyundai definitely did its homework on the Tiburon's chassis. It's among the stiffest in its class, which is probably why the Tiburon weighs a bit more than some of its competitors. Chassis stiffness is where agile handling starts, and we were very favorably impressed with the Tiburon's athletic responses in quick maneuvers.

Even in extreme lane-change and slalom exercises, the car felt balanced and stable, and the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is quick and accurate. The Tiburon is one of those cars that made us go out of our way to give it some exercise on favored stretches of winding back roads, something that can't be said for some of its competitors.

If there's any downside to the Tiburon's dynamic traits, it lies in the action of the five-speed manual gearbox, which feels less precise than some others in this class. In particular, low-speed downshifts into first gear can be a challenge. Making a proper upshift in hard low-speed cornering also requires a little extra care, a trait that's not at all uncommon in small front-drive hot rods such as this.

However, at higher speeds the gearbox works fine and the gearing is well suited to the engine's power characteristics. The optional four-speed automatic takes much of the sport out of this--or any--sport coupe, but the 140-horsepower engine offers sufficient torque to work well with the automatic. Summary
With its bulging flanks, the Hyundai Tiburon is a stylish alternative to the relatively bland sport compacts that compete with it. This little shark is designed to prey on the Nissan 200SX, Pontiac Sunfire, Toyota Celica and Mitsubishi Eclipse. Although the Tiburon doesn't quite have the biggest teeth in this class, it can swim heads up with most of them, and we think it's a must-see if you're in the market for an inexpensive sporty coupe that's fun to drive.

Stylish, fun to drive, well equipped and inexpensive, the Hyundai Tiburon has a lot to offer.

Model as tested
FX
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Ulsan, Korea
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
14014
Price as tested
16814
Options as tested
Air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/cassette stereo

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.0-liter dohc 16v inline 4-cylinder
Transmissions
5-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
Four-wheel disc brakes, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, 6-way adjustable driver's seat, rear window defogger

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.0-liter dohc 16v inline 4-cylinder
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
140 @ 6000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
22/29
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/drum
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P195/55HR-15 Michelin
Suspension, rear
Independent

Accomodations
Seating capacity
4
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.0/52.4/43.1
Head/hip/leg room, rear
34.4/47.8/29.9

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
12.8
Wheelbase
97.4
Length/width/height
170.9/68.1/51.3
Turning circle
34.1
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
57.7/57.1
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight
2566


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