If you like the qualities of a Honda Accord but want a little more style and fun, check out the two-door coupe. The sleek profile looks sporty and if you don't regularly use the back seat, the loss of two doors is of little consequence.

Although the 2001 model has only minor visible changes, Honda points out that 20 engineering refinements were made to reduce the level of wind and road noise. Visually, the front fascia has a more aggressive look and the taillights are new. Safety has been improved with dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags that deploy with varying force depending on whether the seatbelt is used. Side airbags are standard on V-6 and EX models and optional on all others. Honda says the side airbags will not go off if "a child or small adult is leaning into the deployment path."

The four-cylinder version sips gas and won't break your wallet to buy. The LX starts at $18,790 and the upscale EX begins at $21,400. If you want the additional power of a 200-horsepower V-6, the LX begins at $22,400 and the EX is $25,100. The test car was an EX coupe, and its standard equipment included variable-assist power steering, intermittent wipers, dual power mirrors, fold-down rear seat, cruise control, power moonroof, keyless entry and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and in-dash six-CD player.

Like its four-door sister, the Accord coupe is a model of competence. It goes about its daily tasks so effortlessly you might think it has a mind of its own. Some might say it lacks personality, but I think that's a misnomer. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder is not a hot performer, but it does an excellent job in daily commuting. With 150 horsepower it zips in and out of traffic easily, and shifting the five-speed manual transmission is a breeze. It is very smooth for a four-cylinder. Rev it hard and it sounds busy, but most of the time it works quietly in the background.

This VTEC engine meets California's Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards and needs no tune-up for 105,000 miles. The coupe has a slightly shorter wheelbase than the sedan, but it still sits atop the same double-wishbone suspension that gives it decent handling and responsive handling. The ride is not as firm as a real performance coupe, but it is taut enough to give good road feel.

The coupe's interior reflects the same level of competence that is evident in the Accord sedan. Gauges are simple without looking plain, and all switches and controls fall within easy reach. The center section of the instrument panel is angled out and down so the driver can reach the radio and climate control buttons without reaching as far. Finger-tip controls for the radio are located on the steering wheel for easy volume adjustment or changing stations.

An eight-way power driver's seat is also part of the EX package. The passenger seat has fewer adjustments. Rear-seat legroom is adequate for adults, and the seatback folds down for hauling large objects. Lower anchors and teth ers are built in for child safety seats.

The trunk is spacious and contains an illuminated inside release.

Price The base price of the EX coupe I drove is $21,400. Freight brought the total price to $21,840.

Warranty Three years or 36,000 miles.

To get in touch with Tom Strongman, send e-mail to tstrongman@kc.rr.com.

Point: If you want a coupe that is easy on the wallet and stingy with gas, the two-door Accord is worthy of a look. It is sportier than the sedan without sacrificing daily functionality. Counterpoint: Lack of four doors and a slightly shorter wheelbase cuts down on the usefulness of the back seat.

Engine: 2.3-liter, 4-cyl.
Transmission: Five-speed Front-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,014 lbs.
Base price: $21,400
As driven: $21,840
Mpg rating: 26 city, 32 hwy.