It's Time To End The Non-Sporty Coupe

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. This is a car with sleek styling, and a cool interior, and a lot of power, and some modicum of performance suspension, or performance brakes, or something performancey, like a faux carbon fiber door panel.

Examples of the sporty coupe include the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru BRZ, and – if you ask the Germans – the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, though the rest of us just consider that to be an overpriced sedan.

And then you have the other type of coupe. The non-sporty coupe. This is a car that was a sedan, until some auto industry geniuses got ahold of it and decided they could create an entirely new segment by just throwing on a new, two-door body and marketing it as “sporty.” Examples include the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and, well, that’s about it.

There’s a reason those are the only options: because everyone else has gotten out of this segment. For years, we had the Toyota Camry coupe, later called the Camry Solara. It’s gone. The Chevy Monte Carlo. It’s gone. The Chevy Cobalt coupe, the Chevy Cavalier Coupe, the Ford Tempo coupe, the Ford Focus coupe ( look it up!), the Dodge Avenger, the Chrysler Sebring coupe. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. All gone. The Nissan Altima Coupe. Gone. All because this segment is a massive dud; the automotive equivalent of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.

So why is Honda still in it?

My theory is Honda has abandoned every other sporty car they’ve ever had – from the NSX and the S2000 on down to the CR-Z – so they feel like they have to offer some piece of “performance” somewhere in their lineup. So they offer the Civic in sedan and coupe varieties, even though virtually everyone else has realized the actual place to be, when it comes to compact cars, is sedans and hatchbacks.

Interestingly, it seems like Honda still doesn’t have the hatchback memo. At this year’s New York Auto Show, Honda displayed a bright green Civic intended to preview what’s to come for the compact car’s next generation. So what body style did it use? The highly popular sedan model, which accounts for more than 80 percent of all sales? A hatchback to let us know they’re finally going to take on the Ford Focus, the Mazda3, the Kia Soul, and the Volkswagen Golf?

No: they showed off a Civic Coupe, suggesting they plan to continue the non-sporty coupe even after everyone else has jumped ship.

It’s the same situation with the Accord. Every time there’s an Accord redesign, I expect Honda to finally announce that they’re doing away with the Accord Coupe. And every time there’s an Accord redesign, Honda instead surprises me and brings it back for another round.

The question I have for people who buy these cars is: WHY?????

If you really examine the Civic Coupe and the Accord Coupe, what you’ll find is that both models are really just less practical versions of the sedans. Neither one is a sports car. Neither one offers especially sleek styling. In fact, if you ask me, the Civic Coupe is actually a bit ungainly in its current form, in the sense that it appears, at any moment, that it may be blown over by a strong gust of wind.

So basically, the “non sporty coupe” is just a sedan with less practicality. Same Accord styling. Same Accord engines. Same Accord equipment, and platform, and suspension, and brakes. The only difference: in the regular Accord, you can get out of the back seat without making the front passenger get up and exit the vehicle first.

I’ve talked to a few people who own these vehicles, and I’ve come to learn they actually believe these are sports cars. “Well,” they say. “I couldn’t afford a 370Z. So I decided to get an Accord Coupe.” As if the two are equals. This would be like saying that you couldn’t afford a place overlooking Central Park, so you instead decided to get a studio apartment in downtown Newark.

So I guess the simple truth here is that Honda is going to continue to make these things as long as people keep buying them. But as the market shrinks, and as people realize they’d really rather have a sedan, and as the tens of buyers disaffected by the cancellation of the Chevy Cobalt coupe move on to something else, I hope Honda wises up and gives us hatchbacks instead. Because the days of the non-sporty coupe are coming to an end.

Doug DeMuro
Doug DeMuro

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  • JerseyRon JerseyRon on Aug 22, 2017

    Yes, I realized Doug posted this over 2 years ago so why comment now? I couldn't help but be struck by how things have changed since he wrote "Every time there’s an Accord redesign, I expect Honda to finally announce that they’re doing away with the Accord Coupe. And every time there’s an Accord redesign, Honda instead surprises me and brings it back for another round." As we know, for 2018 there is finally no more Accord Coupe. Doug also wrote that "they offer the Civic in sedan and coupe varieties, even though virtually everyone else has realized the actual place to be, when it comes to compact cars, is sedans and hatchbacks. Interestingly, it seems like Honda still doesn’t have the hatchback memo." And again, as we know, the Civic hatchback returned as of the 2017 MY. Does this mean that Honda is reading TTAC and listening? What other car makers would benefit from taking advice from TTAC and the B&B? An aside regarding Doug's remark about getting a studio in downtown Newark. Although it certainly can't compare to a place overlooking Central Park, it's probably not as bad as you think. Check it out:

