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Motoring: Tiburon looks like a Ferrari, smells like a deal

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | November 27th, 2006

The current generation of the Hyundai Tiburon has been with us for a few years now. When the press got hold of its official pictures, everyone called it a photocopy (from some angles) of the Ferrari 456GT.

So, a $20,000-ish car (base price) that looks like a Ferrari is no bad thing. Many people became admirers of this car, and I was one of them. In certain colours this coupe looks absolutely stunning.

Unfortunately the team assigned to design its interior took their inspiration from a coal mine. Everything is rather black, and square, but mind you, everything is readily at hand and this car does have comfortable seats.

Driving position is fine too, but thanks to its Ferrari-esque styling, rear-three quarter vision is hampered by those thick C-pillars.

It's also difficult to find curbs when you make left turns, thanks to those giant outside rearview mirrors.

So far, this car isn't doing too well, but then, we haven't talked about the way it drives.

While the basic Tiburon models come with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 138 hp and 136 lb/ft of torque, mated to either a four-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC, which allows you to choose your own gear ratio, or a five-speed manual gearbox, the Tuscani versions have a bit more punch.

The Tuscani comes with a 2.7-litre, V6 engine, which produces the healthiest 172 hp I have ever come across. Honestly, Hyundai could have published a power figure of about 220 hp and I would not have disputed it, this car gains momentum like a bowling ball that's been sent down a steep cliff. The acceleration does feel relentless. The reason for that must be its 181 lb/ft of torque, which is a lot for the size of the car and the weight it has to lug around.

So this car is properly fast, and it doesn't stop impressing there. The thing I loved most about this car was the six-speed manual gearbox. Yes, while the lazier and less talented among you can still have that four-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC, but let me tell you, it's the manual that lets you truly enjoy this vehicle.

First of all, the gearbox feels superb. Despite a long shift lever, the throws feel short and precise. The clutch does take a little getting used to, but you soon get a hang of it and then you can really enjoy playing through the gears.

You can play in the corners too, this car handles much better than I expected it to, but it is tuned more towards safe and predictable handling rather than sharp and exciting. Still, this car is fun to drive, and that is what a car of this sort has to accomplish.

However, while the base four-cylinder model is yours for $20,675, the Tuscani edition is rather a lot more. Strangly the automatic version is cheaper, coming in at $28,475. The six-speed manual, like my test car is $500 more.

So, that price puts it not only in the firing line of one of my favourite new coupe's, the Honda Civic Si, but the Tuscani is actually more expensive.

So how do they compare?

Both cars look good, and while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I will say the Tiburon is prettier, but the Civic Si has a more original, sophisticated design.

As far as interior design is concerned, the new Civic Si's interior is leaps and bounds more impressive to look at, compared to the Tiburon. I said before that the Tiburon's interior might resemble a coalhouse, the Civic's interior is obviously designed by someone who traveled into the future, its just fantastic. However, the Tiburon gains some points back by having more comfortable seats and the quality of plastics used in here are better than those found in the Civic.

As a driving machine, both cars are very impressive and will win you over for different reasons. The Civic Si is like a street legal go-kart. If you like revving an engine to the point of making your ears bleed, and play with the gearbox like you're making cake mix, then the Civic Si is your car. It certainly would be my choice.

The Tiburon Tuscani is a bit different, it impresses with its relentless torque and would certainly be the car of choice for someone who has to do a lot of driving, it's just more comfortable. So to each their own. Test drive both and see which cars personality impresses you most.

My friend Khalida, who was in the market to buy a used car, looked at the Acura RSX, then she looked at Honda Civic coupe's, she also liked the idea of a Toyota Celica, but eventually settled on a Tiburon, partly because it represented the best value for her hard earned money, and partly because our beloved friend Nav Bhatia gave her a fantastic deal through his Hyundai of Mississauga dealership.

She actually bought this car the same week I had my Tiburon, so the timing of this press car couldn't have been more perfect. She has had her car for a few weeks now, and she tells me she loves it.

So if you are looking into buying a coupe, do take a very close look at the Tiburon, it might impress you more than you thought.
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