Without question, the most glamorous genre of automobile is the coupe.
In fact, coupes are so coveted, manufacturers have taken to labeling particularly sleek four door models “four-door coupes” in an effort to rub some of that cachet off onto their sedans. This is of course marketing-speak; just as most station wagons today are referred to as—well— pretty much anything except station wagons.
Coupes scream individual freedom in much the same way sports cars do. The personal aspect of driving a car with but two doors says one is responsible to no one, that personal gratification is their primary concern, and that there’s an independent spirit at work that is singularly liberating. That coupes are often the basis for convertible models also enhance their appeal. For the most part, coupes are handsome, dynamic and typically will be the best performing models in their manufacturer’s product portfolio.
Of course, since this is all about the best affordable coupes for 2012, we need to define the term “affordable’ for this particular application. These days, the average new car transaction price is hovering in the low $30,000 range. So when we were considering affordable coupes, we used $31,000 as the cutoff point for pricing. Yes, we realize that might be expensive to some people, and honestly it isn’t what we’d call “cheap” either. But the new car market is what the new car market is.
Happily though, most of the cars on the list can be had in the mid- to low $20,000 range.
What follows is our list of the most affordable coupes for 2012.
The phrase “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.” once comprised a marketing jingle used to express just exactly how American General Motor’s most popular brand is. One of the brightest lights in the Chevrolet product portfolio, the Camaro was resurrected in 2010 after being off the market for seven years. The current model blends the best of the original styling cues of the Chevrolet sports coupe with a strong array of contemporary sensibilities to create a thoroughly modern and remarkably desirable package. Even the most basic Camaro model is a strong performer with its 323-horsepower V6 engine. As affordable coupes for 2012 go, the Camaro ranks very highly.
Another American icon resurrected for the 21st century, the Dodge Challenger is a very fast ride down memory lane. One of the most respected names from the 1960’s and 70’s muscle car days, the contemporary Challenger recalls the look of those cars and packs just as much horsepower and torque as they did as well. And, while its entry-level 305-horsepower V6 is the least powerful among its muscle car retrospective peers (Camaro and Mustang), that 305 horsepower is still quite a significant level of output. When you factor in the halo effect of its more powerful HEMI-powered iterations, the 2012 Dodge Challenger becomes one highly desirable affordable coupe.
There are so many exciting things to say about the Ford Mustang. America’s original pony car (the genre actually takes its name from the Mustang), the Mustang is the only one of its peer group (Camaro and Challenger) to have been in continuous production since it was launched (in 1964). Like its peers, the current Mustang’s look borrows from one of the more successful models of its past iterations. But that does not mean the car is a mere exercise in retro. As an affordable coupe the Mustang offers style, great performance, and a very long heritage. It’s no wonder the Ford Mustang has such staying power.
Quiet sophistication is the hallmark of this affordable coupe. The personal car from the company best known for its engineering innovation and prowess, the Honda Accord Coupe is a remarkable value. Comfortably spacious, strongly engineered, and in possession of a richly deserved reputation for reliability, the Honda Accord Coupe also carries a strong resale value. Remarkably, because of all of these attributes, even though it is an affordable coupe, the Accord carries the prestige of considerably more expensive models. This is largely attributable to the fact the true beauty of the Honda Accord Coupe lies in its thoroughly well rounded nature.
Honda won America over with a strong reputation for quality. The car that did this for the company was the Honda Civic. Originally a diminutive hatchback, the Honda Civic has more variations today than some manufacturers have individual models. From hatchbacks to hybrids, to alternative fuel, all the way through to the high performance Si models, the Honda Civic represents a tremendous automotive value with appeal for nearly every type of driver. It is also an excellent choice for people looking to play down their apparent income. In the Honda Civic Coupe one can have most of the amenities of more luxurious coupes without the expense and ostentation that comes with less affordable coupes for 2012
Introduced late in 2012 as a 2013 model, the Elantra Coupe continues Hyundai’s renaissance as a mainstream manufacturer of highly desirable models. Yes, quite naturally the Elantra is one of the most affordable coupes—after all its family name is Hyundai. However, affordable in this case only means a low price of entry. Hyundai’s Elantra is also refined and thoroughly enjoyable to drive. In that regard, the Elantra Coupe wholly reflects the new philosophy at Hyundai. Standard features include air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, six airbags, stability and traction control, and even heated front seats.
Introduced in mid-2012 for the 2013 model year, the newly reworked Genesis Coupe returns with more horsepower, more refinement and a broader array of standard features. The beauty of the Genesis Coupe is that one can still get the most powerful engine and the most aggressive suspension system while still coming in well under the $31,000 cutoff of where we consider an affordable coupe should be priced. An eight-speed transmission, a 348-horsepower V6 engine, a slick looking interior, and of course the sleek lines that have made all of Hyundai’s current models garner second looks all qualify the Genesis Coupe as one of the best affordable coupes for 2012.
One of the smartest things the people who run Kia did was to hire a tasteful exterior designer to lead their styling efforts. The Kia Forte Koup’s crisp lines make it look tens of thousands of dollars more expensive than it actually is. The little coupe also has sex appeal to spare. With full power accessories, keyless entry, power-folding mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, map lights, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with steering wheel controls also on its ledger, the Kia Forte Koup is packaged like a car that costs tens of thousands more dollars than it does too. In fact, the Kia Forte Koup can be said to pretty much define the most affordable coupes genre
Looking like a 8/10 scale Infiniti G37, the Nissan Altima Coupe has a strong dose of sex appeal on its side. The Altima Coupe also leans heavily toward the sporty side of the best affordable coupes category. With a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, it’s pretty obvious Nissan intends the Altima Coupe to be a driver’s car. That the model can also be fitted with Nissan’s buttery smooth VQ series V6 engine and still come in well under the “affordable” banner only serves to add more fuel to the already brightly burning enthusiast flame within the Nissan Altima Coupe.
With the introduction of the FR-S, the Scion brand deserves some reconsideration. Where before the marque was but a purveyor of quirky “youth-oriented” but still rather prosaic transportation, suddenly Scion is a player in the sports car game with the FR-S. And while we consider the model to be more sports car than one of the most affordable coupes per se, the fact remains many will be attracted to the little Scion two-door because of the way it looks. Happily, once they are attracted by its smile, they will also discover it to be a remarkable dancing partner too. Behind the wheel of the FR-S they will find out what true driving pleasure is all about, as the Scion FR-S is also one of the most fun to drive cars sold today.