Capsule Review: 2000 Hyundai Tiburon
You could look at the accident one of two ways. The first way to look at it was that the backhoe was at fault. It backed out halfway across the northbound exit ramp to Bethel Road from Ohio SR-315, forcing my brother to take too rapid of an avoidance maneuver, spin his pristine Porsche 944, and hit a streetlight, causing said streetlight to fall into the freeway traffic.
The second way to look at it — and, in fairness, I must note that this view was the one espoused by the Columbus Police — was that my brother, Mark, had been traveling at perhaps one hundred miles per hour (“More like one twenty,” he sniffed to me in the aftermath) and that therefore the backhoe operator could have had no reasonable expectation that the red Porsche+Audi would arrive well before he could move back off the road.
Either way, it was time for the punishment car.
When I totaled my 200SX at the tender age of sixteen, my punishment car was a Mercury Marquis Brougham. Mark, on the other hand, never crashed a car in his teenage years. What he did manage to do was comprehensively trash a new Jetta and a new Infiniti G20 in series, the latter so badly that the lease-end damage report ran to seven thousand dollars and multiple pages. Dad decided he should have a used car, but somehow “used car” ended up being “absolutely pristine 2.7-liter 944 formerly owned by the local TV news princess”.
“There’s good news and bad news,” my bro said to me on the phone. “The good news is that I have a Porsche and I’m six years younger than you are. The bad news is that your shitbox Land Rover left the line with no factory options.” I looked out the window, saw the “SD” logo on my ’97 Disco five-speed, and hung my head in the appropriate level of shame. Half a year later, I used that same crappy truck to pick him up at the accident scene.
The next day, two proposals were placed before our father, who art in New York. Mark suggested replacing the 944 with a Boxster. I suggested replacing it with a Hyundai. The old man must have been annoyed; not only did he accede to my suggestion, he told Mark that his role would be limited to co-signer of the loan. “Hyundais,” he responded, “are for daytime strippers who are no longer particularly compelled by the current Grand Am’s styling.” I thought this was ironic, given that he was seeing two daytime strippers at the time, but I had to concede that he spoke from experience.
Objections aside, the next day we went to see the four-headlamp Tiburon. At $13,900 or so (according to my distant recollection), it was surprisingly well-equipped. In a straight line it didn’t give up much to the 944, and if it had a rather dismal black-plastic interior, it also had a strong, clear sound system. As with the Elantra and Accent of the time, the control efforts were somewhat surreal. The clutch gave the impression of having no spring attached to it, offering the meekest of pedal resistance. The gearshift waved around in space, occasionally notching lightly into a slot when the stars aligned just so. The brakes approximated Citroen’s famous rubber button, going from “no stop” to “full stop” in one soggy inch. Steering was distant from the road and the column wobbled gently.
At six foot two, I found the roof too low; at five foot eight, Mark found the window sills too high. The silver paint used for accenting throughout the interior looked like it would fade and rub off, and that appearance was not deceiving. The rear seats were a cruel, cramped joke, and the hatchback covered a very oddly shaped cargo area which seemed to be full the minute my brother threw his tenor saxophone and gig bag in there.
On a fast back-road test drive, the Tiburon revealed an odd quality. Although everything felt flimsy, the car really wasn’t flimsy at all. It had some torsional rigidity and was trustworthy in the turns. Once the shifter’s peculiarities entered one’s kinesthetic memory, it was fast enough to use and the clutch was abuse-proof. Best of all, it seemed to have enough brake. Mark said something that is probably repeated nationally a thousand times a day, even now: “Hyundais are a lot better than I thought they would be.” We closed the deal at invoice and hit the road.
Something happened to my brother. He kept his new car clean and free of debris. Over the next few years, the Tiburon stayed looking good, even as the odometer crested 70,000 miles. I can’t ascribe it to having to make his own payments, because he regularly forgot to make them, sometimes for months at a time. I think the car simply earned his respect.
The daytime strippers disappeared, replaced by a doctoral student of clarinet performance. She arrived in a Nissan Sentra but was soon driving a new Elantra, converted by Mark’s pro-Hyundai fervor. The Tiburon gave way to a loaded Santa Fe. For years my brother told everybody who would listen what a great damn car the Koreans could make. His friends bought Hyundais. He started to inquire as to why I didn’t have any Hyundais.
“Your new Land Rover may have all the options,” he would say, “but the Santa Fe 3.5L offers more for less.” Finally, annoyed unto death by his conversion from jazz artist to Seoul man, I dragged him to a Mazda dealer and made him drive an RX-8. He got out of the car and announced his intention to buy it. “Great car,” he said, and then, wistfully,
“It reminds me of my Tiburon.”
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- FreedMike During my second year of college, I took my first French class, where I discovered that if you remove the "e" from "Citroen," you get the French word for "lemon." My family had a Citroen - an SM, no less. Completely appropriate. Nice logo or not, Stellantis is going to have an uphill battle reintroducing this brand - or any French brand, for that matter.
- IBx1 It works better as an oval than a circle as it appears in the headline photo, but I generally dislike the 2D logos everyone in the industry is adopting and think badge looked great since '09.
- Pbxtech I like it, but it's not an improvement. Lateral move at best.
- Cprescott It is not a disaster like the 2024 Ford Mustake.
- Cprescott The company's issues are not resolved by a new logo.