Sporty/performance car; Built in South Korea
  • 2-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,200 – $2,800*

1998 Hyundai Tiburon

1998 Hyundai Tiburon

1998 Hyundai Tiburon

1997 Hyundai Tiburon interior

1997 Hyundai Tiburon

  • Fuel economy
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
  • Acceleration
  • Engine noise
  • Entry/exit
  • Rear-seat room
  • Road noise

Attractively and distinctively styled, the Tiburon can be a good bargain-priced alternative to Ford’s Probe as well as the Nissan 200SX. Although Tiburon ranks far ahead of the old Scoupe, however, it does no more than score dead even with other small sporty coupes, and behind some of them.


Hyundai’s replacement for the Scoupe sport coupe was based on the Elantra sedan, but rode a 3-inch shorter wheelbase and got its own hatchback styling. Two engines were available. Base Tiburons used the Elantra’s 1.8-liter dual-cam 4-cylinder, rated at 130 horsepower. The upscale FX edition got a 2.0-liter four, producing 140 horses. A 5-speed manual gearbox was standard, and the optional 4-speed automatic transmission had Normal and Power shift modes. Tiburon’s independent coil-spring suspension was essentially the same as the setup on the Elantra. Also borrowed from Elantra were the power rack-and-pinion steering and the front-disc/rear-drum brakes. A Tiburon FX could have optional antilock braking, with rear discs instead of drums. Dual front airbags were standard, along with air conditioning, power windows, remote-control mirrors, a tachometer, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM cassette stereo, 50/50 split folding rear seat, and a roller-blind cargo cover.

Yearly Updates

1998 Tiburon
Tiburon lost its weaker engine, giving both models the 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder.
1999 Tiburon
A power sunroof and CD player, previously available only on the upscale FX, became optional on the base coupe as well.
2000 Tiburon
Facelifted for 2000, Tiburon lost its uplevel FX model, leaving only a base coupe with a revamped nose, including standard fog lamps and a new-look tail. All-disc brakes and 15-inch alloy wheels were now standard, as were power windows.
2001 Tiburon
For 2001, Tiburon got a standard rear spoiler. Also new were metal-look interior trim and revised front bucket seats with manual 6-way driver’s adjustment, new engine mounts, and a stiffer dashboard.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

In the first season, two engines were available: a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder rated at 130 horsepower, and a stronger 2.0-liter. Since then, all Tiburons have used a dual-overhead-cam 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, making 140 horsepower. Either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic might be installed.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/110
Engine HP 130
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 122
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 140
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 133
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Though the 2.0-liter engine is a little smoother and quieter than the first-year 1.8-liter four, it also disappoints, generating a loud, crude growl during even moderate acceleration. The growling does not smooth out fully when cruising, either. Furthermore, road noise and suspension thumping grow annoying, making Tiburon quite unpleasant on a long trip. Acceleration from a standstill and from midrange speeds qualifies only as adequate–not lively enough to satisfy the enthusiastic driver. An automatic transmission slows progress substantially. An automatic Tiburon averaged an appealing 25 mpg in a mix of urban commuting and rush-hour expressway driving.

Handling is one of the car’s greatest strengths–sporty and secure, with well-managed body lean through turns. A Tiburon pulls through sweeping curves with good grip and stability. Firm steering has plenty of road feel, centering quickly after turns. Large bumps and dips can yield mild floatiness, however. A comfortable ride is another of this coupe’s prime attributes. The ride is taut, but without lapsing into harshness.

The driver gets a low, snug driving position, facing a well-arranged dashboard. Back-seat space is no more than a joke, for anyone above toddler size. Entry/exit isn’t so easy, even into front seats. Visibility is above average for a sports coupe, despite the car’s curvy shape.


Model Tested: 1998 Hyundai Tiburon w/auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 5

Total: 39


2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.4 170.9 68.1 51.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.8 14.5 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.0 34.4 43.1 29.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Tiburon 2-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 210
Injury 211
Theft 109

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Harsh automatic transmission 4-3 downshifts when decelerating may require the transmission-control module or entire transaxle to be replaced. (1997-98)
Description: The clutch may drag (manual transmission), especially after long-term storage due to grease in the hydraulic line. Flushing and refilling the system cures the problem. (1997)
Description: The edge of the sunroof lip rusts because the weatherstrip does not seal properly. (1997-98)
Timing belt
Description: The timing chain may be noisy and wear out prematurely. (1997-98)
Timing belt
Description: Noise from the timing belt due to belt walking off of pulley and rubbing timing cover requiring replacement of the idler pulley. (1999-00)
Transmission problems
Description: If transmission sticks in 3rd, shifts poorly, or has harsh 1-2 shift, the pulse generator may need to be replaced. (1997-2001)

Recall History

Description: Wipers may not operate, due to contamination in contacts.
Description: Evaporative-emissions control system can apply excessive vacuum to fuel tank, which could result in minor tank distortion; small crack could develop, allowing fuel to escape.
Description: The driver and front passenger seatbelts may not extend and retract smoothly through the d-ring guides mounted on the body pillars aft of the doors.
1999 w/automatic transmission
Description: Pressure-control solenoid-valve seals can allow transmission fluid to leak, resulting in slippage.
Description: Tire-pressure placard contains incorrect tire sizes, seating capacity, and luggage capacity.
Description: Seatbelts may not extend and retract smoothly, making them inconvenient to use.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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