Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Introduction
Defined primarily as a closed body style with a permanently fixed roof, two seats, or 2+2 seating, the exact definition of a coupe varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, with some even claiming four-door sedans with sleek roof lines to be four-door coupes (the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS was the first modern expression of this phenomena.
Coupes occupy a special place in the automotive consciousness. They imply freedom of responsibility, youthfulness, and self-indulgence even. After all, anybody living comfortably with a coupe is most likely on their own, or part of a childless couple. Because while most are quite good-looking, if you’re dealing with more than tow people, they are quite impractical.
Generally bereft of rear-seat legroom, coupes further require one to fold the seat back forward and typically limbo themselves beneath the shoulder belt for the driver or passenger to gain access to the rear-seating compartment. Once seated back there, the view out is often compromised by very small rear windows, and the sleek roofline most coupes employ limit headroom for the unlucky should banished to the coupe’s back seat.
With all of that going against it, why would anybody ever buy one?
In a word—style
Sleek, seductive, hinting at speed, agility and playfulness, even the most staid of coupe models have a look about them that says, “Come on, let’s go out an have some fun!” And, this particular crop of coupes will let you have your fun while remaining economical too. Generally smaller and lighter than their sedan counterparts, when you fit a coupe with a four-cylinder engine, you get the youthful playfulness factor, but with responsible levels of fuel economy. Yes, in some cases (but not all, as we’ll see) you’ll give up outright performance. But with any of the cars on our list of the 10 Best 4-Cylinder Coupes, what you’ll sacrifice in performance you’ll make up for in fewer trips to the gas pump.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Audi TT
Renowned for extracting superior performance from small engines, Audi’s parent corporation, the Volkswagen Group, get more work from four-cylinders than just about any other manufacturer. In the Audi TT, they have created a stylishly distinctive coupe that defies definition. Not exactly a sports car, not exactly a grand touring car, and definitely not an economy car, the TT manages to serve all three categories—while not fitting precisely into any of them. The TT delivers a unique look, a high-class interior, good fuel economy (23-city / 31-hwy), and reasonably exciting performance. Powering the 2012 Audi TT is a 211-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 258 ft.-lbs. of torque. All-wheel drive is standard. The transmission of choice is a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual capable of functioning like a traditional automatic, or manual operation. The high-performance Audi TTS variant is powered by a 265 horsepower version of the same engine and also produces 258 ft.-lbs. of torque. Fuel economy is 21-city/29 hwy.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Audi A5
Many people are surprised to learn the svelte Audi A5 can be had with a four-cylinder engine, which is ironic because all A5s are four-cylinder cars. With the A5 you get a dynamically styled automobile—one that looks like nothing else on the road, save another Audi. Interior fit and finish are absolutely superb; the Audi A5 is easily the most luxurious car on this list of best 4-cylinder coupes. Of course, like every other Audi, the tech quotient is also quite high. Qualifying the 2012 Audi A5 for this list of best four-cylinder coupes is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 cylinder engine that produces 211 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is standard equipment, as is a six-speed manual transmission (21-city/31 hwy). An eight-speed automatic transmission is optional (21-city/29 hwy.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Honda Accord
The “respectable” one of the best four-cylinder coupes, the Honda Accord Coupe has a seriousness of purpose that defies the devil-may-care attitude coupes typically convey. The Accord Coupe says of its owner; “ Of course my car only has two doors, anything else would have been impractical.” With that said, in a way, the Accord Coupe is the “practical” impractical choice. As you’d expect from a Honda product, the engine is an absolute marvel of engineering; smooth in operation and achieving exceptional fuel economy. As the Honda brand’s top model, the Accord Coupe also delivers a strong feature set and superior comfort. Powering the 2012 Honda Accord Coupe is a 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine that produces 190 horsepower and 162 ft.-lbs. of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment (23-city/33 hwy), while a five-speed automatic is the optional offering (23-city/34 hwy) for the front-drive Honda Accord Coupe.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Honda Civic
There was a time when the Honda Civic Coupe was the no-questions-asked, hands-down definitive model in its class. And while the Civic Coupe is still an extraordinary car—at any price, the Koreans are nipping at the Civic’s heels rather hungrily. Regardless though, in a Honda Civic Coupe you get outstanding build quality, exceptional fit and finish, and above average reliability. You literally have to try to kill a Civic—they seldom break. The Civic Coupe can also be had with two different personalities. The base model is the “practical” choice as it consumes less fuel, requires less space to park, and is neat and tidy and comfortable to drive. Then there’s the Si, with its high-winding engine, slick manual shifter, and handling oriented chassis tuning. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 140 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque powers the front-wheel-drive 2012 Honda Civic. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual (28-city/36 hwy) and an available five-speed automatic (29-city/41 hwy for the HF model). The Civic Si uses 2.4 liters, for an output of 201 horsepower and 170 ft.-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual (22-city/31 hwy) is the only transmission offered with the Civic Si.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Hyundai Elantra
