Electronic spins in semiconductors have been used extensively to explore the limits of external control over quantum mechanical phenomena. A long-standing goal of this research has been to identify or develop robust quantum systems that can be easily manipulated, for future use in advanced information and communication technologies. Recently, a point defect in diamond known as the nitrogen-vacancy centre has attracted a great deal of interest because it possesses an atomic-scale electronic spin state that can be used as an individually addressable, solid-state quantum bit (qubit), even at room temperature. These exceptional quantum properties have motivated efforts to identify similar defects in other semiconductors, as they may offer an expanded range of functionality not available to the diamond nitrogen-vacancy centre. Notably, several defects in silicon carbide (SiC) have been suggested as good candidates for exploration, owing to a combination of computational predictions and magnetic resonance data. Here we demonstrate that several defect spin states in the 4H polytype of SiC (4H-SiC) can be optically addressed and coherently controlled in the time domain at temperatures ranging from 20 to 300 kelvin. Using optical and microwave techniques similar to those used with diamond nitrogen-vacancy qubits, we study the spin-1 ground state of each of four inequivalent forms of the neutral carbon-silicon divacancy, as well as a pair of defect spin states of unidentified origin. These defects are optically active near telecommunication wavelengths, and are found in a host material for which there already exist industrial-scale crystal growth and advanced microfabrication techniques. In addition, they possess desirable spin coherence properties that are comparable to those of the diamond nitrogen-vacancy centre. This makes them promising candidates for various photonic, spintronic and quantum information applications that merge quantum degrees of freedom with classical electronic and optical technologies.