2004 Hyundai Tiburon Reviews and Ratings

Coupe 2D

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2004 Hyundai Tiburon
John Rettie

The Hyundai Tiburon delivers style and performance at affordable prices. Tiburon means shark in Spanish and the Hyundai Tiburon looks like the automotive equivalent of a shark, with a flowing profile and gill-like front fender vents.

The 2004 Hyundai Tiburon GT V6 benefits from a re-tuned exhaust for a more aggressive sound a few more horses. The V6 delivers good acceleration performance with strong torque for flexible drivability around town. Tiburon GT's handling is fully competitive for the class. A retuned suspension and wider tires further sharpen the handling for 2004, and the interior gets some nice upgrades. The four-cylinder engine that comes with the base Tiburon also gets a slight boost in power, improved drivability, and reduced emissions, all benefits of a new variable-valve cylinder head.

Compelling pricing makes the Tiburon an attractive proposition. The Tiburon starts at less than $17,000. A Tiburon GT V6 absolutely loaded with leather seats, sunroof, an Infinity audio system, ABS, and a special six-speed gearbox retails for $21,597. A comparably equipped Mitsubishi Eclipse V6 (with a ropey five-speed) lists for $25,667. A six-speed Toyota Celica GTS with all the goodies lists for $23,915 and a V6 isn't available.

Hyundai has emerged the past few years to produce attractive cars with performance and panache. The quality of its products has improved tremendously in the past few years, according to the respected quality gurus at J. D. Power and Associates. Hyundai offers the best warranty in the business: 5 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper and 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain. Model Lineup
Two versions of the Hyundai Tiburon are available: the base four-cylinder model and the GT V6. Apart from different wheels and spoilers, both models share the same sexy lines and enjoy a comprehensive list of standard features: air conditioning; side-impact airbags, power windows, mirrors and door locks; keyless entry with alarm; four wheel disc brakes; and dual chrome-tipped exhaust outlets.

The 2004 Tiburon ($16,999) is powered by a 2.0-liter inline-4 boosted to 138 horsepower with the new variable valve timing system. This engine is offered with a standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission ($900). Just two other options are available: an Infinity premium stereo with cassette and CD player ($649), and a package consisting of the Infinity cassette CD system and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($1,349).

The 2004 Tiburon GT V6 ($18,199) is powered by a 2.7-liter V6 rated at 172 horsepower. Its suspension is stiffer and the wheels and tires are upgraded in size to 215/45R17 Michelin Pilots. The interior is dressed up with new map lights, deluxe carpeting, and leather wraps for the steering wheel and shift knob. Three transmissions are available on the GT V6. A five-speed manual is standard. Buyers can also choose a four-speed automatic ($900) or a six-speed manual ($950).

GT V6 options include a sunroof-and-stereo package ($1,349); the same package plus leather seats ($1,949); or all of the above plus anti-lock brakes ($2,448). With the six-speed, you can upgrade to the Infinity CD stereo and leather ($1249); or go all the way and get a super-premium Infinity 360 watt CD/cassette system, leather, sunroof, and ABS ($2448). Walkaround
The Hyundai Tiburon is attractive and stylish in a field of stylish coupes. It looks good from every angle. The Tiburon looks bigger in photographs; in real life it's dramatically low and compact, comparable in size to the Mitsubishi Eclipse and the aging Toyota Celica.

At the Tiburon's nose, four headlights peer from behind plastic covers. Large turn signals lead up into the false fender line that is actually part of the hood. The front of the hood leads down into a small horizontal grill that is swamped by a large bumper. A much larger five-slot air opening is nicely integrated into the lower part of the bumper and includes two small round fog lights.

The Tiburon looks best in profile. It follows the classic lines of a grand touring car with a heavily raked windshield and a roofline that sweeps all the way to its abbreviated tail, a fastback coupe. Hyundai's designers have added pizzazz to the profile by slashing the front fender with vertical louvers that look like shark gills, and then streaking a sheet-metal crease upward and rearward from the front wheel opening to the high, flared rear fender. In the rear the fenders curve into the large, almost ovoid one-piece taillight clusters.

The rear hatch on this hatchback has no spoiler on the base model but comes with a small lip-type spoiler on the GT V6 with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The six-speed model gets a bigger spoiler that helps differentiate it. Interior
When the second-generation Tiburon was launched as a 2003 model, its interior seemed less sporty than that of the previous-generation car. That was mostly because everything was finished in black, making it a bit somber. Hyundai has relieved this impression somewhat for 2004, by adding bright trim around the center stack and the switch panel on the door.

