- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

At times I simply look at the car in my driveway with admiration. Such is the case with the 2003 Hyundai Tiburon, a sharp-looking sporty coupe.

It began as a concept car introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in 1993 with another version debuting at the New York Auto Show in 1996. Those shows displayed the HCD and HCD II sports coupes that were real eye-catchers. The offspring of those showstoppers is sitting in my driveway, waiting for me to take it for a spin.

The Tiburon has a stylish front, high-rising fenders, dual-type headlamps and a contoured hood. Adding to its sporty appearance are a couple of fog lamps. The low roofline indicates this coupe is a speedy little thing, and that thought is reinforced with the spoiler on the deck lid. There isn't much difference in appearance between the Tiburon and those HCD concept cars that shocked the auto show crowds.

The original Tiburon hit the streets in 1997 but Hyundai wasn't satisfied. The 2003 model is all-new, including the platform. The original model was built on the Elantra platform; this platform is made specifically for the Tiburon.

There are two models this year: Tiburon and the Tiburon GT V-6, which is my test car. This car is exciting because of the 181 horsepower power produced by the V-6 engine.

Actually, that's not tremendous power by any stretch of the imagination, yet my imagination ran away with me every time I got behind the wheel. I had the feeling I was in a genuine sports car. It offered quick acceleration, and it held hard cornering like the best of them. However, the downside is, like most sports cars, the rear seats have no legroom.

The car has a six-speed manual transmission that is a delight to shift and allows downshifting for better performance. An automatic transmission is also available.

Yet when driven in moderation, the Tiburon GT has a fuel economy rating of 18 city, 26 highway. That's not too bad for a car costing $20,492.

The base price is $17,992, but there was an optional sports package on my test car that added $2,000 plus the usual shipping and handling.

As a base model, the car is well equipped. In addition to the V-6 engine, it has power rack-and-pinion steering, sport-tuned suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, dual exhaust and 17-inch alloy wheels. The package also includes some luxurious treatment, such as power windows and door locks, heated sideview mirrors, leather seats matching the leather-wrapped steering wheel, plus the other usual amenities of air conditioning, cruise control, keyless remote, and an Infinity six-speaker sound system with AM/FM cassette and CD player.

Not only did I feel comfortable behind the wheel, I didn't have to read the driver's manual to figure out the purpose of the buttons, dials and levers. Lately, some manufacturers seem bent on designing confusing cars.

With the Tiburon, everything was exactly where it should be and I immediately felt right at home.

My test drives are never long enough to find out how well a vehicle holds up, nor do I smash them to see how they crumble. But I do know that the Tiburon comes with front and side air bags, and has one of the best warranties in the business, plus 24-hour roadside assistance for five years.

That's one reason why Hyundai is successful. Another reason: They've designed a car that makes a driver stop to gaze at it and enjoy the sight.

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