Hyundai’s “bad boy” of sports cars has grown up. The new Tiburon has arrived in South Africa still sporting sleek lines, but it now flows with European style and subtlety.

The "bad boy" of sports cars, Hyundai's first Tiburon, was launched in South Africa late in 1996. With endorsements including sponsorship of Springbok rugby's "bad boy", James Small, the car struck an immediate cord with a segment of the market that not only wanted performance and reliability but also something different from the norm.

Without the likes of the yet to be launched Audi TT, Mercedes sports coupé and the likes, Hyundai Tiburon's slick, aggressive, coupe styling was seen as the next best thing to the much more expensive sports cars on the market, including BMW's M3.

It's been a roller coaster couple of years for Hyundai in the South African market but since April 2000, under the control of Associate Motor Holdings, things are looking up. With a model line-up including Atoz Prime, Elantra, Matrix, Santa Fé, and the impressive new Getz, Hyundai has been steadily re-building confidence in the South African market with improved build quality, spec level, reliability and after sales service to rival the more established players in the industry.

Now Hyundai’s new Tiburon has grown up somewhat. The sleek lines are still very much a part of the package, though they now flow with European style and subtlety. From the large headlights up front through to the integrated tail at the rear, there are plenty of lines and styling cues to suggest that this Korean motor's plan was drawn up on in a studio in Marenello, Italy.

With low, wrap around, front bumpers, the new Hyundai Tiburon retains the aggressive stance of it's predecessor though the headlights are now larger with twin light units housed, alongside large indicator lights, behind a single lenses. There is a narrow, black grille separating the headlights while below, a split airdam, incorporating foglamps, runs the width of the front bumper. Flaring at the bottom as it wraps around the nose and towards the front wheel arch the front bumper incorporates nicely into the styling of the new Tiburon.

Side-on the car shows off the lines that have gained it a 0,342 CD rating as the roof line flows from the top of the windscreen down towards the taillights. A nice touch, and again very European is the crease line that runs forward from just below the rear passenger window, over the door handles and gains depth as it ends with two gill like air ducts behind the front wheel arch. 205/55 R16 tyres on five spoke alloy rims ensure that the wheel arches are filled nicely. Though serious sportscar enthusiasts may consider upgrading the Korean tyres fitted as standard. Adding to the sporty exterior styling of the car is the sportscar styled fuel flap, similar to the one used on Audi's TT models.

The rear of the car is dominated by the two big-bore tail pipes protruding from under the car. A spoiler, incorporated into the rear tail gate adds further to the impressive styling of the latest Hyundai coupe.

One further crease line is visible from the driver’s seat and flows from the top corners of the bonnet and gets more aggressive as it reaches the front grille.

Under the bonnet lies a choice of either a 2,0-litre Beta II DOHC, which will deliver a peak output of 102 kW at 6 000 r/min with peak torque figures of 185 N.m at 4 500 r/min, or the all-aluminium 2,7-litre Delta V6 powerplant. The latter includes a six-speed gearbox through which to channel the impressive 130kW of power at 6 000 r/min and 250 N.m of torque at 4 000 r/min. the 2,0-litre is mated to a five-speed gearbox.

Seating position in the Tiburon is low and comfortable. The dark fabrics used add to the senses as the cabin closes snugly around the occupant. But it is rather too snug in the rear though. The leg room is adequate for a car in this market the sloping roof line is unforgiving to taller passengers’ hair styles. There is however a sizeable boot thanks to the large tailgate that opens high.

Hyundai has come a long way in improving interior build quality of its vehicles, as is evident in particular in the new Getz, and again the Tiburon feels strong and solid from the driver’s seat. Wind and road noise are minimal while an exciting exhaust note is very noticeable at high revs. In particular from the V6 model.

The driver’s seat (standard leather on the V6 model) gives good side bolstering and a comfortable driving position can be found quickly while the thick steering wheel fits nicely to hand and all dials and instrumentation are easily readable. Standard features on both models include a front-loading CD player, power steering, ABS brakes and dual airbags while climate control, additional door mounted airbags and a three-year/ 60 000 km warranty are bonus items on the V6 model.

The hangdown section of the dashboard features two large air vents above while lower down there are three additional gauges to keep sports fans happy. While one gives a torque readout as you accelerate, another gives a trade-off fuel consumption measurement. The third gauge informs of the battery voltage.

The torque gauge readout is kept busy while claimed performance figures 0-100 km/h in 9,2 seconds for the 2,0-litre and 8,2 seconds for the V6 are reached. The smaller of the two engines will power Tiburon to a claimed top speed of 206 km/h, while with the 2,7-litre V6 a claimed top speed of 220 km/h can be reached.

With ABS brakes on both models the more powerful version has 16-inch ventilated front brake disks as opposed to the ventilated 15-inch disks featured on the 2.0 litre version. At the rear both models feature 14-inch solid disks.

Ride is firm but forgiving in the new Tiburon while, with the V6 version, there is plenty of torque available under foot. Town driving is a pleasure, but it is on the open road where the car wants to be. The exhaust tone is worth turning the radio off for and, though there is no traction control available, the low profile and wide stance of the Tiburon invites the twisty bits.

Associated Motor Holdings is understandably excited about the new "grown up" Hyundai Tiburon and selling the 2,0-litre version at R199 995 and the 2,7-litre V6 model at R269 995 they hope to further build on the new image that Hyundai motor cars are portraying in the South African motoring market.