I wonder and have mulled this over for many any year now, as to why manufacturers include in there ever lengthening list of model variants, 3-door version of their run-of-the-mill cars?
Ok, special coupés, sports models and exotica are excepted of course, but why would anyone select a 3-door version of, say, a Fiesta, Astra, Focus or Golf against that of the more sensible 5-door version?
I do appreciate that the former may save the future owner a few hundred pounds but measured against the inconvenience of 3-door cars, I cannot understand the reason for their choice. Almost invariably, the the 3 door versions, as a necessity, have to have much longer side doors to ease access to the rear seats and this alone makes it more difficult to get out of the car especially if, due to your lack of height, you need to have the driver's seat very close to the steering wheel.
In my opinion, 3 door cars, don't look as 'nice' as the 5 door version and are a danger in the event of an accident as the people in the rear cannot be extricated so easily.
I could go on and further expand on this argument but I think that most of you will have already formed a view.
I've got a 3dr Golf and it looks far better (sleeker?) than the five door family-car version, in my opinion. I also like the increase in visibility - when I drive a 5dr Golf I feel so hemmed in by all those pillars and the tiny windows.
It's rare that I carry back seat passengers, and I can't say that I've ever had bother getting in and out due to the size of the doors.
(And, just to be pedantic, if you were in the back of a car and needed to be extracted rather than getting yourself out, they would probably just lop the roof off, just as they would in a 5dr car.)
As someone who chose to buy a C4 3-door (sorry, Coupe) over a 5-door, I'll tell you my reasons:
1. The front door is bigger and opens wider, making it easier to get in and out of when you park on the street or in a drive , as I do 90% of the time. The other 10% in a car park is a little trickier ...
2. I rarely have people in the back. It has happened less than 5 times in 6 months, so rear acces isn't an issue for me.
3. I prefer the looks of the 3-door (I try and kid myself that I'm Seb Loeb on a WRC as I blast Ford Focii into the weeds with the power of my 1.6 HDI!).
4. On the C4 the 5 door B pillar is quite forward in relation to the driving position, restricting your view at T-junctions and the like. No such problems with a 3-door.
5. It was a bit cheaper!
My younger daughter refused to have a 3dr car for the crash reasons.
Older daughter has a 3dr Ibiza, which suits the look of the car, but the doors are *huge* and heavy (or at least heavily sprung, and even she will admit that it's awkward in tight spots. The visibility thing with the B posts being further back is good, although you can do yourself an injury reaching back for the seat belts!
why would anyone select a 3-door version of say a Fiesta Astra Focus or Golf against that of the more sensible 5-door version?
Because "sensible", in their eyes, means boring and uncool?
Some people think that 5 door = middle aged, while 3 door = young and free.
Incidentally, I bomb around in a Ka, which is, of course 3 door. I prefer 5 door for reasons of practicality, but I notice that Ford adds £600 to the list price for rear doors on Fiestas and Foci, and at that price, I would have been reluctant to pay the extra for rear doors on my Ka.
No one has yet convinced me or are likely to, as you would expect.
Incidentally, a neighbour of mine use to own a MK3 Golf (I think that was the model and she had it in some awful off-white/cream colour and 3-door as well. I did not dare tell her that it looked looked like a converted van - How cool was that then?
3-door cars are NOT, generally easier to alight from as the doors have to opened that much wider, often in confined spaces and shorties have to turn around quite considerably to put their tootsies on the ground.
I've always tried to go for 5-dr car (but then I ony buy sub £1.5k so extra doors don't really add any extra price).
I rarely carry passengers in the back but like the added convience when I have to and I'm a musician and cyclist (not at the same time) so have equipment to carry and I find folding the rear seats down, which I have to do a lot, easier to access on a 5-door then on a 3-dr.
in reply to Chris W - why not? In Penzance earlier this year I passed a guy playing the guitar and riding a bike at the same time, down the hill towards the harbour, round the bend and along the front....
My earlier car was a 3-dr one. Though I don't carry any back seat passenger most of the time, I did realize that having 3 doors has following problems.
