Have you ever noticed that the outfits you thought were so cool when you wore them a decade ago now look weird and maybe a little embarrassing? That's the result of fashion. The fashion industry wants us to get rid of our old clothes so they can sell us new ones by making us believe our old clothes are "out of style."
The auto industry is a lot like the fashion industry that way. That’s why the cool cars of the past — two-door coupes — aren't nearly so popular right now. But before you go "ah, right" and move on to the next group of vehicles, you should know that today's coupes are good-looking, feature-filled, and much more satisfying to drive than the crossover SUVs currently in vogue. If you really want to drive when you drive, think about getting a Coupe. To help you along on this worthwhile quest, here are the best coupes under $30,000.
2020 Ford Mustang
When many people think of cool coupes they think of the Ford Mustang. Yes, there were slick two-doors long before the Mustang was introduced, but the Mustang took it to an entirely new level. The current Mustang is both a tribute to its long history and also a reflection of today's realities.
One obvious example of this is Ford's leadership in powerful yet economical direct-injected, turbocharged engines, and the Mustang is a major beneficiary. In its least expensive form, it gets 310 horsepower out of just 2.3 liters of four-cylinder displacement. With a lighter engine up front, the car's weight is more evenly distributed over its wheels for predictable handling and excellent road-holding. The Mustang's chassis has transitioned from old-fashioned to sophisticated, so the EcoBoost car is a blast to drive. On top of that, the current Mustang is one of the best-looking coupes on the road. In base form, the Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback has a starting retail price of under $27,000.
2020 Chevrolet Camaro
While some tend to think of cars like the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Dodge Challenger as "muscle cars" their sales success has been attained as much for their style as for their performance. And frankly, there is a lot to like about the style and presence of the base Camaro, a very cost-effective way to drive a good-looking two-door.
The Camaro isn't as big as it used to be — either in sheer size and sales results — but its smaller dimensions match up well with the base 275-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It can be equipped with six-speed manual transmission or eight-speed automatic, traction control, and electronic stability control. Its rear-wheel drive and well-tuned suspension make the Camaro a willing partner when curvy roads beckon. The 2020 Chevrolet Camaro has a starting MSRP of right around $25,000, and that leaves room for plenty of add-ons while staying under $30K.
2020 Dodge Challenger
Talk about the Dodge Challenger always tends to hyperbole. After all, there is a version with a 797-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 engine. Dodge absolutely wants you to believe the Challenger is the most potent muscle car on the muscle car block. But the fact of the matter is you can get a great-looking, nicely performing Challenger for far less than the high-priced SRT Hellcat.
For example, even the base Challenger SXT has a 305-horsepower Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. Teamed up with a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, the V6-powered Challenger is a peppy, fun-to-drive package. Plus, the Challenger can play the role of family car once the kids have climbed into the roomy back seat via the two giant doors. At 10 inches longer than the Mustang, it offers 10 cubic feet more passenger space, and its trunk is 3 cubic feet bigger than the Mustang’s. The base Dodge Challenger SXT has a list price of right around $28,000.
2020 Honda Civic Coupe
Yes, the American market has made a hard turn toward four-doors, but still, there is a lot to like about the Honda Civic Coupe. It is more stylish than the four-door Civic, but even more, the coupe is a blast to drive. The base engine is a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that will provide more-than-ample acceleration while also contributing EPA ratings of 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway/33 mpg combined.
If you'd like more motive force, the engine in the EX and Touring trims is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that offers 174 horsepower plus considerably more torque. Whichever you pick, the Civic coupe is fitted with an impressive suite of active safety and driver-assist equipment, many in its high-tech Honda Sensing package. The Civic coupe is very well equipped even in base trim, and its quality and reliability are world-renowned. The Civic coupe starts at less than $20,000.
2020 Honda Civic Si Coupe
Some might look at the Honda Civic Si Coupe as simply another variation of the lengthy Civic line. But we think it makes sense to consider it as a separate model because it is purpose-built for affordable performance.
The Civic Si’s 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque driving through a six-speed manual transmission, enough to get the grins going. At the same time, the Civic Si offers technology like adaptive cruise control, and it will accommodate five passengers. Yes, it is a front-drive platform, but we believe most enthusiasts will applaud its handling and pocket-rocket size. If you must commute but you also do your share of sporty driving, the Civic Si has no equals at the price — it starts around $25,000.