Designated a 2013 model, the Elantra Coupe was released mid-2012, so we’re giving it a spot on this list of best four-cylinder coupes. Frankly though, we aren’t “giving” the Elantra anything, it earned it. The sophistication, thoughtfulness and just plan goodness of the Elantra is only hinted at by its fluidly graceful exterior. Inside, the Hyundai offers a raft of standard features including comfort and convenience tech typically found only in cars costing thousands more. That the Elantra also delivers a nicely crafted and handsome interior treatment along with above average fuel economy only serves to make it even more desirable. The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe comes with a 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 131 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard (29-city/40 hwy), while an optional six-speed automatic transmission (28-city/39 hwy) is optional.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Hyundai Genesis 2.0T
Injecting a sportiness into the Hyundai lineup that was missing before, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T deserves a spot on our list of the best four-cylinder coupes for 2012, just because it is capable of competing with such a broad swath of cars. Sized and possessing the agility of models like the Infiniti G37 Coupe, the Hyundai’s pricing, power and performance also put it up against V6 versions of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and the Ford Mustang. Particularly agile in its four-cylinder configuration the Genesis Coupe is good-looking, fun to drive and about as close to a sports car as you’ll get in a Hyundai (currently). The 2012 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T has a 210-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine pumping 223 ft.-lbs. of torque to the rear wheels. A six-speed manual is standard (21-city/30 hwy), while a five-speed automatic (20-city/30 hwy) is optional.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Kia Forte Koup
One of the smartest moves Kia’s management team ever made was hiring former Audi designer Peter Schreyer to pen its cars. Going from frumpy to fine in one generation, Kia’s lineup is now one of the most handsome in the industry as well as the nicest looking in its class. Take a look at the picture to the right; if the caption didn’t say Kia Forte, we could probably convince you it was a product of a more upscale brand with a higher price point. The goodness shows up inside the car too, with a handsome interior treatment, a strong feature set, and good ergonomics. One of our 10 best four-cylinder cars for 2012, the Koup (in Kia-speak) is offered in two trim levels, EX and SX. Engines vary with the trim; EX is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 156 horsepower and 144 ft.-lbs. of torque. The more sporting oriented SX gets a173 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that puts 168 ft.-lbs. of torque to the front wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard—a six-speed automatic is offered as an option. Fuel economy ranges from 23-city/32 hwy for the SX with a manual transmission to 26/36 for the EX with an automatic.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Mercedes-Benz C 250
While they are quite common in the rest of the world (and were sold here previously), a four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz has been absent from the U.S. market for quite some time. That changed with the introduction of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class sedan and coupe. An all-new model for the 2012 model year, the Mercedes-Benz C Class coupe is of course handsome with a premium look and feel throughout. Some have proclaimed the small two-door Mercedes a worthy alternative to the BMW 3 Series coupe, however the Mercedes two-door offers something the BMW does not; the option of a four-cylinder engine. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C 250 Coupe is powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 201 horsepower and 229 ft.-lbs. of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission are standard. Fuel economy for the Mercedes-Benz entry on our list of the 10 best 4-cylinder coupes is 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Nissan Altima
The front-drive Nissan Altima Coupe bears a close resemblance to its rear-drive Infiniti G37 Coupe relative. Which is to say it is quite handsome form nearly every angle. As we just got an all-new Altima sedan for the 2013 model year, odds are a new Altima Coupe is just over the horizon, heading this way. Still though, the 2012 Altima Coupe makes our list of the 10 best four-cylinder coupes because of its versatility. And yes, we realize that flies in the face of our original thesis that coupes are inherently impractical. However, the Altima Coupe doubles nicely as a sporty, fun to drive coupe--while still looking mature and respectable. In other words, you can drive it, have fun with it and still look like an adult. The 2012 Nissan Altima Coupe 2.5 models use a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine generating 180 ft.-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual is standard (23-city/31 hwy), while a continuously variable automatic (23/32) is the option.
Best 4-Cylinder Coupes 2012: Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
New for 2013 models introduced early in 2012, so we’re covering them here are the Scion/Subaru twins. Jointly developed by the two companies, these newest entries to the small sports car segment also qualify for our list of best four-cylinder coupes because, well, that’s exactly what they are. Nicely balanced, fun to drive and pleasant to look at, the Scion/Subaru duo are poised to start a revolution in the small car market. Their sporting intentions notwithstanding, the cars deliver a comfortable and spacious interior, a roomy trunk and a highly enjoyable driving experience. If you’re more into the elemental driving experience, go with the Scion—as it is the more modestly equipped of the two. If you want some leather and other niceties, the Subaru is your pick. The rear drive cars use a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally opposed "boxer" four-cylinder engine that produces 151 ft.-lbs. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard (22-city/30 hwy) and a six-speed automatic transmission (25/34) with shift paddles on the steering wheel and delivering rev-matched downshifts is the optional pick.