2008 Hyundai Tiburon

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

Buying tip

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon may be replaced, but not by the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. That rear-drive machine arrives next year, but there's also word that Hyundai is developing a new, small, front-drive coupe for a debut in 2011. Stay tuned.

features & specs

2-Door Coupe Automatic GS
2-Door Coupe Automatic GT
2-Door Coupe Automatic GT Limited
20 city / 27 hwy
17 city / 24 hwy
17 city / 24 hwy

As good as 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is, its resale value is hurt by the poor quality of earlier models. It's important that you anticipate steep depreciation before committing.

Editors from TheCarConnection.com studied reviews of the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon and have condensed them into this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's team has also driven the Hyundai Tiburon in order to provide you with firsthand advice about it. This review also compares the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon with other vehicles in its class to assist you in forming your own opinion about this sporty front-wheel-drive coupe.

The Hyundai Tiburon was introduced in 1997--ages ago when you're considering Hyundai automobiles. Hyundai has proven that it can dramatically improve the quality of its vehicles quickly. The transformation between the first Tiburon (meaning "shark" in Spanish) and the second-generation car that came on line as a 2003 model is nothing short of revolutionary.

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon that you're reading about is a second-generation model, but benefits from continuous upgrades ever since. In recent years, Hyundai has improved Tiburon by adding features and refining the front-wheel-drive coupe's styling.

Today, the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is offered in four trim levels: GS, SE, GT, and GT-Limited. There are minor differences between trims, but overall the exterior style has matured, especially since the design refresh completed for 2007. Inside, detailing is good, particularly in the high-performance SE model, which gets aluminum pedals, red and black bucket seats, and plenty of other performance equipment.

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The entry-level 2008 Tiburon GS features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower. Matching transmissions include a fuel-efficient five-speed manual and an available four-speed automatic with Hyundai's SHIFTRONIC system. Economy for 2008 is 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway with manual transmission, 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway with the automatic.

The 2008 Tiburon GT, SE, and GT Limited benefit from the more powerful all-aluminum 2.7-liter V-6 rated at 172 horsepower. A five-speed manual is standard, while a six-speed ZF manual comes with the performance-oriented Tiburon SE. A four-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC is available on the GT and GT Limited. Fuel economy estimates for 2008 are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for both the Tiburon GT and GT Limited, regardless of transmission. The new SE yields 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com prefer the performance of the V-6 to the four-cylinder, but even with the six, the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon isn't the sportiest of sportscars. The V-6 is rather lazy when it comes to revving, so don't expect Formula One-style throttle response during your test drive. On the road, the Tiburon also rides stiffly. This is fine, given the young buyers Hyundai targets, but it gets a little tiring for older drivers who have already matured past wanting to drive a go-kart to work, week in and week out.

The Tiburon SE, with its sport suspension, hustles pretty well. You'll never mistake the Tiburon for a rear-wheel-drive sportscar, but it acquits itself nicely. This reality, by the way, is why Hyundai recently introduced its rear-wheel-drive Genesis Coupe (with standard V-6 power and an optional V-8).

Quality, once a genuine and tangible problem with Hyundai products, isn't a problem with the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon. For an inexpensive car, the materials and assembly quality are darn good. Even though the Tiburon is a four-seater, the backseats are little more than butt pockets--better for grocery bags or purses than friends you want to keep.

Equipment levels fit Hyundai's strategy of marketing vehicles that are well equipped in their standard forms. For example, 2008 is the year Hyundai made a 220-watt Kenwood AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system standard and decided to throw in three months of free service XM Satellite Radio service. This is in addition to the Tiburon GS's standard power windows, door locks, heated mirrors, a remote keyless entry system with alarm, ABS brakes, and advanced front and front side impact airbags.

The next step up is the Tiburon GT, which adds the V-6 engine, larger 17-inch wheels, seats with leather bolsters and cloth inserts, automatic temperature control, cruise control, and a trip computer. The GT Limited dresses up by making the leather front seat bolsters red. (Get out your party hats!)

Designed to be the performance poster child for the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon family, the SE gets a more prominent rear spoiler, red aluminum front calipers, aluminum pedals, red leather bolster/black cloth insert seats, ESC with Traction Control System (TCS) and Brake Assist, a track-tuned sport suspension, and larger, fade-resistant cross-drilled brake rotors. This goes with the V-6 engine and six-speed manual gearbox.

A power tilt-and-slide sunroof is available on all models.

All 2008 Tiburon models include anti-lock brakes and side airbags for the front seats. Stability and traction control are standard on the SE. Performance in government crash tests was good.