The dashboard sweeps across the width of the cabin with just a smallish instrument pod and two heater vents to break up its shape. The fuel and water temperature gauges separate the round tachometer and speedometer.

The stereo system is located in a flat center console panel with large knobs for heating and ventilation located beneath. The manual transmission shifter has a short throw and is well situated for smooth shifting. A proper parking brake is located on the left side of the center console, leaving room for a cupholder and a small storage tray.

The bucket seats are okay, but not as sporty as one might hope for, as they could do with some more side support for spirited driving. We liked the cloth seats because they grip better and are cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Headroom and legroom in front are fine, on par with other cars in the small sport-coupe class.

Like most sport coupes, the Tiburon is really a 2+2-seater, not a full four-seat car. Realistically, the rear seats are better used for storage than for carrying passengers, unless those passengers are shorter than five feet.

The optional 360-watt Infinity stereo features six speakers strategically located and a large subwoofer in the trunk. Crank up the volume and you are enveloped in sound.

Apart from the room taken up by the high-zoot stereo's subwoofer, storage space is quite decent. The wide-opening liftgate and the 50/50 split folding rear seat add to its utility. A cargo net would be a helpful addition to help keep stuff in place when throwing the car around corners after a stop at the grocery store. Driving Impressions
The Tiburon GT V6 drives really well. The V6 revs freely to 6000 rpm. The engine has a pleasantly husky sound thanks to its free-flowing exhaust. Slam the power down and the front wheels scrabble for grip, at least until the 215/45R17 Michelin Pilot tires get to work and the car sprints forward. Shift into second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth and the car's cruising. If you get lazy and forget to downshift as you putter around town, it's no problem as the engine has plenty of torque at low rpm. We found it'll pull reasonably well in sixth gear from 35 mph. The low-end torque of the Tiburon makes for a different driving experience than that of cars like the Celica GTS and Civic Si that thrive on revving over 6000 rpm.

If you prefer an automatic transmission, go for the GT V6 and you'll not give up much in performance, especially as the automatic includes Shiftronic manual control.

The power rack-and-pinion steering feels fine. It's precise with just enough feedback for fast driving. With the power of the V6 torque steer is inevitable but it's controllable and actually kind of fun when you're driving round town. On the highway it's barely noticeable. Not unexpectedly the car tends to understeer, what with the weight of the aluminum V6 engine mounted transversely between the front wheels.

During a brief test drive among pylons laid out in the infield of Las Vegas Speedway we found the Tiburon easy to throw around. Like all front-drive cars, it tended to understeer (the front wheels lose grip before the rear wheels), but it was easy to compensate by using the throttle, brakes, and steering wheel.

Overall, the handling is good, with little body roll. Up front are MacPherson struts, with lower links isolated by a subframe. A multi-link suspension with Chapman struts holds up the rear. All models get anti-roll bars and gas-filled shock absorbers. The sport-tuned suspension on the GT V6 has 10-percent stiffer spring rates, stiffer compression in the gas-charged shocks and thicker anti roll bars front (23mm vs. 20mm) and rear (19mm vs. 18mm).

Out on the highway, and on smooth roads, the Tiburon rides well; but the sports suspension and low-profile tires tend to transmit excessive harshness into the cockpit on rough road surfaces. The four-wheel disc brakes worked well and stopped the car quickly. Summary
Driving a 2004 Hyundai Tiburon GT V6 elicits smiles all around. It's a great car or its price. Take the cash you save and spend it on accessories, and you could build a super-cool ride for less money than a stock version of one of the Tiburon's competitors. Perhaps the Tiburon is a shark after all: It may well eat some of the other fish in small sport coupe pond.

Model as tested
Hyundai Tiburon GT V6 ($18,199)
Basic Warranty
5 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Asan, South Korea
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
6-speed manual transmission ($950), Package 11 ($2448) includes leather upholstery, 360-watt Infinity AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with subwoofer, power tilt-and-slide sunroof, ABS

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Hyundai Tiburon ($16,999); Tiburon GT V6 ($18,199)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, dual front side-impact airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
2.7-liter dohc 24-valve V6
6-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
tilt steering wheel; power steering; air conditioning; six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; power windows, mirror and locks; cruise control; remote keyless entry with alarm; 17-inch aluminum wheels; four-wheel disc brakes; dual-chrome-tipped exhaust; sport-tuned suspension

Engine & Transmission
2.7-liter dohc 24-valve V6
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
172 @ 6000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension, rear
independent, Chapman struts, multiple links, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

J.D. Power Ratings may not include all information used to determine J.D. Power awards, visit the Car Ratings page to learn more about awards and ratings.