There was a time when one had to sacrifice style and individuality in order to drive an economical car. With so much emphasis placed on fuel efficiency these days, manufacturers have come up with an entire roster of coupes to fill the ranks of the best small economical cars. These are models with distinctive personalities, strong feature sets, and exceptional fuel economy. If you’re reading this and thinking they’re all sizzle and no steak, take a look at the nice variety of performance oriented models populating this category as well. These offerings prove to have good mileage, a nice array of comfort and convenience features, and a dynamic driving experience.
The FIAT 500 delivers Italian style, personality, and fun in a diminutive package. In addition to its appealing nature, the 500 also delivers a very strong standard feature set; including full power accessories, air conditioning, and a six-speaker audio system. Available in both Coupe and Convertible, a 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 101 horsepower and 98 ft-lbs of torque powers the base model. Its output is routed to the front wheels by ether a five-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic transmission. The manual averages 34 miles per gallon overall, while the automatic returns 30. If performance is more your thing, there’s also the higher performing 135-horsepower Turbo and the 160-horsepower Abarth. Fiat 500 pricing starts at $17,145.
Honda Civic Coupe
Easily one of the most desirable small coupes on the market, Honda’s Civic Coupe is offered with a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 143 horsepower and 129 ft-lbs of torque. Smooth and economical, the powerplant returns a comfortable driving character in addition to admirable fuel economy. Front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission are standard, but a continuously variable transmission is also offered as an option. Fuel economy is rated at 30-city, 39-highway, and 33 combined with the CVT. The manual is good for 28/36 and 31. If performance is more of an issue, there’s the 205-horsepower Civic Si’s 2.4-liter four with 174 ft-lbs. A six-speed manual transmission is the only choice here. Pricing starts at $18,290.
Honda is well known for technologically advanced, lightweight, fuel-efficient and fun to drive cars. Back in 2011, Honda was the first to offer a truly sporty hybrid two-seater. A taut suspension system, quick steering, and the first six-speed manual transmission ever fitted to a hybrid automobile define the package. CR-Z is also offered with a continuously variable transmission. Its 1.5-liter inline four is combined with an electric motor for a total of 130 horsepower and 140 ft-lbs of torque with the manual transmission, (127 ft-lbs with the CVT). Fuel economy for the front-driver is rated at 35 miles per gallon in the city, 39-highway, and 37 combined with the CVT. The manual returns 31/37/34. Pricing starts at $20,145.
If you’re looking to stand out from the rest of the pack, nothing else looks like Hyundai’s funky little Veloster. The only three-door coupe in this market segment, the front-wheel drive Veloster offers fuel economy approaching 31 miles per gallon combined, and a sophisticated dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Two engine choices are available; the 1.6-liter four-cylinder makes 132 horsepower and 120 ft-lbs of torque with the DCT; 138 horsepower and 123 ft-lbs with the optional six-speed manual. The turbocharged version of the 1.6 generates 201 horsepower and 195 ft-lbs. A six-speed automatic replaces the DCT. Power output is identical regardless of the transmission choice. Pricing starts at $18,000 for the base model and $21,600 for the Turbo.
Kia Forte Koup
Kia is known for providing exceptional value for the money. In the case of Kia’s Forte Koup, in addition to the content of the car, its look says it costs more than it really does. The handsome front-wheel drive Forte Koup is powered by a choice of two four-cylinder engines. Koup EX gets a 173-horsepower, 2.0-liter with 154 ft-lbs of torque and a choice of a six-speed automatic, or a six-speed manual transmission—for an EPA rating of 28 mpg combined. The SX Koup gets a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, capable of 195 ft-lbs of torque. Transmission choices are the same, and the EPA says to anticipate combined fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon. Pricing starts at $18,590.
MINI Cooper Coupe
As if the standard Cooper Hardtop isn’t cute enough, MINI also offers a two-door, two-seat version of its delightful little front-drive runabout. Power comes from a choice of three engines. A 121-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 118 ft-lbs of torque powers the base model. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; a six-speed automatic is optional—regardless of engine choice. The EPA claims 32-mpg overall with the manual and 31 with the automatic. The S Coupe gets 181 horsepower and 177 ft-lbs by turbocharging the 1.6. Fuel economy is 29 overall with the automatic, 28 with the manual. The John Cooper Works version enjoys 208 horsepower and 192 ft-lbs—with the fuel economy of the S. Pricing starts at $22,000.
With Scion’s FR-S sports car getting so much love these days, the venerable tC, (previously Scion’s sportiest model), may be overlooked. That’s unfortunate, because the Scion tC offers a lot of value for its price. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, a full set of power accessories, and a panoramic sunroof. Power comes from a 179-horsepower 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine, good for 172 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission feeding the front wheels is standard; a six-speed automatic is offered as an option. Fuel economy, regardless of the transmission choice, is rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway, and 26 combined. Pricing starts at $19,980.
Interestingly, despite being one of the 10 most fuel-efficient non-hybrid cars available, at 34 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway, and 36 combined, the Smart For Two still falls of some people’s short lists because they might think a car of its size should return better fuel economy. And make no mistake about it; this is definitely a small car—smaller even than the Scion we detailed earlier. But for a certain buyer, smaller is better. Power comes from a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine capable of 70 horsepower and 68 ft-lbs of torque. A five-speed automated manual transmission routes power to the rear wheels. For Two standard features include keyless entry, automatic climate control, power locks, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Pricing starts at $13,270.
Any list of cool economical coupes without Volkswagen’s Beetle is incomplete. Here’s the thing though, VW redid the Beetle a few years ago in an effort to make it a bit more “manly.” The car does look more substantive than the model it replaced, but does the Beetle even need to be concerned about that? Available in a variety of trims, each configured to emphasize a different aspect of the Beetle’s nature, power for the base model comes from a 170-horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 184 ft-lbs of torque—paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. Pricing starts at $20,695.