Car choice: I adore coupes but mine costs a bomb'

By James Ruppert
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Belinda Tasker has a problem. Her lovely W-reg Fiat Coupé has been proving rather expensive to run and she was recently charged almost £1,400 for a new clutch and exhaust at a Fiat dealership. She wants to sell the car now and would like another coupé that has the same power and sporty appeal but is a little more reliable and cheaper to run. She expects to get about £9,000 for the 20V Turbo coupé and will add a few thousand pounds to that for the right car. She is considering a new Hyundai Coupe 2 litre for about £12,000.

Belinda Tasker has a problem. Her lovely W-reg Fiat Coupé has been proving rather expensive to run and she was recently charged almost £1,400 for a new clutch and exhaust at a Fiat dealership. She wants to sell the car now and would like another coupé that has the same power and sporty appeal but is a little more reliable and cheaper to run. She expects to get about £9,000 for the 20V Turbo coupé and will add a few thousand pounds to that for the right car. She is considering a new Hyundai Coupe 2 litre for about £12,000.

Belinda is lucky because right now we live in exciting times when it comes to coupés. Just 10 years ago the choice was very limited and as a breed the coupé was almost extinct, but manufacturers have only been too happy to exploit this niche in order to make their brands look sexier and also make a bit of money.

The Fiat Coupé is a great coupé, but I know from direct experience that it hasn't been the most reliable and isn't cheap to fix. It has also dated badly since its launch and as it depreciates heavily, it is just waiting to be taken up by the classic car movement. As Belinda wants to buy brand new there really are very few options. I agree that the Hyundai Coupé is a good place to start, but the retail price is £14,495 and with discounts she will be lucky to get near £13,000.

There aren't any alternatives, which is why I think that Belinda ought to be looking at used examples. So a nearly new Hyundai is certainly a possibility and with five-year warranties it is easy to see the appeal. Older models are well within budget, but a 53 registered example is still £13,995 at a main dealer. There are alternatives.

Rely on the Japanese

If Belinda wants reliability, quality, economy and to be within budget then she has to buy Japanese and buy used. For similarly sharp, but much more contemporary styling it has to be the Toyota Celica. This seventh generation model is a sharp handler with a slick six-speed gear change. Enthusiastic drivers may have to rev the engine hard, but they won't mind.

There are two versions to choose from with either a 140bhp or 190bhp engine. Low weight and responsive engines means that it is possible to feel the power straight away, shoving you forward in a positive and purposeful manner. Working those engines hard through the gearbox is a delight.

As for the handling, it is pure sports car. Without too many electronic aids, it allows the driver to make the important decisions through the razor-sharp steering. As a focused sports car, practicality takes a back seat and the tiny rear is only really suitable for children, or for overspill from the boot. £10,500 buys a private 190 VVTi registered in 2001 with 47,000 miles, and with 30,000 miles it will be nearer to £11,500. Utterly reliable like every other Toyota it will also deliver a very respectable 36.7mpg.

Vorsprung durch technik

Belinda could go German and buy a BMW coupé, although to many it looks just like a two-door saloon. It will be well built and reliable - a 2000 318 Ci will be about £11,000. However the real stand out would be an Audi TT. At £12,000 though they will have a highish mileage and may also be left hand drive. Belinda should stick with Japanese.

The very best of the coupe bunch is the Honda Prelude, a model that is no longer sold and will save Belinda a fortune. With much more sober styling than the Celica the Prelude is a desirable coupé for one reason: the engine. Under the bonnet of the 2.2 model is the legendary VTEC engine, which enthusiasts love. A brilliant car to drive, it is nicely balanced and has real sports car grip.

There is a slightly less special 2.0 litre version. Built until 2001 the most Belinda will ever pay is just below £9,000. For that she will get a low mileage model with a full service history and in immaculate condition, which like the Toyota won't break down. If Belinda is prepared to consider a 1997 model then prices drop to between £3,000 to £5,000. So she could go on a holiday or buy some premium bonds with the change.

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