2020 Subaru BRZ
While several of the coupes on this list can accommodate rear-seat passengers with relative ease, the Subaru BRZ is so small in the back that it’s more like a two-seater. It won't outrun a Porsche, but for the price, it offers plenty of sports-car enjoyment.
The BRZ’s rear-wheel drive architecture gets it off on the right foot. While today's front-wheel drive cars offer reasonable performance characteristics most enthusiast drivers still prefer rear-drive. The low-slung BRZ is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder engine teamed with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. The manual-equipped engine delivers 205 horsepower while the automatic version offers 200 horsepower. The Subaru sports car is closely related to the Toyota 86, both developed by Subaru. Some like the 86's details better; others prefer the Subaru BRZ. The latter has a base price of about $29,000.
2020 Toyota 86
We think if the Toyota 86 had been introduced in a different decade, it would have been a giant sales success. But in this era of crossovers, the fun-to-drive sports coupe is basically a well-kept secret.
The 86 deserves better, because its 205-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, six-speed manual transmission, and well-balanced chassis make it a rewarding coupe with impressive all-around characteristics.
The Toyota 86 was originally part of the now-defunct Scion brand, and mechanically, the car is virtually identical to the Subaru BRZ we just told you about. It offers the same chassis, same engine, and the same transmission choices. Like the BRZ, it is a coupe with tiny rear seats that really aren't fooling anyone. Like the BRZ, it won't blow you away with its dragstrip capabilities, but it is fun to drive. It’s priced from just under $27,000.
2020 Hyundai Veloster
The 2020 Hyundai Veloster is an inexpensive and engaging sports coupe that offers its potential buyers an interesting range of choices. The base model is about style and practicality at a palatably low price. It is powered by a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine backed by a six-speed manual transmission. In turbocharged form, the Veloster Turbo models offer 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque from their 1.5-liter turbocharged engines. The engines can be paired with a standard six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
All Veloster models offer Torque Vectoring Control, an active cornering feature that uses wheel-speed sensors coupled with electronic stability control algorithms to apply precise braking force to the inside front wheel during aggressive cornering. This braking redirects power to the outside front wheel in the turn, reducing wheelspin for enhanced cornering grip. The R-Spec Veloster Turbo can be fitted with a B&M Racing sport shifter and other add-ons. If you want to get technical, the Veloster is a four-door hatchback, but it is certainly styled like a coupe. Prices start at just $18,500.
2020 Hyundai Veloster N
You might think that two Veloster models with turbocharged engines are enough, but count on Hyundai to add yet another. The Veloster N is part of the coming Hyundai N-Line of performance vehicles — so you can tell where this is headed.
Mechanically, the Veloster N features a larger displacement 2.0-liter, direct-injected turbocharged powerplant versus the 1.5-liter in the Veloster Turbo. So the driver of a Veloster N can tap into 275 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and up to 260 lb-ft of torque. The high-performance engine is backed up by a close-ratio, short-throw six-speed manual transmission with downshift rev-matching capability. Outside, the Veloster N is fitted with an exclusive N-design front fascia and grille with dedicated front air ducts for enhanced brake cooling. Inside, N-Line reminders are everywhere: the front cloth sport seats, steering wheel, shift knob, door sill plates, and instrument cluster. The Veloster N is a bargain with a base price of around $27,500.
2020 MINI Hardtop
Like the Hyundai Veloster, the MINI Hardtop doesn't have a traditional trunk lid, but since it acts like a coupe in so many ways, it is included in this roundup. It's just so darn likable.
The base MINI Hardtop is powered by a three-cylinder engine if you want to get all economical, but you'll probably be more satisfied with the Cooper S with its 189-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine backed by a seven-speed manumatic transmission. The Hardtop is front-wheel drive, but its nimble size gives it a fun-to-drive lilt. While many two-doors cramp the rear-seat passengers in cruel-and-unusual punishment, the MINI Hardtop is very space-efficient. Inside, the MINI goes on its quirky way, but once you get used to it everything generally works great. The MINI Hardtop has a base price right around $23,400.