  • Voxleo Voxleo on Jun 30, 2018

    Now the thread is over three years old, but I am just catching it now after my car got stolen and I have been frustrated in finding something else I like to replace it. This article and subsequent comment section caught my attention because I was a very happy owner of one of those supposedly unsporty coupes for 23 years, having purchased a 95 Civic ex coupe because I loved the look of it and the way it drove compared to everything else I tried. And I hadn't looked at anything else with covetous eyes ever since I bought it. I wouldn't be looking now if it hadn't been stolen and the transmission hijacked out of it last month.... I miss that damn car more than anything now. I don't know if it was a 2 door sedan or what, but I rarely had passengers at all, and don't have kids. My partner drives a BMW 3 series sedan - has been through 4 or 5 of them in the time I have had my civic, so that is some testament to its reliability. It's worth noting that I HATE the newer civics despite the total Honda fangirl I will probably ever remain. I was poised to purchase a used 07 Civic Si sedan at a deep discount from the shop owner from which my car was stolen and after having it for a week I have never been happier to get rid of a car and mourned the passing of my old coupe even more. It's sort of cute enough, trying like hell to be as sporty as a coupe but just not quite feeling like one. I think the Civics of today are too big to be the same fit for me they used to be, maybe even started heading that way right after that 5th generation which I found so appealing. I was really depressed about this, feeling like the Civic is now pretty much as big as the Accord, which I had always found to be too big. Where do I turn to find another inexpensive and fuel maximizing vehicle that has a little style to it? The Si is not fitting the bill, and I almost am thinking I might get closest to what I want by taking my mom's 95 integra because it is something that offers similar driving experience for me, but that is too small for my comfort and the premium fuel isn't a draw either. Still, it is a manual transmission, and that may be the key issue. How do you have anything remotely "sport" that carries an automatic transmission? What is the point of THAT? It's very distressing that the availability of standard shift cars is becoming so limited EVEN in the sporting category! It's pretty much limited to the base model cheap cars as though its regarded as an inconvenience rather than a benefit. I dread the day that I can't find one at all in a new car, and it may be a day that is upon us already. It's funny too that the discussion turned to the hatchbacks. This is precisely the thing that has kept my mother from purchasing a new car for years and why she still has the integra to pass on to me if that is the best option I can find. She wants a car that is a manual transmission, has some zip to it, with the luxury of a sunroof and the trunk capacity and fold down seat space of her Acura for the convenience of her dogs and whatever big things she wants to buy at Costco. They just don't make that anymore. Everything that comes close is missing at least one of those things and she dislikes the boxy flat back look of most hatchbacks available now. Two days ago I stumbled onto something I fell a little bit in love with that I had never known existed until then - the Little CRZ. I drove the cvt version, and I think if I were allowed to control the gearing myself, I could live with the 130 hp afforded by it, which matched my EX in that dept. My mom, I think, was a bit jealous of that hatchback style it had going for it, allowing for that cargo space uninterrupted by the deck that gets in the way of most of those wanna be sporty coupes. I dunno if my old coupe would be considered non-sporty or sporty, but I liked it a lot. Mom loves her integra enough that she can't find a car to replace it in style, and I might just be looking to buy that CRZ because it is the closest thing in styling and drive experience to my old EX coupe that I am still angry about losing. I want more of that type of car to choose from. I guess I am an odd duck though. Which is part of the reason I don't want an Si and am not excited by the Civic offerings of recent years in even the coupe form. THEY ARE UBIQUITOUS. All the cars out on the road look the same today, such that I can't even tell for sure if something is a honda or a toyota or an audi at first glance, and have to rely on the hood ornament to tell me what family it belongs to. At the time I bought it, my little Civic coupe was something different and it was easy to pick it out among the crowd even now. I want something I won't lose in a parking lot or try to get into someone elses that I have mistaken for my own. So the CRZ, as much as it is lacking the power of a sportier model, is my likely choice right now. I don't want a real sports car, as frankly the 6 speed Civic si is too much oomph for what I need in city traffic. I also don't need the premium fuel restriction, and I want economy if not green, but I am really unmoved by the idea of driving the same thing everyone else is. I like to have a little style in my ride, and some fun driving it. Where does a girl like me turn then? At least I can feel the road in the CRZ - some of the sedans just float too much to feel anything...

    • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Jun 30, 2018

      Go test drive a Golf and Golf GTI. They are essentially Audis in terms of refinement, interior quality, driving dynamics, and premium feel, now with a 6 year/70,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty standard. Thank me later. Also, you can fantastic deals on the Golf and very good deals on the GTI (VW is in aggressive race to raise revenues post-DieselGate and to keep up unit sold global volume with Toyota). If you are not hard charging negotiator, have some friend or relative who is experienced in the game do a solid for you and handle negotiations on price (VW dealers can be scummy and you need to be a non-needy type buyer willing to walk fast and permanently for any reason to get best deal).

  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.