Sporty/performance car; Built in South Korea
  • 2-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $3,200 – $12,000*

2003 Hyundai Tiburon

2004 Hyundai Tiburon

2005 Hyundai Tiburon

Hyundai Tiburon interior

  • Steering/handling
  • Entry/exit
  • Rear-seat room

It’s not that quick, refined, or practical, but the Tiburon is a credible effort that’s fun to drive. Depreciation tends to be steep, which keeps used-car prices down. Backed by a long warranty, a fully-equipped V6 could be a tempting choice for the budget-conscious sporty-compact crowd.


Hyundai, a fast-growing South Korean automaker, redesigned its sporty front-drive hatchback coupe for 2003, giving it larger dimensions, new styling, and a V6 engine. Tiburon’s wheelbase and overall length grew slightly compared to the previous version, and curb weight increased by about 200 pounds. The previous-generation Tiburon expired after 2001, and there was no 2002 version.

Base and GT V6 models were offered, both with standard front side airbags and optional antilock braking. Base Tiburons retained a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. GT V6 coupes got the 2.7-liter V6 that was used in Hyundai’s Santa Fe SUV and Sonata sedan. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, and a four-speed automatic was optional. The automatic unit had a manual shift gate. Also optional on the GT V6 was a six-speed manual gearbox.

Base models rode on 16-inch tires, versus 17-inch for the GT V6. Both had standard four-wheel disc brakes. Traction control was not available, but a sunroof was optional. Leather upholstery was standard in the GT V6, which could also have a rear spoiler and aluminum pedals.

Hyundai had one of the industry’s longest new-car warranties. Rivals included the Acura RSX, Toyota Celica, and Mini Cooper.

Yearly Updates

2004 Tiburon
No significant changes were evident for 2004.
2005 Tiburon
Tiburons got a minor facelift for 2005, along with a reshuffled model lineup that included GS, GT, and SE models. Hyundai’s four-cylinder engine went into the GS, while the other two held the 2.7-liter V6. A five-speed manual transmission was standard. A four-speed automatic with a manual shift was optional for GS and GT models, but the SE had exclusive use of a six-speed manual gearbox. Antilock braking was standard on the SE and optional for the GT coupe, which could be equipped with leather upholstery. GS coupes rode on 16-inch wheels, versus 17-inch for other models. All-disc brakes and front side airbags were standard. A new competitor this year was the Scion tC coupe.
2006 Tiburon
Antilock brakes are standard on all Tiburons for 2006.
2007 Tiburon
Styling changes lead 2007 news for Hyundai’s sporty hatchback coupes. Tiburon got a revised hood, front fenders, bumpers and taillights. Also new for ’07, the SE came only with a 6-speed manual transmission, got standard traction/antiskid control, specially tuned sport suspension, and larger brakes.
2008 Tiburon
The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is largely unchanged.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

n the base/GS coupe, Hyundai’s dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine developed up to 138 horsepower. The GT coupe (and later SE) held a 2.7-liter V6 engine that could produce 172 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission was standard in base/GS coupes, while the 2003-04 GT used a six-speed. A four-speed automatic transmission has been optional for all models except for the 2005 SE, which came only with a six-speed manual transmission.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 134-138
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 133-136
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual


dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.7/162
Engine HP 170-172
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 177-181
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual


Road Test

Performance depends on the powertrain. A GT V6 with manual shift feels peppy with lots of shifting. A six-speed model accelerated to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, but shifter and clutch action are imprecise. Hyundai claimed an 8.2-second time with an automatic transmission, which saps some midrange punch but compensates with its manual shift gate. Still, Tiburon is a relatively heavy small coupe, and this V6 isn’t sufficiently potent for its size.

Tiburons fare better in fuel economy. Six-speed V6s averaged 15.7 mpg in fast city/freeway driving and performance tests, and 22.1 mpg in mixed city/freeway work. Both engines use regular fuel.

Large, sharp bumps can jolt occupants, though the solid structure lessens apparent harshness. Nervous pattering occurs with 17-inch tires on flawed pavement.

