Affordable Coupes Are Back In Style

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The automotive world is full of high-end two-doors meant for cruising the streets of Beverly Hills. In 2003, BMW reincarnated the 6-Series. Mercedes-Benz made the SL-Class both a coupe and a convertible around the same time. Even grander than the SL-Class is Mercedes-Benz’s gargantuan CL-Class. Jaguar’s XK is a rare breed, but still stylish and distinctly British. The list goes on. A search for a $100,000 coupe would take time; the decision-making process would require much thought. Finding the perfect $100K coupe in just the right spec is key, and requiring exotic car shipment to get it to its owner is nothing rare.

Over the last decade or more, while premium coupes were thriving on Rodeo Drive, affordable coupes have been disappearing hand over fist. They weren’t all so terribly sporty, and we lived with that knowledge, so long as there were options for hardcore machines. Remember the Toyota Paseo? The Mazda MX-3 Precidia? General Motors even built two-door Cavaliers and Sunfires – you don’t find the door subtracting option on the Chevrolet Cruze. Sure, it was ugly, but the last-generation Focus was available as a coupe later in life. Ford bid that option farewell.

The Hyundai Scoupe, terribly named as it was, shot toward the grave. Look further back and you’ll find the rear-wheel drive Toyota Corolla AE86. Nissan found a measure of fame with the 180SX, 240SX, and even the Sentra 200SX. The Mitsubishi Eclipse lingered, but not really as a sporty compact.

Oh, there were the glory days provided by the Honda Prelude, perhaps the best-handling front-wheel drive car of all time. The Acura Integra and RSX were dream cars by many estimations. They weren’t the envy of many, but at least Chrysler gave it a try with the Avenger and two-door Chrysler Sebring. Pontiac’s death killed off the gorgeous hardtop Solstice. Meanwhile, concepts like Dodge’s Razor and Sling Shot were never assembled a second time.

In 2011, we learned of the Mazda RX-8’s demise. The Nissan 370Z was and is a great value, but affordable? Not for the average Honda Civic buyer, it isn’t. Midsize coupes like the Altima and Accord aren’t that cool for first-time new car buyers. This leaves us with V6-engined muscle cars – not a bad place to spend time – hot and warm hatches like the Volkswagen GTI and Scion tC and Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper and Hyundai Veloster, Honda’s CR-Z hybrid slowpoke, and Hyundai’s 370Z-on-a-budget Genesis Coupe.

Then suddenly, the tide turns. Our attention is drawn to the Honda Civic Coupe and Kia Forte Koup because of the swoopy 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe. It will be hugely fuel-efficient and not tremendously sporty but it will look good, and that, of course, is the main purpose of coupes. Toyota, by way of Scion, will begin selling the driftable FR-S soon. Its rear-wheel drive, possesses a shifter that will make you think six times before choosing the automatic transmission and requires revs to keep all 200 horsepower alive and kicking. Subaru, the developer of the FR-S’s horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, will sell a copy called the BRZ.

Chevrolet used the Detroit Auto Show to display two realistic coupe concepts, the Tru 140S and the Code 130R, the latter being rear-wheel drive. We all know the history of many an evocative concept: they tend to fall into the bathroom sink and fall down the drain like Grandma’s engagement ring. These two appear to stand a chance – the success of Scion’s FR-S may shape the end result. Fiat’s moderately slow 500 will be substantially zippier in Abarth form. Hyundai’s adding a serious dose of horsepower to the Genesis Coupe, both in 274-horsepower 2.0T form and in 348-horsepower V6 trim.

Automakers supply us with coupes when they believe we are willing to buy them. One false step, one year in which we collectively turn our eyes away from affordable two-doors to practical diesel wagons, could have us mourning the loss of yet another Mazda RX-8 or Acura RSX follower. Now that all these affordable coupes are here, those of us who called loudly for them to arrive ought to go out and buy one.

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