Hyundai also backs it the 2008 Tiburon with a 5-year/50,000-mile basic warranty plus a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain. This excellent warranty coverage goes a long way toward addressing quality concerns over this Korean 2+2 and shifting the opinions people have.


2008 Hyundai Tiburon


The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon apes the style of sportier cars, and gets it mostly right.

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon isn't a European sportscar--it only looks that way.

Automobile notes that "the [Hyundai] Tiburon's exterior design is an amalgamation of design cues from various makes...if you squint your eyes, the front end of this car looks like a baby Jaguar XK/Aston Martin, which is not a bad thing." Cars.com says the “body features a high belt line and a short greenhouse, with a steeply raked windshield and back window," while Kelley Blue Book notes "a more muscular-looking hood and the front fenders and grille area having a slightly more aerodynamic and sleek appearance." Edmunds calls the styling “distinctive” and reports “the Tiburon (the name means 'shark' in Spanish) has improved in both looks and performance” with the current edition.

When it comes to the Hyundai Tiburon 2008 interior styling, Automobile says the Hyundai Tiburon 2008 interior design "is quite nice, although the materials aren't great...cool blue lighting on the gauges and controls dress up the interior." Cars.com notes that "the seats in the [Hyundai Tiburon 2008] GT feature red leather accents," but other reviewers feel that they "seem out of place and clash with the blue lighting." Edmunds has nothing but praise for the interior styling: "The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon has a simple but handsome cockpit...at first glance, it's evident that the interior designers wanted to impart a high-quality look and feel to the cabin."

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2008 Hyundai Tiburon


The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is a good choice for someone with BMW taste and a Hyundai pocketbook.

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is a sleeper in V-6 form, and a reasonably efficient commuter with its base four-cylinder.

The entry-level 2008 Tiburon GS features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower. Matching transmissions include a fuel-efficient five-speed manual and an available four-speed automatic with Hyundai's SHIFTRONIC system. It’s strictly an economy-minded powerplant, and few reviewers mention it or its performance. The V-6 engine is a different story. Automobile notes "low-end grunt is minimal but there is enough midrange power to manage highway merging and passing without too much drama." Automotive.com remarks that "the [Hyundai] Tiburon SE's V6 engine makes 172 horsepower, considered modest for this class nowadays, but it makes a nice throaty sound when you rev it to its 6500 rpm redline." Cars.com says it “delivers sprightly acceleration from a standing start through much of the rev range,” but notes it “lacks the ferocity of a V-6 Mitsubishi Eclipse or the high-revving punch of a Volkswagen GTI.”

Edmunds feels the manual transmission in the GT version is “a better choice,” and “The 5-speed manual transmission is user-friendly.” With the six-speed Tiburon SE, Automobile says that "although the gearshifter is notchy, the clutch take-up is linear,” while Cars.com notes, “Shifting gears is something of a mixed bag. The gearshift's throws are a bit long, and those accustomed to snappy footwork will bemoan the lengthy clutch.” Automotive.com reports that the Hyundai Tiburon 2008 "SE's six-speed gearbox is good, and the clutch is smooth, but the shift lever has too long a throw to feel tight...heel-and-toe downshifts are challenging because of the pedal locations." ConsumerGuide contends "a 6-speed SE clocked 0-60 mph in 7.7 sec with firm, precise shift action. Automatic-transmission models are noticeably slower; Hyundai observes 0-60 mph in "8.2 sec.” ConsumerGuide adds, “The automatic saps midrange punch, but using the manual shift gate helps."

No sources comment specifically on fuel economy, but EPA estimates are given as 20/28 mpg for the four-cylinder model and manual gearbox, 20/27 mpg for the four-cylinder automatic; it’s 16/24 mpg for the V-6-equipped SE models.

Handling is not especially sporty, but it's not bad; Automobile reports that "although the ride is a little brittle, the Tib at least is more fun to drive when you start pushing it, which is one reason it remains popular with street tuners...steering is uncommunicative but direct." Cars.com notes "the Tiburon's shapely lines don't quite translate to the sporty driving experience one might expect...the ride is bouncy on rough pavement," and adds that "even though the car stays properly on course, it doesn't impart a full sense of security." ConsumerGuide says while steering "is a bit light (except on SE)...it is quick and informative." This source remarks, "ABS brakes furnish quick and drama-free stops." Finally, Edmunds comments that the Hyundai Tiburon 2008 "is confident but not eager, and its steering is a bit slow and numb...however, when driven in a relaxed manner, this Hyundai performs capably and delivers a smooth ride."

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2008 Hyundai Tiburon

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is better at looking rich than at feeling roomy.

