- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

If some evidence was still required to prove Hyundai has re-established itself as a serious carmaker, the new Tiburon is it.
This small car can go toe to toe with anything the Japanese have in the segment and hold its own. Smartly engineered, cleverly styled and neatly executed, Tiburon works on all levels. It's a car aimed at youths that should have broad appeal across all age groups. And, it's inexpensive.
How is it being received by the 18-to-20-somethings Hyundai is trying to win? By the growing number of Tiburons showing up at Hot Import Nights shows around the country, the answer is: remarkably well. Hot Import Nights (HIN) is where youths caught up in the "tuner" craze go to show off their cars and to see what's new. It's "The Fast and the Furious" meets the Detroit Auto Show. It is a movement dominated by Honda and Nissan, but more and more Tiburons are showing up at HIN functions. Five years ago these youths would have rather gone to class naked than show up at HIN with a Hyundai. The Tiburon has changed all of that.
The Tiburon GT V-6 is a dazzler. It's primary performance cues are an energetic 2.7-liter V-6 and sticky 17-inch rubber. Popping for another $250 over base for the UltraSports package adds a six-speed manual transmission and aluminum pedals to the mix. Even with this option package and the delivery charge, the price remains south of $19,000. Wow. Where do I sign up?
The first thing that grabs you is Tiburon's highly stylized looks. Its sculptured lines and sleek profile converge to create a package that looks much more expensive than it is.
With just two doors, Tiburon presents a sporty alternative to the four-door sedans in the segment. Its big alloy wheels and Michelin tires fill the wheel openings. Who says a subcompact can't look good?
With 181 ponies prancing under the hood, the Tiburon GT is good for a 0-60 time of about 7.5 seconds. It has 171 foot-pounds of peak torque and jumps off the start with unbridled gusto.
The six-speed shifter works smoothly enough despite its rather long throws.
A blast to drive, the Tiburon GT zips around in city traffic, yet has the legs to gather up sufficient power for highway passing at speed. Its fuel economy while hardly class leading is about what you would expect from six cylinders.
The Environmental Protection Agency rates its miles per gallon at 18 in town and 26 on the open highway.
While the base Tiburon's four-wheel independent suspension is a tad sloppy, it has been firmed up on the GT.
It corners with confidence without destroying over-the-road ride comfort.
The steering is a little vague, lacking the spot-on feel of, say, the Honda Civic Si.
The sport theme carries inside the cabin as well. Nicely bolstered leather-covered seats provide plenty of lateral support for hard cornering.
Firm but comfortable, they won't wear you out on longer trips. The tidy instrument panel features large, easy-to-read gauges. Loaded to the gills with all manner of accessories, the Tiburon GT doesn't skimp on standard features. Dual heated power outboard mirrors, power windows and door locks, cruise control and a seven-speaker Infinity audio system with CD player are just a few of the items included in the base sticker.
Safety features include dual front air bags, dual front side-impact air bags and four-wheel disc brakes. Anti-lock is a $499 option.
The rear seat is crowded and a bit difficult to access. It is space best left to children or co-workers who owe you money. At 14.7 cubic feet, though, trunk space is decent for this class vehicle.
Although the fit and finish in my test GT was very good, Hyundai still has a way to go to improve on the quality and feel of interior materials. However, if given the choice between a V-6 power plant or better-looking door panels, I'd go for the V-6 every time.
With what is arguably the best warranty in the industry and a product lineup that simply keeps getting better and better, Hyundai is beginning to present some serious competition to the Japanese imports. I doubt it has Toyota or Honda quaking in its boots, but with cars like Tiburon, sales can only grow.
Base price of the Tiburon GT V-6 is $17,999. Adding the UltraSports package and $495 delivery charge brought the price as tested to $18,744.

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