The Introduction

The sporty body style of the Hyundai Tiburon, which means shark in Spanish, certainly reminds one of its sleek and maneuverable namesake.

 Whatever you call it (it’s also known as the Hyundai Coupe in Europe and the Hyundai Tuscani in Asia) the series has been successful in each of the three main markets it is sold in.

Since its introduction as Hyundai’s entrance into the sports-car market the base series has changed with the times, adjusting the body style, interior, engine, and assorted accessories to the ever changing needs of Tiburon owners.

The First Generation

1996-1998 – Hyundai Tiburon RD

The 1996 Hyundai Tiburon RD base model introduced the series with the choice of a 1.6 or 1.8 liter engine, manual 5-speed transmission, and a 14.2 US gallon gas tank.

In 1998, the engine was upgraded to a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and equipped with optional ABS, sunroof, and 2 airbags.

1999-2001 – Hyundai Tiburon RD2

The engine stayed the same in the 1999 Tiburon, but the body style changed to a sleeker and more aerodynamic design, and a CD player became a standard option.


In 2000 the Hyundai Tiburon got a facelift. The nose style was changed, fog lamps were added, the rear and front bumpers were redesigned, and it got a new tail. Power widows, all-disk brakes, and 15” alloy wheels all became standard options as well.

For 2001 the interior was vamped up with a metal styled trim, adjustable bucket seats, a more durable dash, and new engine mounts.

Hyundai did not produce a model in 2002.

The Second Generation

2003-2004 – Hyundai Tiburon GK

The start of the second generation gave the 2003 Tiburon larger dimensions, an overall restyling, and an optional v6 engine. Front side airbags became standard and Anti-lock brakes (ABS) were added as options.

Hyundai gave the Tiburon another facelift in 2004 and changed up the lineup of the GS, GT, and SE models, making each model distinct in body style, interior, and available options.

2005-2006 – Hyundai Tiburon GK F/L

In 2005 the SE model got half-leather seats, and the GT and GS got twin exhausts and leather seats added as standard options.

The air filter resonator that was located behind the left fender was removed in the 2006 base model. The headlights were reworked, changing the clear light covers to sleeker smoke hued ones, and the tail-lights were redesigned. Also, Regatta Blue was added to the available color scheme.

2007-2008 – Hyundai Tiburon GK F/L2

The model for 2007 introduced a more aggressive grille and headlight design, added a 17 inch alloy wheel, and the rear light cluster became more refined by adding a chrome trim. A seat memory system was also added – taking away the need to readjust it each every time someone gets out of the backseat.   

New equipment highlights, like Satellite Radio, and a Kenwood stereo system were added as standard options to the 2008 Tiburon. It was rated five stars for driver protection in accidents with frontal impacts, and four stars for front passenger protection. The Tiburon was discontinued after this model.

Pros and Cons

The Hyundai Tiburon series consistently received praise from reviewers for its sporty bad-boy look, economical price, low repair costs, and overall safety.

Some of the 2003-2006 models have had clutch and alignment issues. Also, because of its front-wheel drive configuration, it ranks low among its competitors in the same class in terms of performance. To the aspiring race car driver, that may be a problem, but that’s not likely the case for the average car owner.