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2005 Hyundai Tiburon

Although it's mostly known for its economical sedans and small SUVs, Hyundai offers up two engine versions of its Tiburon coupe to satisfy enthusiasts who need to reconcile their sports car aspirations with any limitations in their budgets.<br /><br />Equipped with a 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder, Tiburon starts at $20,495, which also includes a five-speed manual, power windows, locks and mirrors, CD/MP3 stereo, rear wiper and fog lights. The SE line adds air, keyless entry, power sunroof and leather-wrapped wheel for $22,895.<br /><br />My top-of-the-line Tuscani started at $28,295, a package that swaps the four-cylinder for a 2.7-litre V6 and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, ABS, sport-tuned suspension, heated leather seats and automatic climate control. Mine was further optioned with a six-speed manual, bringing the total to $28,795.<br /><br />For 2005, the Tibby receives a minor facelift, with redesigned headlights and tail lights and a new horizontal slot to replace the fender fish gills. (el tiburon is Spanish for shark, tying in to the car's ichthyoidal profile.) Although it comes with the drawbacks inherent to the breed – poor rear visibility, an almost unusable back seat, long heavy doors and no way to enter and exit it gracefully – Tiburon offers an addictively enjoyable driving experience for relatively low dollars.<br /><br />In fact, although my Tuscani's 172 hp provided stronger performance, I'd be tempted to save the $5,400 difference and go for the SE; it's only 138 hp, but it's still quick off the line and great fun to drive. Unless rapid acceleration is important to you, the SE presents the best value for the buck.<br /><br />Tiburon's most similar competitor, the Toyota Celica, closely matches the SE's convenience features with its base 140-hp version but is $2,005 more and does not include a sunroof; Toyota's 180-hp model is $5,335 over the six-speed Tuscani and has smaller wheels.<br /><br />Although it's packed with creature comforts, the Tiburon isn't a luxo-machine. The ride is harsh and noisy, in a basic-fun-sports-car way. The V6 sends a throaty growl out of its dual chrome-tipped exhaust; the six-speed moves decisively into each slot. The car feels substantially heavy although it isn't unwieldy to drive, more like a solid muscle car than a lightweight sports car.<br /><br />In combined driving with a firm right foot, I averaged 10.1 L/100 km.<br /><br />The seats wrap around and provide excellent support, even when one's butt has been in place for a couple of hours.<br /><br />The sleek, sexy styling flows smoothly from the aggressive nose almost to the rear, where it's marred by a fender-mounted aerial that looks tacked on.<br /><br />The hatch opens to reveal 418 litres of cargo capacity, but take note of the warning label: the car's roofline is so tapered that you might conk a taller rear-seat passenger when closing it.<br /><br />Like all Hyundais, the Tiburon comes with a five-year or 100,000 km comprehensive warranty.<br /><br />But the company's "best-in-the-business" seven-year/120,000 km powertrain warranty, introduced with great fanfare last year, has been quietly dropped back to five-year/100,000 km for 2005. And buyers in the U.S. still get a whole 10 years on the powertrain.<br /><br />Tiburon is not a practical car, but then, not everyone needs four doors and room to carry a refrigerator. For those who don't, the price tag may be all the practicality you need.<br /><br />jil @

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