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2003 Hyundai Tiburon Photo
Reviewed by John Pearley Huffman
Editor, The Car Connection
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$16,249
Quick Take
2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT V-6 by Bob Hall (2/4/2002)2002 Hyundai Elantra GT by Bob Hall (10/15/2001)... Read more »
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2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT V-6 by Bob Hall (2/4/2002)
2002 Hyundai Elantra GT by Bob Hall (10/15/2001)

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For any manufacturer to hit it big, it needs at least one car that vaults it to the forefront of the automotive consciousness and attracts buyers solely on its merits. For Ford, it was the Model T. Honda made its fortune with the Civic (and followed it up with the Accord). BMW had the 2002, VW the Beetle, Porsche the 356, Nissan (um, Datsun) the 510, MG the TC… you get the point.

Hyundai has been on a sales tear (they sold 346,235 vehicle during 2001, up an almost insane 42 percent over 2000) but it still hasn’t found that “alpha car” that takes it beyond bargain shoppers and into the profitable mainstream. But they’re getting close. And the new 2003 Tiburon sport coupe is the latest evidence.

Hyundai may not be a Korean Honda yet, but they can see the promised land from where they’re standing. In the automotive world, they occupy the Golan Heights.

Recombinant engineering

Looking deep into its parts bin, Hyundai started with the front-drive Elantra sedan’s basic chassis and transmogrified it into a new platform (known within Hyundai as the GK) for this, the third generation Tiburon. Then they looked over at the larger Sonata sedan and plucked out its V-6 as the optional engine for the new Tib. Finding nothing suitable in their own inventory, they then cribbed the styling from the Ferrari 456.

The Tiburon’s 99.6-inch wheelbase and 173.0-inch overall length plop it squarely in the small sport coupe conventional wisdom. Toyota’s Celica and Acura’s RSX both have slightly longer wheelbases but are slightly shorter overall, while the Mitsubishi Eclipse is slightly longer in both dimensions.

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