Coupes and two-door hatchbacks are typically based on a corresponding four-door sedan. The majority of coupes currently on the market are either compact or midsize, while most hatchbacks are compacts.
Like most sedans, a coupe typically has a standard trunk. There are two types of hatchback: the usual wagonlike design and the steeply raked notchback design typical of sport coupes.
Economy two-doors start at just over $10,000, while exotic coupes run well in excess of $100,000. Lower-priced coupes and hatchbacks tend to cost slightly less than their four-door counterparts, while premium coupes are often several hundred dollars more than their sedan counterparts.
Between their low prices and great mileage, economy coupes and hatchbacks promise exceptionally low operational costs. Midrange and luxury coupes generally offer mileage on par with their sedan counterparts, but some insurance companies consider them sportier than sedans, so premiums are sometimes higher.
Economy coupes and hatchbacks generally use efficient four-cylinder engines that can return as much as 30-40 mpg. Most offer at least passable acceleration, and sport variants can be downright quick. Most midsize coupes use larger engines that deliver more exciting performance but reduced fuel economy. Luxury coupes often employ high-powered six- or eight-cylinder engines that provide thrilling performance but below-average gas mileage.
Shoppers should check the availability of features like antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and stability control. Features like rearview cameras, parking sensors and knee airbags are becoming increasingly available on non-luxury models, while premium brands are utilizing high-tech electronics to warn inattentive drivers of blind-spot intrusion and impending collisions. Shoppers should be aware of crash test scores as well, but it should be noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted more strenuous testing procedures last year, making the ratings of recently tested models incomparable to those tested in the past.
Luxuries like automatic climate control, heated seats, iPod interfaces, navigation systems, keyless start systems and Bluetooth capability can often be found in non-luxury coupes. Look for them as you shop. Keep an eye open for multiple seat adjustments and plentiful cupholder and storage provisions. For coupe buyers, access to the rear seat is almost always tricky, and the presence of features that make the journey into the back easier is always welcome. Look for front seats that automatically return to their previous position and seatbelts that move out of the way for rear occupants but are still easily accessible for the driver.
Although coupes have backseats, they typically offer very limited passenger room. Headroom in particular often suffers as the result of steeply raked back windows. While some coupes have room for three people in back, many have room for two only, with bucketlike seats.
This used to be a simple section, but not anymore. While traditional manuals with clutch pedals are still recommended for sport-tuned models and underpowered compacts, there are now several kinds of automatics. One is the traditional and most common "automatic transmission," which features a torque converter and sometimes can be shifted manually via the console shifter or steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Automated manual transmissions used to be the stuff of exotic sports cars, but now they've found their way into economy cars for their ability to better maximize the potential of low-powered engines. While these types of transmissions make manual shifting more responsive, they can operate just like a normal automatic but shift quality is generally less smooth. Finally, there's the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which automatically selects from an infinite ratio to keep the engine in a sweet spot of power and/or fuel economy. A typical downside of this engine is a constant droning noise during acceleration.
Traditional coupes provide less cargo space than their sedan counterparts; however, both types of two-door hatchbacks offer more cargo room as well as easier access to items stowed in back.