Coupés were the car craze of the 1990s. Virtually every manufacturer offered something low, sleek and sporty, even if it was based on a more humble hatchback.
From the stunning Alfa Romeo GTV and Fiat Coupé, through sensible Japanese offerings like the Toyota Celica and Honda Prelude, to bargain supermini-based style icons like the Ford Puma and Vauxhall Tigra, there was a coupé for every taste.
As hot hatchbacks rose back to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s the coupé craze receded, but we reckon it’s back – and to prove it, we’ve rounded up five sub-£20,000 coupés on the market right now, ready to add a bit of style to your daily commute.
Honda’s little coupé harks back to a time even before the coupé-mad 90s – the CR-Z has more than a hint of 1980s CRX about it, but under the skin this is one thoroughly modern car. That starts with the engine, since the CR-Z is a hybrid. Don’t scroll down the page just yet though, as Honda promises it’s exciting to drive, and with a six-speed manual box and nimble handling, we’re inclined to agree.
The interior is as high-tech as you’d hope, and as well as reaching 60mph in under ten seconds, it’ll do a claimed 56.5 mpg combined – with low road tax another benefit. Pricing starts at under £18,000, so you’ll save a few grand from our £20,000 budget, too.
Back in the 1990s Hyundai had another distinctive coupé on the scene – even if the name, Hyundai Coupé, was rather unimaginative. Its coke-bottle lines drew plenty of praise, but they never had the party trick of the Veloster – an asymmetric shape, with two doors on one side and only one on the other. That makes accessing the rear seats easier than you’d think, provided you pick the right door to enter…
Pricing is a little dearer than Hyundais of yore at just under eighteen grand, but you get plenty of kit, a 138-horsepower 1.6-litre engine, and Hyundai’s five-year warranty – not to mention that eye-catching styling. It’s not the sportiest car here to drive, but it’ll still entertain if you’re used to more mundane hatchbacks.
MINI didn’t even exist in its current form back in the coupé’s heyday, but now the German-owned firm is filling the market with variations on the retro MINI theme. The Coupe has no real direct descendent unlike the regular hatchback, convertible and Clubman, and instead it’s a thoroughly modern take on the MINI theme. If you can live with the “backwards-turned baseball cap” roof, it’s one of the most distinctive cars on the road.
You won’t be wanting for performance either. All MINIs get great, go-kart-like handling (albeit at the expense of a firm ride), and for £20,000 you’ll get a 122-horsepower, 44 mpg Cooper with a few grand spare for options. Stretch the budget by another £500 and you’ll get behind the wheel of the ultra-frugal (but still fun) diesel model. MINI may be new to coupés, but they’re already making a splash.
Renault Megane Coupé
Here’s a familiar name from the 1990s, but not a familiar face. The original Megane Coupé was a squat, sporty, often yellow little number with the option of an engine from the legendary Clio Williams. The new model is really a sleek take on a three-door hatchback, but it’s still head-turning and if you blow the budget, it’s available as a hugely potent Renaultsport model.
For under £20k you’ll be able to choose from the 1.2 TCE turbocharged petrol, or the 1.5 dCi turbodiesels. Neither is a firecracker as far as performance is concerned, but they’re well-equipped, frugal and fun. If you’re really prepared to take a hit in terms of performance, the 1.5 dCi 90 will do as much as 70 mpg – so you’ll look chic, and save some money too.
Like the Honda CR-Z, the Scirocco is another child of the 1980s – though originally, the model was released in the 1970s. The game has moved on a bit since then, but the Scirocco is still at the top. The current model was released in 2006, but it has a blend of style, performance and quality that rivals struggle to match – particularly at under £20,000.
For that bargain price you’ll get the 1.4 TSI. It makes 122 horsepower and should do 44 mpg – a match for the basic MINI Coupe, but perhaps a little easier on the eye. Equipment levels are better than those of the older Sciroccos though – you now get satellite navigation, 17-inch wheels and a multi-function steering wheel as standard.
Hairstyles and fashion may have changed, but it’s heart-warming to see that, just as in the 1990s, coupés are still alive and well. Time to break out the Britpop, and get behind the wheel.
Now, if only petrol was still at 1990s prices…
Check out all the coupés on sale using our coupé car chooser!