- opening rear door to keep stuffs (bag/packet etc.) is easier than opening boot [in 3-dr car I always have to open boot to keep even small items]
- elder people have great trouble getting in/out from 3-dr car
- carrying backseat passenger is a safety issue (in case of any crash)
- every time I need to alight from my seat when back seat passengers want to get out. My car didn't have a memory setting for front seats. So, every time I need to adjust the seat (a pain).
- since the doors are larger in 3-dr cars, I need to pull out the seat belt from a way further in the back. Sometimes it caused pain in my back :(
My current car is a 5 door one and I am not going to buy a 3-dr car again.
You may note that in many countries (eg. India), where car is still expensive compared to common people's income, 3-dr cars are NOT available in the market - simply because no one will buy them!
Here's people just want to look young and flashy :)
To be honest, when you're a 2nd-hand buyer like me, your choice is determined by what's available (most cheap superminis are 3dr). I couldn't care less as 99% of the time I don't carry rear passengers, but I happen to have a 5-door at the moment. My only criticism of 3-door cars is the shoulder-dislocation resulting from putting your seatbelt on.
If I had kids, however, things would be very different and I wouldn't touch a 3dr because it wouldn't be practical.
Generally 3-door variants will appeal more to 'young, free and single' types, because they generally look cleaner and 'sportier'. The Hot Hatch models in each range will generally be 3-ddoe variants, hence the connotations. The current shape Astra is a good example of this. Such buyers may also specifically want to avoid driving an obviously 'family' car, for image reasons.
5-doors will generally appeal more to family buyers, for obvious reasons.
I've pretty much always driven 3dr hatchbacks - i much prefer the looks of a 3dr and if i carried passengers in the rear of the vehicle more than 2 times in a year i'd be amazed. To me a 3dr version of a car can look a million times better than the 5dr version which usually look like the rear doors were an after though and not really designed into the vehicle at the beginning.
I currently drive a Citroen Xsara coupe (glorified 3dr hatchback) and really like the looks of it however the standard 5dr hatchback version really does look frumpy.
Personally i think that making 5 dr versions of things like Golf GTI really does spoil the look of the vehicle - if you want a practical car buy a 5dr estate car, if you want a fun car buy a 3dr hatch.
I heard once that 3dr versions tend to be slightly stiffer and more aerodynamic. Also
I guess the reduced cost allows a lower entry-price and gives greater perceived choice for
Some of that may be so but I think that a 3 door car, in a body which will take 5 doors easily, looks like a flawed design to me and completely defeats the object of having easy access to the rear seats.
If you had witnessed what I had seen this week, at a garden centre's tea room, where an Audi A3 pulled up (3 door model) containing two elderly men in the front and for some reason, better known to them, a frail, practically immobile lady that had been consigned to the rear seats. What followed then, in an effort to get her out of the car had to be seen to be believed!! There must have been some reason for this arrangement although I was flabbergasted at the sheer stupidity of it, I have to say.
Suffice it to say, she eventually managed to extricate herself from the back only to have the same process repeated after they had had tea and were ready for the return journey. Absolutely barmey.
The soon-to-be-released Mini Clubman will have two side-hinged rear doors like the 1960's original, then one for the front passenger, one for the driver and, erm, one rear opening door to allow more space for rear passengers.
Unfortunately the extra door can only be fitted on the right (i.e. driver's) side - I read some lame excuse about petrol filler location - meaning that if a RHD version is finally produced this ridiculously overpriced travesty of a GREAT BRITISH DESIGN will imediately become a safety hazard.
My A3 is a 3 door, and whilst it does look better than the 5 door version it's been a pain in the arse. Admittedly, SWMBO is the only other person using the car so 90% it's only us. But I am caring for my gran a lot more these days and it's proving to be more impractical by the day. Can?t wait for next year to get the sportback version.
Personally would always have a 5 door. If I wanted the impracticalities of no rear doors I would want a 'proper' coupe or sports car, not some stunted hatchback.
