What’s the difference between a coupe and a hatchback, and is one better than the other? Find out in our coupe vs hatchback comparison guide.
Of the many different types of cars that crowd the world’s roads, few are as different as hatchbacks and coupes. So disparate are they in their design and function that they are rarely cross-shopped.
Even so, it helps to know what exactly they are and why you might want one of the other. It also never hurts to learn something new about the different kinds of vehicles available in the marketplace.
This hatchback vs coupe comparison guide provides a clear definition of the two body styles and compares them to see just how different they are.
Difference Between Coupe And Hatchback
The term “coupe” has taken on several new meanings in recent years, but in the strictest sense, it is a car with a three-box layout consisting of an engine bay, a passenger compartment with a fixed roof, and an enclosed trunk.
Many coupes have only two seats for the driver and a passenger, though it’s not uncommon for them to also have a pair of rear seats for additional passengers.
Many sports cars fit this definition, including iconic models such as the Porsche 911, Chevrolet Corvette, and Ford Mustang, as well as newer entries such as the Toyota Supra, and Nissan GT-R. Nearly every supercar and hypercar is also a coupe.
If you want to learn more about coupes, read our detailed coupe buying guide.
Hatchbacks are an entirely different design. Whereas coupes have a three-box design, hatchbacks have a two-box layout consisting only of an enclosed engine bay and a large compartment shared between the passenger cabin and cargo area.
A roof-hinged rear hatch raises upwards to grant access to the cargo area and, if you’re so inclined to crawl on your knees, even the passenger cabin.
Hatchbacks are more popular in Europe and other international markets than they are in North America. Popular examples include the Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3, Nissan Leaf EV, and Kia Soul.
For more details on hatchbacks, check out our in-depth hatchback buying guide.
Coupe Vs Hatchback Comparison
Now that you have a good understanding of what coupes and hatchbacks are, we’re going to pit them against each other to assess and evaluate their strengths and weakness, benefits and drawbacks.
Hatchbacks offer a lot more interior and cargo space than even the roomiest two-door coupes.
Coupes have a short wheelbase that’s mostly dedicated to maximizing front passenger comfort, with less importance on rear seat accommodation. For models that happen to have rear seats (not all coupes do), you’ll find that they are usually unusable for grown adults.
Hatchbacks don’t have that problem. Not only do they have a longer wheelbase, but their passenger cabin is more evenly divided between front and rear seating areas, providing better second-row accommodation for adults.
Plan on occasionally driving around more than one person? Need a family vehicle? Get a hatchback for the more spacious and accommodating rear seats.
This is also an easy win for hatchbacks. Their longer wheelbase, extended roof, and boxier shape provide these vehicles with a more capacious cargo area than a coupe’s more compact and enclosed trunk.
With hatchbacks, you can also fold down the rear seats to turn the entire passenger cabin into a cargo hold (the passenger cabin and cargo area are one volume and not separate, remember?), allowing you to haul larger items such as bikes and IKEA furniture.
Needless to say, a coupe won’t be the best choice for a massive grocery haul or a trip to IKEA. Hatchbacks offer far more practicality.
Yet another no-brainer. Coupes only have two doors for both front and rear passengers to use, while hatchbacks have four, a pair for each row of seats.
As if coupes having very tight second-row seats wasn’t bad enough, but their small opening to those seats also means rear passengers often have to squeeze and contort their bodies to get in and out.
It’s a similar story with the cargo area. A hatchback’s large, flip-up rear hatch opens tall and wide to allow large items to be loaded easily, something that can’t be said about a coupe’s small, low-slung trunk lid.
Trust us when we say that your grandmother, dog, and oversized friends will prefer if you bought a hatchback instead of a coupe, especially if they frequently ride in the rear seats of your car. Doubly so with your significant other, especially if the two of you have children.
Coupes tend to be sportier vehicles than hatchbacks. They are usually smaller and lighter, sit lower to the ground, and weigh less, factors that contribute to better handling.
Sports coupes, in particular, are specifically designed to put performance above all else, featuring powerful engines or electric motors, sportier suspension tuning, and more communicative steering.
Hatchbacks, especially performance-tuned models (hot hatches), can also be exciting and thrilling to drive; however, they never reach the pinnacle of performance that sports coupes often do.
A desire for a fun and engaging driving experience is one of the main reasons to buy a coupe.