Capable in most situations, the Tiburon functions with good grip and only moderate body lean. Steering is a bit light and the nose plows in very fast, sharp turns, but high-speed maneuvering is predictable and fun. Braking is strong and stable with ABS installed, but a non-ABS example needed a gentle right foot to avoid early, sudden front-wheel lockup in simulated emergency stops, and its brakes felt touchy even in routine use.

Engine noise intrudes under full power, and 17-inch tires generate lots of road roar. Wind rush is acceptable in gentle cruising, but excess buffeting discourages lowered windows even at modest speeds.

The dashboard is needlessly stylized, but gauges and most controls are within easy view and reach. Some drivers might find that the manual shift lever is too far back for easiest access to some gears. Cabin materials are not top-grade, but not cheap-looking either. The instrument panel’s seven blank switchplates are eyesores, though.

Low-slung front seats make entry/exit feel like a chore. Once you’re seated, the cabin design imparts a closed-in feel–almost like sitting in a bathtub. Still, even six-footers should be comfortable, though the sunroof limits head clearance and seats could benefit from greater lumbar support. Rear visibility is hampered by thick roof pillars and a sloping rear window.

Only youngsters fit in back. Folks over five-feet-six might bang their heads against the roof or rear window–as a sticker inside the hatch lid warns. Entry/exit is difficult, too.

Hatchback design and a standard split-fold rear seat are practical, but the available subwoofer (if installed) steals cargo space. Small-items storage is okay, but many rivals do better.


Model Tested: 2004 Tiburon GT V6 w/six-speed manual

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 - 6
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 1
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 5

Total: 43


2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
99.6 173.0 69.3 52.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.7 14.2 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.0 34.4 43.0 29.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 Tiburon GT V6 w/six-speed manual 2-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


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

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Several problems with transmissions including harsh shifts, erratic shifts and dropping into failsafe mode have been traced to shorted wiring harnesses, and bad transmission control modules. (2003)
Fuel pump
Description: The engine may run poorly at high altitudes due to low fuel pump pressure and vehicles sold in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada were being quietly outfitted with revised pumps. (2003-04)
Oil leak
Description: Oil leaks at the differential are repaired by replacing the oil seal with a redesigned part. (2003)
Oil leak
Description: Oil may leak from the transaxle at the oil seals, but looks like a seam leak. (2003-07)
Rough idle
Description: When first started in hot weather, the 2.0L engine may hesitate or stumble around 4,000 rpm requiring reprogramming of the PCM (engine computer). (2003)
Description: The sunroof may leak at the rear and water travels down the C-pillar where it can enter and short out the sound system amplifier. (2003)
Description: The sunroof may fail on some early-build models requiring replacement of the motor and controller. (2003)
Description: The low tire pressure warning light may illuminate due to electromagnetic interference from transmitters near police stations, airports or other sources of electronic transmission, but will usually go out when moving out of range. The warning light may also be activated by some electronic devices plugged in the accessory power outlet. (2006-07)
Transmission problems
Description: Transmission may not work in regular mode, but may work fine in sport mode or vise versa due to problem in switch box. (2003)
Transmission problems
Description: Transmission may engage harshly or be delayed when shifting out of park due to a faulty engine control module or powertrain control module. (2005-07)
Transmission problems
Description: Harsh or late shifts may be corrected with a software update, but it that fails the transmission or transmission control module may need to be replaced. (2005-08)

Recall History

Description: Valve on fuel tank assembly may not close properly; if vehicle rolls over and valve is not closed, fuel spillage may occur.
Description: (vehicles originally sold in or currently registered in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.) Road salt used during the winter months may result in internal corrosion and thinning of the steel in the front lower control arms. The corrosion may progress to the point where the lower control arm’s upper and lower panels become perforated. A perforated front lower control arm may fracture between its ball joint attachment and the forward and rearward pivot attachments to the chassis. The fracturing of the control arm could an owners control over their vehicle that may increase the risk of a crash. Dealers will inspect the front lower control arms for corrosion damage.
Description: Threaded portions of steering gearbox inner ball joint assemblies may contain internal cracks; breakage would lead to loss of steering control of one wheel, whose tie rod assembly would no longer be attached.

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.