That said, I think the Astra is a decent-ish effort, the 3-dr does look sportier than the 5-dr, although it's all relative. Same goes for the C4. In each case I would still pick the 5-dr though, if it has to be a hum-drum hatch it might as well be practical. In my opinion, most other cars look vastly better with 5 drs - Golfs, A3s etc. The latter designs look far more balanced with rear doors.
There are plenty of proper coupe/sporty designs around to choose from; if you don't need practicality, why have a hatch? I'm thinking TT/A5/RX-8/350Z/Celica/406/407/SLK/CLK/MX-5 etc rather than hideously bloated coupe-convertibles based on hatchbacks. Depending on taste/mileage/budget of course.....
I don't think I've ever seen any estate car with 3 doors before.
Rings bells actually, I think there were a few around in the 70s/early 80s. 3-door Escort estates and Allegro estates sound vaguely familiar. A 3-door estate sounds a crazy idea, but maybe it was a way of squeezing a few more sales out of the commercial van body shape.
They were quite common in the 80's. The base model Astra mk1 & 2 estates were always 3 doors, you had to buy an "L" or above to get 5. One of our neighbours had a G reg 3 door Astra 1.3 estate until recently.
The Ford Anglia, Ford Escort (Mk 1 and Mk 2 ), Vauxhall Viva, Vauxhall Chevette, Minis Clubman and Traveller, older and newer Morris 1100 (think of Basil Fawlty and his branch) etc etc were all produced in two door estate form.
"In my opinion, 3 door cars, don't look as 'nice' as the 5 door version"
I think the reverse, although with some obvious exceptions, like the 3-door Sierra!
When I read your subject line, I first thought of the people carriers that have two doors on the nearside and one for the driver, which has always struck me as a sensible arrangement, although I'm not sure what it does to torsional stiffness!
I rather like most 3-door designs for their cleanliness of line, and I don't really see why a bigger door should be harder to get out of...
While one doesn't want to drag this discussion down to some sordid level, when it comes to small cars the fact that the front seats in a two (three?) door slide forward does leave a lot more room for the sort of activities often carried out down quiet country lanes at night.
interestingly when the mk2 escort was at its peak in rallying times it was always the 3 door shell that the rally cars were based on ,but the 4 door shell was stronger ,due to the torsional rigidity built in by way of the "b" pillars
michael caine voice ............not a lot of people know that
I think 2 (or 3) door rallycars are done to save weight - any increase in strength comes from the roll cage as said.
I generally prefer the look of 2 big doors rather than 4 little ones, depends if you need them or not. Just be happy we have the choice in the market, why would anyone think that less choice is a good thing as per the original post?
The torsional stiffness of structures is significantly diminished by openings - I would always expect a three door shell to be stiffer in torsion than an equivalent 5 door shell.
This is because the strength of one straight member makes little difference to the torsional response of a structure.
To get a simplified picture of what is going on, imagine twisting a shaft - say a long prop-shaft. If, conceptually you were to open out and unfurl the metal tube, initially you would have a long rectangle. Under a twisting load, the rectangle would become a parallelogram. The material deformsin shear. This is similar to what is going on when a car twists - small squares drawn on the surface of the stressed panels would become parallelograms. Material near the centre of the structure - say the transmission tunnel** does virtually nothing in torsion, while materila at the extremities, the roof and the sills bears a great deal of the torsional loading.
** The transmission tunnel has a great role to play in stiffening the floor of the structure, and stiffening the bulkhead to reduce scuttle shake, but it does little in torsion.
Now, that's all about stiffness - strength is another question, best adressed in a rally car by a roll cage.
having welded many mk2 escorts up i can assure you NC the torsional rigidity in the mk2 was better on the 5 door,to be honest im sure you have done welding in your time? and to say the drive tunnel doesnt help torsion is to me playing with words ,
sometimes real world look ins are better than text books especially if you are on your back replacing inner floor sections
over to you :-)
Hmm - tiresome and irritating sniping - without the theory any cars on the road today would be truly carp! - it's the tool that's allowed us to progress from Victorian engineering into modern weight efficient structures.
