“Two doors good, four doors bad” George Orwell (well sort of)
It’s a sad inescapable fact. The days of two and three door cars are coming to an end. It is manifest that a two door car will look far better than it’s overdoored relative, I mean the rear wheel arch is clearly no place for a shut line. Slowly but surely though the life is being inexorably squeezed from these cleaner more rakish looking cars yet simultaneously we are told that there is more and more choice available.
I don’t think there has been a saloon available with less than four doors since the 1st gen Subaru Impreza went out of production at the turn of the century. Manufacturers will surely cite poor sales and demand alongside offering a “proper” coupe as a defence but I don’t think that’s the full story. The plethora of models (from all marques) all perched on the same platform seem to offer endless alternatives yet they all have the B pillar way too far forward.
Prior to the economy going belly up in 2008 I used to purchase a new car annually for my driving instruction business. Obviously a hatchback is the ideal car for my line of work and a three door model not only pleases my eye but is more practical for me. Every time I was in the showroom I had to argue with the salesman to sell me a three door. They only wanted to sell black or silver five door cars that they felt would be easier to resell when they came back as trade-ins. This clearly distorts the market and will offer further justification for discontinuing my favoured profile.
Perhaps the real death knell arrived in 2005. We saw the launch of Mercedes’ CLS. It led the charge for upmarket four door “coupes” and was very nearly a good-looking car. I thought it was too droopy looking and squeezing in the extra doors (even though they had frameless windows) made the proportions just a little wrong. (It’s bad enough that it sported a B pillar at all but it was unavoidably in the wrong location). Exact same problem with the second gen except for the beautiful “shooting brake” model which still stops me in my tracks every time I see one. Take a second, close your eyes and just imagine how this car would look if it had the correct number of doors?
Others including Aston and Porsche have wished similar vehicles on the car buying public with varying degrees of success and attractiveness. The arc of two door cars is perfectly described by the BMW 6 series. From Paul Bracq’s sublime coupe/two door saloon through the ridiculous and horribly bloated E63 (perhaps the worst looking BMW of all time? I suppose at least it had the correct complement of doors) to the relatively svelte, good-looking current offering the F06. At first glance then all is rosy? Not quite. A scan of the sales figures show that the four door Gran Sport comfortably outsells the standard coupe and cabrio combined.
So we now have many “coupes” with four doors, often major manufacturers only sell hatchbacks with 5 doors (Renault, Peugeot, Skoda and the new ST Focus is available as an estate but not a three door!) and the standard-bearer for three door hatches the Audi A3 now sells more five door models than the version with the correct quota of apertures. The Volvo C30 made a valiant effort in this class but sales petered out towards 2013 and there is no chance of a direct replacement. Even Minis (my least favourite pastiche) are growing more and more doors as the years pass.
There are some tiny glimmers of hope. The Koreans are making a fuss of their three door hatches with sporting pretensions and surely VAG with the combo of the Golf, A3 and the van variant will see the mark 8 Golf sold with no back doors. Is there a market for an exclusive sporting large SUV? Think a Range Rover with two long Avantimey doors cocooning rear passengers in luxury. Maybe not, but I live in hope. Sadly though, now is the time for despair as poorly placed pragmatism smothers the clean, beautiful lines of two and three door cars.