Honda Calls Civic Rivals 'Square,' Makes Some Ask 'Where Are the Coupes?'

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
honda calls civic rivals 8216 square makes some ask 8216 where are the coupes

Remember when Every. Single. Car. Model. came in a two-door version?

Sure, the days of luxurious and lengthy Olds 98 two-doors and Lincoln Town Coupes are long gone, but it wasn’t long ago that coupe offerings stretched from one end of the compact car market to the other.

A buyer was once able to choose between the forgettable Ford Escort and equally forgettable but nicer-looking ZX2. You could get the bland Nissan Sentra or the slightly less bland 200SX. And so on and so forth.

Two door vehicles that aren’t dedicated sportscars or pickups are growing fewer, especially at the lower end of the market where volume is king. It’s gotten so bad that we’ve taken to calling four-door SUVs “coupes,” like we’re in some sort of bizarro world where up is really down and humans breathe underwater.

At least one automaker is holding out against the trend.

Honda is planning a marketing blitz for its 2016 Civic Coupe that features a commercial titled “Square,” where a sleek Civic two-door rolls past a landscape filled with square people, square pets, and square kids riding square skateboards with square wheels.

The ad aims to draw attention to the Civic’s rakish flanks and sleek profile at the expense of its competitors, but it may as well be talking about the vehicle’s door count.

Looking for another C-segment offering with two doors and no hatchback? Your choices are, in a word, limited. The previous-generation Hyundai Elantra offered one, but it was dropped. Chevrolet Cruze? Nope. Maybe a Sentra, Focus, Mazda3 or Corolla? Try again. Impreza? Get out of here.

The Kia Forte Koup soldiers on for now. We’ll see if the bodystyle survives the model’s eventual redesign.

The cheerleaders for low-end coupes are few as automakers scramble to meet insatiable demand for family-oriented crossovers and SUVs.

Range Rover at least offers a two-door version of its sporty Evoque SUV, something Mercedes-Benz and BMW clearly see as a bastardization of the traditional four-door wagon definition of “coupe.” That said, the only sales success among two-door SUVs in recent years is the Jeep Wrangler.

Cadillac should be commended for wading back into the personal luxury coupe category with its two-door ATS, regardless of what you think of the brand or the model. It didn’t help overall sales, though, as buyers vacated the ATS lineup altogether.

Car buyers had cash, kids, property and pets in the ’70s, but bloated luxo-coupes still sold as fast as wide lapels and Bee Gees tickets. Outside of Germany, it seems consumer tastes moved on to other flavors, and automakers were quick to follow.

As a former owner of a (beige) two-door 1994 Toyota Camry with gloriously long doors (and, obviously, windows), this writer wonders if coupes are doomed to amount to an ever-shrinking niche market populated mostly with high-end offerings and low-slung rocket sleds.

You’d think that with crossovers and SUVs parked in every driveway, a family’s second car could stand to be a little less utilitarian.

It will be interesting to watch consumer demand for the Civic Coupe. As a rarity in the automotive landscape, it could serve as a litmus test for other automakers. Who knows, consumers might show they’re not as allergic to two-doors as we believed.

Or, to Honda’s chagrin, they’ll confirm it.

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2 of 128 comments
  • 6250Claimer 6250Claimer on May 11, 2016

    The best coupe out there is now a decade old, and still a brilliant car - the BMW 330Ci with ZHP (performance package) option. Beautiful, fast, efficient.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on May 12, 2016

    It's nice they picked some Canadian people to star in their Civic commercial. /South Park reference

  • Skippity “Things To Watch Out For When Buying a 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7.” A 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7.
  • Mike Beranek Would you cross this man? No way!
  • Skippity I kinda like styling. There’s plenty of lookalike boxes on the road. Nice to see something unique.
  • Make_light I drive a 2015 A4 and had one of these as a loaner once. It was a huge disappointment (and I would have considered purchasing one as my next car--I'm something of a small crossover apologist). The engine sounded insanely coarse and unrefined (to the point that I wasn't sure if it was poor insulation or there was something wrong with my loaner). The seats, interior materials, and NVH were a huge downgrade compared to my dated A4. I get that they are a completely different class of car, but the contrast struck me. The Q3 just didn't feel like a luxury vehicle at all. Friends of mine drive a Tiguan and I can't think of one way in which the Q3 feels worth the extra cost. My mom's CX-5 is better than either in every conceivable way.
  • Arthur Dailey Personally I prefer a 1970s velour interior to the leather interior. And also prefer the instrument panel and steering wheel introduced later in the Mark series to the ones in the photograph. I have never seen a Mark III or IV with a 'centre console'. Was that even an option for the Mark IV? Rather than bucket seats they had the exceptional and sorely missed 60/40 front seating. The most comfortable seats of all for a man of a 'certain size'. In retrospect this may mark the point when Cadillac lost it mojo. Through the early to mid/late 70's Lincoln surpassed Cadillac in 'prestige/pride of place'. Then the 'imports' took over in the 1980s with the rise of the 'yuppies'.