6-Speed $4k Cage Fight: 2003 Hyundai Tiburon vs 2000 Toyota Celica GTS

In the 90s if you wanted a 6-speed gearbox you had to shell out some serious coin for some kind of supercar, a Lambo, Ferrari, Acura NSX, Supra Turbo, 911, and so on and so forth. A few years later, in the early 2000s, just about every kind of lackluster econobox started sprouting extra gears like they were giving them away as a door prize.  Welcome to our showroom, here is your free 6th gear, coffee and gear lube is located by the parts counter, would you like a test drive a Kia today, sir?  That brings us to the subject of today’s cage match, which 6-speed manual equipped sport compact would you rather drive: a 2003 Hyundai Tiburon or a 2000 Toyota Celica GTS?

Of course you can rightfully assert your freedom to pilot neither of these fine specimens of Japanese Asian sport coupiness, but with a $4k budget anything with 6 forward speeds might come with two spare Powerglides in the trunk.  Stuck between finding some hooptie German luxobarge (Kaibeezy, did you sell that wreck yet?) and a high mile Japanese or Korean economy coupe, this might be the better choice when it comes to dollars per mile, if not dollars per smile.

First up is this second generation 2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT V6 offered for $3,900 in San Marcos, CA via craigslist.  The Tiburon (named after the Spanish word for shark, tiburón) was South Korea’s answer to the Celica/Eclipse/Cobalt and featured boy racer looks, a 2.7 liter V6 pushing 165 horsepower and 181 ft-lbs of torque into the front wheels via a 6-speed manual.  Performance testing from magazines had the Tiburon hitting 60mph in 7.1 seconds, not bad for the day, but severely lacking bite to match its Ferrari 456-esque looks. 

In the other corner is this 2000 Toyota Celica GTS offered for $4,200 in Inland Empire LA Area, CA.  The seventh and final generation of Toyota’s world beating Celica featured F1 car inspired looks and a positively screaming 2ZZ-GE inline-4 that didn’t stop pouring fuel into the cylinders until the tach was 8250 rpm deep into the redzone (if you get the right years; the 2002 and 2005 model year cars allegedly have a 7800 rpm fuel cut).  The 1.8 liter VVTi equipped 4-banger pushes out 180 horsepower and 133 ft-lbs of torque into a 6-speed manual gearbox and hits 60mph in the 6.5-7.0 second range.

For my money, I’d take the Tiburon, not just because I’m digging the Ant Man paint job, but also because torque.  What would you pick?  Comments below.