How many times have you actually measured the torsional stiffness of a chassis? How many times have you designed a structure for torsional loading, and done the calcs to demonstrate it will work before the metal is cut?
BB - I've done my fair share of welding, spannering and electrical fault finding, I've also done a bit of study, and theory. I've designed structures, had them built, and seen them pass (and fail!) during subsequent testing. **Both** the practical and the theory have a contribution to make. Using the theory and text books you deride so frequently can prevent people wasting time money and effort putting metal where it won't make any difference. Even the computer aided design techniques which are currently used to design and stress car bodies are useless without the designer/analyst having some grasp of the theory.
The tunnel does virtually nothing for torsional rigidity - in fact, the floorpan would contribute more torsional stiffness to the body if it were completely flat. As a tunnel, it provides only slight resistance to the left hand floorpan moving forward and the RH moving backwards under torsion. The tunnel does contribute to bending stiffness and to avoiding scuttle shake.
Yes, the roll cage can augment the torsional stiffness already there, but, considered from the point of view of torsional stiffness per unit added weight, it's a very poor way to stiffen a monocoque chassis - the panels working in shear are many times more structurally efficient in torsion. In resisting a local intrusion during an accident, thin panels are useless, and the heavy tubes of a roll-cage are quite useful.
Granted NC, the roll cage is really there to prevent the shell deforming and crushing the driver in the event of a roll or impact. But my impression is that competition engineering is pretty rule-of-thumb. And I definitely remember reading (I've never done it) and seeing that roll cages are often welded to the body at certain points, with triangulated load-bearing extensions to the front and/or rear suspension turrets.
If that isn't using the cage to stiffen a floppy monocoque I'll, er, do something unspecified and not too nasty.
Agreed Lud, it is being used to augment the stiffness of the shell, while also providing occupant protection.
In clubman circles, yes, competition engineering is rule of thumb (that's why there are so many hopeless entries!), but, once you move up the ladder a bit, then there is some performance analysis done in the design of structures like roll cages.
Once you get to the level of designing a car body, then typically finite element modelling is done, where the shell structure may be broken down into hundreds of thousands of small patches, and the stress and deformation of each element can be calculated under known loading and constraint conditions. For a given loading type - in this case torsional stiffness - one might then rank the elements in order of their strain energy per unit volume. The elements at the top of this list are the parts of the structure which are contributing most to the structural rigidity, while those languishing at the bottom of the table are along for the ride! However, as hinted above, if you change the mode of loading, or the constraint condition, elements which previously were inactive may become crucial.
The most modern software can use this ranking by strain energy to refine the design, and re-run the analysis in an iterative manner, to produce an optimum structure. For example, the wing stiffeners of A380 were optimised using this method.
I did some Finite Element analysis of car structures in my university days. Although number of opening does reduce rigidity of a structure but that's not the end of story. Further rigidity to crash can be added differently like side impact beam etc.
A proper designed car [with 5 doors + sunroofs] etc. can be made more impact resisting than a 3 door car with inferior design. It all depends on design and material used. Nowadays the trend is to make the front and rear of car less rigid so that accident impact is absorbed to protect passengers.
If we go by just theory, then convertibles should be banned from safety point of view :) If accidentally [or intentionally] someone throws something from a high building and it lands over your head on an open top car - just imagine what could happen!
Regarding transmission tunnel and rigidity. Yes I agree with what NC said, just a simple experiment - fold a flat paper like /\/\/\/\ and it can carry some load but a flat paper won't. However, it isn't the reason why we have transmission tunnels! They are just to carry drive shaft only.
Modern car design is extremely complex and the calculations are simply mind boggling!
I rather like most 3-door designs for their cleanliness of line and I don't really
see why a bigger door should be harder to get out of...
I agree 3-door cars are, by their very nature, aesthetically cleaner and less fussy. But longer doors can be a problem if, for instance, you find yourself parked in a Sainsbury's car park with a Chelsea tractor on either side...