- Five stylish coupes that offer thrifty thrills
- All cars cost £30 or less to tax per year
- Plus three other stylish, low-tax options
Not all coupes come with big V8 engines and astronomical running costs, and not all are actually coupes in the traditional sense of the word.
Of course you can still get your hands on a traditional two-door coupe, but the pursuit of filling every niche possible by manufacturers has led to the creation of a four-door version. There's the Mercedes-Benz CLS and BMW 4 Series GranCoupe, as well as SUV variants like the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. Even Land Rover’s in on the act – the three-door Range Rover Evoque is actually called a coupe!
We’re sticking with two doors for this though, with coupes that offer style, a fun drive and low running costs – in particular low road tax - so you won’t spend a fortune on having fun behind the wheel.
The latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe boasts some impressively low running costs, but you need to check the specifications carefully before you buy. The C220d Sport with a manual gearbox has the lowest CO2 emissions in the range at 106g/km, meaning you’ll pay just £20 in road tax* after the first year.
If you want the C220d in sporty AMG Line trim CO2 emissions go up to 113g/km, so it’ll cost you slightly more in tax. Yes, only £10, but this advice applies across the board where differences between tax bands can be more than just £10 per year. It’s usually down to the size of the wheels, so make sure you know exactly what the facts and figures are.
The C-Class is a very accomplished coupe, and it’s arguably one of the best-looking out there with a swooping roofline, sharp design details and a stunning interior. It’s also pretty fun to drive, while remaining comfortable at the same time. There’s a decent amount of space for four passengers too, and entry-level Sport trim comes with plenty of equipment.
Interestingly, the more powerful 204hp C250d emits just 3g/km more CO2 than the 170hp C220d at 109g/km so even that comes with a low tax bill despite the extra power and a smooth automatic gearbox.
While not quite a coupe in the traditional sense, the VW Scirocco is marketed as one and, thanks to the existence of a three-door Golf, it makes the cut in this list.
Fitted with a 150hp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine and VW’s economy-boosting BlueMotion technology, the Scirocco emits 109g/km of CO2, meaning tax will cost just £20* for a year.
It’s not the most enjoyable coupe to drive, though. There’s plenty of grip and the handling is safe, but we think the engine could do with a bit more power – although you can’t have everything in the pursuit of low running costs.
What we are fans of is the styling. It may have been around for a while now, but the Scirocco still looks fresh and distinctive with a squat stance and some sharp design details.
The BMW 4 Series is a very desirable coupe indeed, thanks to an elegant design, high-quality interior and a great driving experience. The diesels offer low running costs too, and the entry-level 418d offers the lowest of them all. In fact, the claimed fuel economy and CO2 figures are better than the smaller 2 Series fitted with the same engine.
The 418d in SE spec emits 110g/km of CO2, so road tax comes in at just £20* a year, while BMW claims it’s capable of returning 67.3mpg. Step up to Luxury, Sport or M Sport trim and the CO2 emissions increase to 118g/km because they're fitted with larger alloy wheels.
You don’t need to be driving fast to enjoy the 4 Series, although the 418d’s 150hp will be enough for most drivers. It feels balanced and light on its feet, with plenty of feedback from the steering. There’s lots of grip in the corners, too, so you can feel confident in pushing it to the limit on the move.
Inside, the 4 Series features the same dashboard as the 3 Series, so everything is well-built and high quality, while it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. There’s also a surprising amount of space despite its sloping roofline.
The Lexus RC is the only coupe in this list not powered by a diesel engine. In RC300h Luxury trim, the hybrid Lexus emits 113g/km of CO2, meaning you’ll pay £30* in road tax. The petrol-electric powertrain enables near-silent driving around town in EV mode, but the petrol engine kicks in when you put your foot down.
The Lexus RC delivers on style, with a generous dose of sharp lines and creases, a huge grille and detailed lights, while the interior is sleek and high quality. It loses out to its rivals on the move though, with a slightly underwhelming driving experience. Think of it less as an involving driving machine and more of a relaxed cruiser instead, and you won’t be disappointed.
The Audi TT has near-iconic status as a stylish two-door coupe, with the design becoming instantly recognisable thanks to the original from the late-1990s.
The shape is largely the same today, but with Audi’s latest grille design, neat lights and a fantastic interior to keep things fresh.
It’s also the most efficient ever, especially the TT Ultra diesel. It boasts 184hp, but is still capable of returning 62.8mpg according to Audi, while emitting 117g/km for a tax bill of just £30*. The TT is one of few cars in this segment where it doesn’t matter what the size of the wheels are – CO2 emissions are the same for both Sport and S Line trim levels.
Thankfully the driving experience matches the sporty looks. The TT is grippy and stable, the diesel engine is strong and powerful, plus you can alter the car’s steering and throttle settings via the Drive Select system. The TT Ultra is manual-only, and the six-speed gearbox is slick and easy to use.
Or if you’ve got a bit more cash to splash…
If you must have a coupe with zero road tax, your options are fairly limited.
Introducing the £105k BMW i8. With CO2 emissions of just 49g/km, it’s well below the threshold for free road tax, plus it’s exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
The i8 looks absolutely fantastic and the interior is just as futuristic, while the driving experience is pretty special too. It’s got tonnes of grip and it’s very quick indeed, plus it’s possible to drive around in pure electric mode for up to 23 miles.
We think £105k is a lot to fork out to avoid spending £20* on road tax, though…
Coupe by name, not by nature
Two cars that are worth a mention are the Range Rover Evoque and Hyundai i20 Coupe. They don't normally come face-to-face, but they share a quality in that the three-door versions are called coupes. They don't have traditional coupe styling, but they're certainly eye-catching and the most efficient models in the range boast CO2 emissions below 110g/km, meaning they cost less to tax than the Audi TT and Lexus RC300h.
The Range Rover Evoque weighs in with CO2 emissions of 109g/km, but only in entry-level eD4 SE Tech trim with two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. Still impressive for a car of its size and off-road heritage, although we probably wouldn’t recommend following a Defender off-road in this one.
The i20 matches the Mercedes-Benz C220d with CO2 emissions of just 106g/km when powered by the 1.4 CRDi diesel engine. It doesn’t suffer the problem of other cars in this list with regards to variations in trim level and wheel size, either - all i20s with this engine emit the same amount of CO2.
*Based on 2016/17 tax rates
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