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Showroom: Where have all the coupés gone?

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Review

Once upon a time, every mainstream carmaker had a coupé in its range. It is easy to get misty-eyed about these cars, many of which were rubbish, but they provided a little bit of glamour at an affordable price.

Today the breed is virtually extinct. Now that Toyota has withdrawn the Celica from Europe, there is only one mainstream version left – the Hyundai Coupé. Ironically this is from a company that barely existed when the Capri was in its heyday.

Instead, the mainstream manufacturers have all piled in to the coupé-cabrio segment, having seen the impact made by the original Peugeot 206CC. One can’t help feeling that we have been here before.

When the original Renault Espace kick-started the large MPV segment, every manufacturer felt the need to have a rival, resulting in some pretty hopeless models (does anyone remember the Vauxhall Sintra?) and some very low sales figures.

It is hard to believe that all potential coupé buyers are happy with the option of a coupé-cabrio.

Not everyone wants a convertible and many certainly don’t want the compromises involved in having a folding metal roof.

Now VW has committed itself to a new-generation Scirocco, although there are increasing doubts over how affordable it will be. With Ferdinand Piech back in charge at VW, the emphasis is on pushing models upmarket and the plan now is to offer the Scirocco with a 250bhp-plus V6. Meanwhile, Ford is thought to be considering a new-generation Capri, having lost the well-liked Puma almost by accident during the 2001 restructuring process.

However, most of the rest of the European industry is fairly quiet – Fiat will leave coupés to Alfa and Lancia (the forthcoming Fulvietta), the French manufacturers are wedded to coupé-cabrios and GM has the Tigra.

With so many new coupés coming from prestige brands – eg Audi A5 and Volvo C30 – it looks like the mainstream manufacturers are missing a trick.

One of the key ambitions for any mainstream manufacturer is to prevent affluent buyers drifting off to prestige brands. That task must surely be harder if there are no aspirational coupés in their range.

It is not as if the task is impossible – if Ford can turn the functional Galaxy MPV into a stylish S-Max, how hard can it be to turn an Focus-sized hatchback into a 21st century Capri?

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