If you’re not particularly good at maneuvering a car, especially in tight spaces, you’ll likely be better off with a hatchback.
While coupes are easy to handle, they have steeply sloping roofs that reduce the size of the back glass and rear side windows, impeding outward visibility.
Hatchbacks, on the other hand, have taller rear and side windows thanks to their extended roof, boxier shape, and taller bodies.
Coupes that share their underpinning and engine with a sedan or hatchback deliver comparable, if not slightly lower, gas mileage to their hatchback equivalent. For example, the fuel economy ratings for the Honda Civic hatchback and coupe are virtually identical.
However, models with a purpose-built design are usually more performance-focused, featuring wider, lower-profile tires, a powerful but thirstier engine and transmission setup, and other performance enhancements that come at the expense of fuel efficiency.
Think of something along the lines of a Subaru BRZ, Toyota GR 86, Ford Mustang, Nissan GT-R, and Porsche 911.
Style is very subjective, but there is no denying that except for a few convertibles, no other type of car will look as good or striking as a two-door coupe.
The steeply sloping roof of coupes, as well as their short stature and longer doors, and elongated rear windows, contribute to a sportier, more dynamic appearance that hatchbacks can’t duplicate or even mimic.
This is more the case with purpose-built sports cars and supercars, which often have exceptional designs that make a dramatic statement.
Basically, when it comes to standing out from the crowd, a coupe is almost always the better, more stylish option.
Both vehicle types provide comparable levels of safety.
Not only do modern coupes and hatchbacks designed to have excellent structural integrity, but they are usually also offered with the latest collision-avoidance systems.
Also, in a head-on collision between a large vehicle such as an SUV and a small car, the smaller vehicle will take the brunt of the impact and sustain the most damage. Since both body styles are classified as small cars, neither has an advantage with regards to collisions.
Despite being the less practical option, coupes are almost always more expensive than hatchbacks, even if two particular models are built on the same platform and have the same engine and features.
One reason for this is that hatchbacks are a lot more common than coupes and are sold in a much more competitive segment of the car market, thus driving down their prices.
A more probable reason has to do with coupes being seen as attractive accessories, not unlike watches, luxury bags, or bespoke suits. People are generally willing to pay big money for these vehicles because they make them feel sexier or more special, and carmakers couldn’t be happier.
Cost Of Ownership
Coupes, especially the sports car variety, are one of the most expensive types of cars to own. First, they are usually offered with more powerful engines than hatchbacks, making them less fuel-efficient.
Second, coupes are more prone to being stolen and have a reputation of being driven by younger, more reckless drivers, which makes them more expensive to insure.
Purpose-built coupes — that is, those that are not built on a pre-existing sedan or hatchback platform — can also be expensive to maintain. Their rarity makes their parts scarcer and more expensive, and they often need special expertise to repair.
Hatchback Vs Coupe FAQs
Still have questions about which of the two body styles is better? See if this section has the answer(s) you’re looking for.
Why Are Coupes More Expensive Than Hatchbacks?
There are two reasons why coupes are generally more expensive than hatchbacks and sedans. First, far fewer of them are made than most other types of cars, making them rarer and more exclusive.
Secondly, people are willing to pay higher prices to own one, not just for their rarity but also for the standout styling and unmatched driving performance many models provide.
What’s The Point Of A Coupe?
Coupes are not particularly versatile vehicles since they sacrifice practicality for style and a pleasurable driving experience. Even so, they have several advantages over hatchbacks and sedans.
First, because their design doesn’t place a priority on the back-row seats, front-row passengers get more room to stretch and wider front doors for easier entry and exit.
Second, coupes tend to have better handling thanks to their smaller size and lighter weight, as well as a higher perceived value in the marketplace due to their scarcity.
A hatchback isn’t necessarily better than a coupe, or vice versa. However, after comparing the two body styles and tallying up their points, it’s very clear that one is intended for practical living, while the other is essentially a toy.
You’ll have to consider your lifestyle and personal preference when deciding. If you want a more affordable vehicle with plenty of interior room and cargo space, easier accessibility, better fuel economy, and a lower cost of ownership, go with a hatchback.
Otherwise, a coupe may be the better option if you prefer a sportier design, better driving dynamics, and more exclusivity and are not worried about having less space and paying more for gas, insurance, and upkeep.