The conservative coupe and the two-door sedan seem to be peculiarly American phenomena. To an Australian, the idea of sacrificing two doors for a negligible amount of extra style (if any) is a foreign and puzzling concept. What’s the point of a coupe that looks so much like a sedan?
In the 1970s, Americans were building and selling personal luxury coupes in the hundreds of thousands. In Australia, we built one: the Ford Landau. It was a huge flop. To make Aussies sacrifice practicality and ditch the two back doors, a coupe has to really offer something. Rakish good looks, perhaps, like the Toyota Celica, preferably combined with V8 performance, as in the Holden Monaro and Ford Mustang.
Even sexy styling doesn’t necessarily sell here, as was the case of the beautiful Holden Calibra. We had a wide variety of coupes – or, as we call them here, coupés – in the 1990s, from the Ford Probe to the Honda Prelude, but the fashion-conscious nature of the segment means any coupe is bound to run out of sales steam pretty quickly. If it gathers any to begin with.
While we had plenty of attractive coupe offerings, what’s more notable is how many two-doors we didn’t get. No generations of Honda Accord coupe, for example. No Toyota Camry Solara. The Honda Civic coupe was only offered briefly, while the two-door versions of the Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Altima never reached our shores. Why bother? They all looked so similar to the sedans, anyway. So, it was with great surprise when I saw my first Mazda 626 coupe, and with even greater surprise when I found out it was actually sold here.
I figured it was a rather left-field JDM gray import at first. Our streets are filled with old Nissan Silvias and Skylines, brought over used from Japan, so it seemed plausible somebody might have brought over a 626 coupe. But no, this 626 coupe was purchased new from a Mazda dealership in Australia and, in fact, Mazda would sell you a two-door 626 here throughout most of the 1980s. Despite this, and despite the fact the 626 was one of the better-selling (and better) mid-size cars here in the 1980s, I’d never seen a 626 coupe before.
Hey, maybe we’re the weird ones. Germany and Brazil enjoyed their two-door sedans for many years, for example. But to an Aussie, it just seems so strange. A Mustang? I get it, there’s no Mustang sedan. A Prelude? Sure, they were shapely and had a sporty image. But a 626 coupe? Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent-looking vehicle but it doesn’t really look all that different from the sedan. By the time Mazda released their second-generation MX-6, this car’s descendant, they’d figured out it didn’t hurt to make it look a bit different from a 626 sedan. Funnily enough, I still see the odd MX-6 around.
I don’t think I’ll ever see another 626 coupe around.