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon is reasonably comfortable for front passengers, but backseaters should be tiny.

Cars.com says that "up to four people can fit inside the Hyundai Tiburon...seats are supportive, [and] legroom and elbow space are good, but headroom is meager." The Hyundai Tiburon 2008 is definitely not for the taller among us, warns ConsumerGuide: "low-slung seats tax entry and exit, plus they combine with shallow side windows for a closed-in feel...[rear seats are] unsuitable for occupants over 5-ft-6 because of the low roof and rear window, [and] entry and exit is very tight." Kelley Blue Book concurs: "you may not like this car if you need more rear seating, since legroom back there is minimal."

In-vehicle Hyundai Tiburon 2008 storage is not especially problematic, according to what TheCarConnection.com's experts have seen. Automobile reports "the hatch itself definitely enhances interior space." ConsumerGuide notes the Hyundai Tiburon's "hatchback design and split folding rear seat are practical," while "small-item storage is okay, but many rivals do better."

The Hyundai Tiburon 2008 cabin's "good-looking trim belies its pricing and includes ample soft-touch surfaces," according to ConsumerGuide; Edmunds points out that "everything is laid out in a straightforward fashion, free of gimmickry...the large speedometer and tachometer are easy to read at a glance."

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon isn't the quietest ride, however. Automobile reports "the hatch...adds to the excessive wind and road noise that filter into the cabin," while ConsumerGuide notes "the V6 engine intrudes under full power and coarse-surface tire noise is marked, [and] wind rush is acceptable in gentle cruising, but excess buffeting discourages lowered windows even at modest speeds."

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2008 Hyundai Tiburon


The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon crash-tests well and has a good array of standard safety gear.

TheCarConnection.com's experts note little commentary on 2008 Hyundai Tiburon safety figures, but it does well in government crash tests.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the Tiburon for 2008 five out of five stars in front impact crash tests and a respectable four out of five stars in side impact protection and rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which has much more stringent standards, did not perform any Hyundai Tiburon 2008 crash tests, however.

Automobile notes that 2008 Hyundai Tiburon standard safety equipment "includes front airbags, front side-impact airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and a tire pressure monitor." Optional Hyundai Tiburon safety equipment includes "Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Brake Assist and Traction Control."

The Hyundai Tiburon has a few visibility issues; ConsumerGuide reports that in the Hyundai Tiburon 2008 "rear visibility is hampered by the sloping roofline." Kelley Blue Book defends the 2008 Hyundai Tiburon, however; this source finds that the Hyundai Tiburon 2008's "visibility is substantial despite the rear spoiler that divides the view through the large hatchback window."


2008 Hyundai Tiburon


The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon has the basics covered, but the exotic tech gear of other compact coupes hasn’t shown up yet.

TheCarConnection.com finds only two sources that comment on 2008 Hyundai Tiburon features and equipment, but they have a lot to say.

Automobile reports that there are four Hyundai Tiburon 2008 trims, "beginning with the inexpensive GS, which includes power windows, doors and heated mirrors, air conditioning, keyless entry, tilt steering, a 220-watt Kenwood MP3 sound system, XM Satellite Radio, fog lamps, and 16-inch alloy wheels." The Hyundai Tiburon 2008 GT offers "black leather seat bolsters with cloth inserts, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, driver's-side adjustable lumbar support, automatic climate control, trip computer, and metallic trim." The Hyundai Tiburon SE features "a suspension set up for hard cornering [and] comes with the same the 2.7-liter V6 as the GT and GT Limited."

Kelley Blue Book considers the Hyundai Tiburon SE the "sportiest version" and says it "has a lot of standard equipment that often costs extra on the competition, such as air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry with alarm, 17-inch alloy wheels and four airbags," adding "convenient features that are standard on the entire line include a Kenwood AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, a timed rear-window defroster, heated and powered outside mirrors, tire-pressure monitoring system, fog lights and anti-lock brakes."

2008 Hyundai Tiburon options include "Bluetooth hands-free phone system ($325), cargo net ($45), carpeted floor mats ($90), mud guards ($85), sunroof wind deflector ($85), and wheel locks ($40)," according to Automobile. Kelley Blue Book adds that the Hyundai Tiburon 2008's "optional tilt-and-slide sunroof allows in fresh air and sunshine." They say "aside from floor mats and a cargo net for the trunk, few other options are available on the SE, but little else is necessary."

The Tiburon doesn’t offer a navigation system or iPod connectivity, and it lacks the customization features of a Scion or the category-killing SYNC entertainment controller sold by Ford, which brings down its rating in this highly competitive, gadget-friendly market segment.

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