THE first Tiburon (the word means shark in Spanish) tested by CAR in April 1997 had odd, bulbous styling. The second generation, launched in 2003, had everyone agreeing that this superb looker was worthy of greater sales success than its predecessor. It was offered with a 2,0-litre petrol engine and a great-sounding 2,7-litre V6. Sadly, it still didn’t quite take off as expected owing to a simple but powerful buying force called “brand awareness”. Front-wheel drive also reduced the sporty effect, but the interior design was impressive, especially the instrumentation.


Unfortunately, we did not receive a 2,0-litre test unit at our offices. This model offered 102 kW and 185 N.m, and used a five-speed gearbox. We did get to test the V6 that produced 130 kW and 250 N.m, and which featured a six-speed manual ‘box. Although the V6 is the obvious choice, the 2,0-litre is no slouch and looks similar to the more expensive version.

There does not seem to be much difference in the fuel consumption between the two engines, so don’t expect to save much at the pumps by buying down. Having the appearance of possessing a boot, the Tiburon is actually a hatchback with collapsible rear seats that increase the reasonable size of 248 to 624 dm3. Inside, the seats are sporty Recaro-style buckets, with a fine driving position and small, neat dials (including an unusual torque gauge).

The ubiquitous facelifts followed, first in 2005 with darkened headlamps and an altered grille and taillamps, and then in 2007, featuring larger headlamps and a narrower grille with reduced aggression. Wheel sizes were 16-inch, but upped to 17-inch for the facelift.


Timing belts should be swopped every 90 000 km. One big disadvantage of the 60-degree V6 is its transverse layout, which means that working on the rear bank of cylinders can be tricky. Some complained that the 2,0-litre engine was a bit rough. If you have problems with a slipping clutch, there is a modification to the slave cylinder that provides quicker engagement.

Brake discs wearing out quickly and front sus­pension bush replacements were recorded, but not at particularly low mileages (±100 000 km).

A few lighting failures were mentioned, and one owner's vehicle experienced central-locking failure. A driver’s window also refused to work.

Always a concern with sporty two-door vehicles is rear-seat space. The Tiburon has fair legroom, but headroom is restricted by the sloping roofline, so the rear is fine only for children. No major faults were reported.

Fading paintwork was mentioned, as well as trim rattles. Some were concerned about the length of time needed to fill the fuel tank. This is a design issue with the filler tubing of the system.

Most comments by owners were highly positive, with minimal problems encountered. If this car had an Alfa Romeo, BMW or Honda badge, it might have been a top seller, but at the time of its launch the public did not equate Hyundai with sports machines. Nevertheless, this is another car that makes a lot of sense if you like something out of the ordinary while appreciating the need for value for your money, a fair degree of practicality and excellent quality.

Model Issue Fuel Index
(L/100 km)
Max speed
Expect to pay
(Jan 2013)
2,7V6 Jul 2003 11,07 8,60 217 R269 995 R70 000



With so many online websites now being used to source items to purchase, it is important to remind motorists that buying a car without seeing and driving it is a huge gamble. A car consists of thousands of parts, so to accept a promise that the car “runs well” and is “in good condition” is not good enough. Problems could be as simple as non-working lamps, or complex like a power-steering leak, rough engine, slipping clutch or vibration from the wheels or driveshafts. None of these can be examined without a hands-on inspection. Test before parting with wads of cash.


Tiburon 2,0, 2006, white, 113 000 km, R84 995, Boksburg
Tiburon 2,7 V6, 2007, silver, 118 000 km, R139 950, Gauteng
Tiburon 2,0, 2009, white, 30 000 km, R130 000, online
Tiburon 2,0, 2004, red, 91 000 km, R109 950, online
Tiburon, 2,0, 2003, red, 93 000 km, R84 995, Cape Town


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