Toyota's FT-86.
Toyota's FT-86.

New models lift market

AUSTRALIA'S cut-price two-door coupe market could be on its way back from the dead, with a number of potential new models making their way Down Under in the next few years.

Previously one of the most populated (or overpopulated, depending on your stance) segments in the Australian market, cheap coupes started to die out in the early 2000s as manufacturers shied away from the low volumes and instead focused on more practical - but less enticing - options.

The decline continued into the late 2000s, with just one entrant - Hyundai's Tiburon - holding the fort once occupied by the likes of the Toyota Paseo and Celica, Honda Integra, CR-X and Prelude and even the first-car buyers' favourite, Mitsubishi Lancer Coupe.

In 2009, Hyundai's sister company, Kia, released its two-door Cerato-based model, inventively named the Koup - a car that, as the market stands today, is the only player in the sub-$35,000 coupe segment.

Kia recently announced a cheaper entry-level price for the Koup, with the base model now starting from $22,990, plus on-road costs.

Kia will be joined by Honda with its soon-to-be-released CR-Z, the world's first hybrid coupe and one that will mark the Japanese brand's return to the niche segment.

The managing director for Honda Australia, Satoshi Matsuzawa, says he is excited about having another two-door in the ranks, with the circa-$35,000 car due mid-next year.

"I drove [the CR-Z] in Japan and it was very exciting," Matsuzawa says.

"It has three modes: Econ, Normal and Sports; and if you choose Sports, it's just like a sports car. It's amazing."

Matsuzawa couldn't confirm pricing for Australia, other than to say it will be affordable. That sort of pricing would see the CR-Z fighting, in effect, against Kia's new top-end Koup offering, the SLS, to be priced at $29,190 plus costs when it arrives this year.

Fellow Korean brand Hyundai hasn't ruled out returning to the two-door fray, either, and is shaping up to be a firm contender within a few years.

From the early 1990s, Hyundai offered two-door models in its local line-up, starting with the S-Coupe and Coupe, with the Tiburon taking over in the 2000s.

A company spokesman, Ben Hershman, says that while the segment is an interesting one, Hyundai doesn't have any plans to offer its existing rear-wheel-drive Genesis coupe in the immediate future - but he has stated previously the next-generation Genesis will be sold here.

Hyundai's ever-growing line-up is also likely to spawn a cheaper, front-wheel-drive model, based on the 2008 Veloster concept.

As Drive has reported previously, the production version of the Veloster is set to be available in right-hand-drive, making it a likely candidate.

Toyota is also looking to re-enter the coupe segment, confirming its plans to offer a production version of its rear-wheel-drive FT-86 coupe within "a couple of years".

The head of sales and marketing for Toyota Australia, David Buttner, says the brand's Aussie arm "has its hand up very strongly for it", claiming there's a strong desire within the company to offer more exciting products.

"The FT-86 is very much on the back of [Toyota's global president] Akio Toyoda's strong desire for us to bring products to the marketplace which will attract a younger demographic to the Toyota brand," Buttner says. "We want to bring some excitement and inspiration back."

Toyota has had a strong presence in the penny-pincher's coupe market in the past and Buttner says the company is keen to challenge its vanilla brand perception.

"Think of the Paseo, Celica, MR2 and Supra - we don't have those product offerings in our range any more and there's a strong desire by the company generally, over time, to offer more products of that ilk," he says.

Buttner says while Toyota's youth-oriented sub-brand has a cheap coupe on sale in other markets (the left-hand-drive Scion tC), that car isn't on the local horizon, due to high costs of importing and specifying it to Australian requirements.

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