Why The Three-Door Is A Disappearing Body Style Worth SavingS

It's genuinely hard to make a case for only having a three-door hatchback when five doors is realistic. If you're going to make a practical car, giving it an upright roofline and a large opening at the back, then it's hard to see the logic of only putting one door on either side of the car, forcing rear-seat passengers to suffer the indignity of climbing behind the front seats.

We've put up for it for years on cars that didn't usually have a coupe-like roof or anything particularly slick-looking about them. But the realities of marketing and buyer demands for ease of use make the five-door hatch a much desirable proposition. And it didn't bother me too much until I saw this report from Automotive News that the next Renault Twingo is going to have five doors for the first time.

Why The Three-Door Is A Disappearing Body Style Worth SavingS

Photo: Flickr/Timo_Beil

I can't rationalize Renault's increasingly odd product choices of late and because I know there's a snowball's chance in Hell that you'll ever be able to buy a new Renault in the US I shouldn't really care. But the Twingo is the spiritual ancestor of one of the most striking three-door hatches of all time, the Renault 5. Laugh at the LeCar all you want, but it's a good-looking car. It looks best as a three-door hatch.

But Renault seems to have forgotten this with cars like the Clio, which is a five-door only. Fiat, wanting to protect the three-door 500, forced the Lancia Ypsilon to be a five-door this time around. Like Renault, Lancia tries to disguise the additional doors with pillar-mounted door handles and some black trim. Does it work? Not really.

While we think we need those rear doors, the truth is we could live without them most of the time, unless we're constantly installing car seats or driving the carpool. I thought I needed a five-door Golf GTI and was prepared to buy one in a color I didn't want or without the equipment I wanted until I realized I hardly carry more than 1 passenger. And I'm never going to sit in the back of my car, so why should I care how hard it is to get in and out of it?

Why The Three-Door Is A Disappearing Body Style Worth SavingS

Photo: MINI

The resurgence of the three-door SUV is the strangest thing to me, but it's starting to make sense. Cars like the Mini Paceman and Range Rover Evoque are not practical propositions if you're looking for a family hauler or even something with more utility than sport. But they're arguably better looking than their more upright five-door siblings and the marketing position reflects that. You don't buy a three-door SUV as a pragmatic choice.

To Renault, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan and every other company that thinks having one door on either side of the car should be something only sports cars have, just make them more aspirational and better looking. You'll get your money, don't worry.