Axon's Automotive Anorak: Two doords good, three doors better?
Although it has yet to garner much attention and media coverage in the UK and Europe, Hyundai has recently revealed its ‘all-new for 2019’ second-generation Veloster coupe in the USA.
As with Hyundai’s original Veloster of 2011, the new low-slung second-generation model retains its predecessor’s unique coupe party trick by featuring one door on one side (the drivers’, depending on the Veloster being built for a LHD or RHD market) and two doors on the passenger side; a real boon to practically and occupant ingress/egress without compromising the car’s svelte coupe profile too much.
Hyundai’s crafty ‘three side doors’ idea is a logical one that I thought a number of other car brands would swiftly adopt for their coupes and more sporting models, but as yet, none have followed suit.
Sure, between the wars, a handful of cars (mainly French and American in the 1920s) were offered with the Veloster’s one-door/two-door solution. However, post-war the idea seemed to die a death until a mild revival in the very late 1980s, led by Ford of Europe and Mitsubishi.
In Ford’s case, just ahead of the launch of its ‘true’ second-generation Fiesta, Ford revealed the Fiesta Urba concept in 1989 to help the public get used to the pending new model’s more modern design. The Urba concept introduced the world to the fact that the ‘new’ 1990 Model Year Fiesta would be available in both two-door and four-door hatchback body styles for the very first time. Ford even hinted that it might even offer the three-door Urba body format when the new 1990 Fiesta was launched, but this never came to fruition.
Around the same time, the first post-war production passenger car with a one-door/two-door body shell (excluding people carriers with a third side-sliding door, such as Chrysler’s original Voyager and the Toyota Model-F Space Cruiser) was launched; the oddly-named Mitsubishi Lettuce. Introduced onto Mitsubishi’s domestic Japanese market in late 1989, the RHD-only Lettuce was based around the sixth-generation Minica kei-car model line, with one front door for the driver, and two doors on the opposite side for the front and rear passengers. The Lettuce was an instant hit, prompting other small copy-cat uneven-doored kei cars to be rushed onto the Japanese market by a handful of rivals, including Daihatsu and Suzuki.
General Motor’s short-lived ‘low cost’ Saturn brand was the next to adopt the odd-side-door body configuration for its SC2 coupe, with a rear suicide door for the back seat passengers being added for the 1999 model year to attempt to improve the SC2 model’s disappointing sales. The Saturn’s extra side door helped lift sales very briefly, before GM finally chose to kill-off the Saturn brand altogether for 2010 as it failed to ever make a significant dent in the USA sales of affordable imports from Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and the like.
A few years ahead of the launch of the Hyundai Veloster, BMW chose to revive of the long-dormant Mini Clubman name tag in 2007 with a new, lengthened estate derivative of the popular Mini hatchback. The new Clubman featured a small, single backwards-opening rear passenger ‘suicide’ door, marketed as the Clubdoor, located on the right hand side of the body, irrespective of market.
For right-hand-drive countries, including the Mini's home UK market, the bi-parting door remained located on the road-side of the car, requiring rear passengers to exit directly into the traffic because the steering wheel precluded the RHD driver's seat from folding as far forward as the passenger seat!
This potentially dangerous layout hadn’t been an issue for other models already mentioned with a three-passenger side door configuration adapted for the appropriate market, such as the Mitsubishi Lettuce, Saturn SC2 Coupe, and Hyundai Veloster, and thankfully the latest second-generation Mini Clubman has now adopted a more logical, safer and conventional five-door body format.
Whether other car makers will follow Hyundai’s lead and offer three side-door models in their future model ranges remains to be seen, but I for one would welcome this clever solution as an aide to both practicality and aesthetics. Here’s hoping…