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Coupes vs. Two-Door Hatchbacks

U.S. News & World Report
February 20, 2013
Coupes vs. Two-Door Hatchbacks
Coupes vs. Two-Door Hatchbacks

When shopping for a small, fun car, you don’t always have to sacrifice performance for practicality. Coupes and two-door hatchbacks offer a good balance of style and sportiness. But how do you choose between the two? Here are a few things to consider.


Many coupes emphasize performance, but some two-door hatchbacks also offer a sporty driving experience.

While they offer more cargo space, most two-door hatchbacks aren’t as powerful as coupes. However, there are some sport-oriented hatchbacks that still offer lots of performance for the money. For instance, the two-door Volkswagen GTI has a four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Reviewers say its performance-tuned handling makes daily driving loads of fun.

Although the GTI is a good performer, comparably-priced coupes are sometimes built with the drag strip in mind. The base Hyundai Genesis Coupe, for example, has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 274 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque using premium fuel (260 hp and 260 pound-feet with regular fuel), all for about $24,250, which is about $255 more than the GTI. The Genesis Coupe also offers a more powerful 3.8-liter V6 that makes 348 and 344 horsepower using premium/regular fuel, respectively, which reviewers love. The GTI only offers one engine. If a powerful engine is at the top of your list when shopping for a two-door car, you may want to concentrate on coupes instead of hatchbacks.

Fuel Economy

When choosing between a coupe and two-door hatchback, consider fuel economy ratings. As a general rule, less powerful engines require less fuel. The newly-introduced Hyundai Elantra Coupe with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine has one of the best fuel economy ratings among coupes, at 27/37 mpg city/highway. Keep in mind that fuel economy tends to decrease as the size of the engine increases. For instance, the Dodge Challenger’s standard V6 engine gets 18/27 mpg city/highway (with an automatic transmission). Still, the Elantra’s engine only makes 148 horsepower to the Challenger’s 305 horsepower.

Instead of offering larger engine choices, some hatchbacks will offer buyers electric or hybrid models. The Honda CR-Z is a hybrid vehicle that has a four-cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower. According to Honda, the CR-Z gets 36/39 mpg city/highway. So if you’re looking for great fuel economy, you’ll probably want to stick with a hatchback or at least a coupe with a smaller engine.

Passenger and Cargo Space

If you’re looking for a vehicle with more cargo space, a hatchback will probably work better than a coupe. With both rows of seats in use, many hatchbacks actually have about the same amount of cargo space as coupes; however, with the rear seats folded, hatchbacks offer more useable cargo space. The hatchback design also often makes it easier to load bulky items.

Although hatchbacks and coupes tend to offer about the same amount of rear-seat legroom, hatchbacks usually have a little more headroom in the back seat. Reviewers say the Volkswagen Golf’s rear seats can fit adults comfortably, which is rare for coupes and smaller hatchbacks alike. The Ford Mustang, by contrast, offers a back seat that’s typically only comfortable for children. Its sloping roofline impinges on rear-seat headroom. If you frequently have passengers in the back seat of your coupe or hatchback, make sure you climb into the back seat when you’re at the dealership to see how roomy it is.

Standard Features

The standard features on coupes and hatchbacks will vary depending on the vehicle and price point you are considering. For instance, the Hyundai Veloster comes with standard Bluetooth, satellite radio, a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system and a USB/iPod jack, and starts at $17,600. The Scion tC is about $2,000 more than the Veloster and comes with a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel, panoramic glass roof with power-tilt moonroof, Pioneer sound system, Bluetooth and HD Radio capability. It’s a good idea to determine which features are most important to you to help you decide between a coupe and a hatchback.


Cargo Space

Base Engine

Fuel Economy

Volkswagen GTI Hatchback


15.2 cu. ft.

2.0L I-4

24/33 mpg (automatic)

Scion tC Coupe


14.7 cu. ft.

2.5L I-4

23/31 mpg

Honda CR-Z Hatchback


25.1 cu. ft.

Hybrid I-4

36/39 mpg (automatic)

Ford Mustang Coupe


13.4 cu. ft.

3.7L V6

19/31 mpg (automatic)

Honda Civic Coupe


11.7 cu. ft.

1.8L I-4

28/39 mpg (automatic)

Dodge Challenger Coupe


16.2 cu. ft.

3.6L V6

18/27 mpg

Volvo C30 Hatchback


12.9 cu. ft.

2.5L I-5

21/30 mpg (automatic)

Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe


13.3 cu. ft.

3.5L V6

20/28 mpg