Best three-door cars

If the subtly sporty style of a three-door car suits you to a tee, there are lots of great used examples out there to choose from

James Allen
May 24, 2022

Are you willing to exchange a bit of practicality and versatility from your next car for a slightly more stylish look? Then a three-door car could be just the sort of thing you’re after. Most three-door models are hatchbacks, with a couple of three-door off-roaders available and even the odd three-door sports car.

As the name suggests, three-door cars don’t have as many doors at their disposal as five-door models. Unlike something such as a family hatchback, which has separate sets of doors for the front and rear rows of seats, a three-door car has just the one door on each side for the driver and passengers to use. You may be wondering where the elusive third door is - that’s the hatchback, as you can technically (if rather awkwardly) enter the car via its boot.

Due to the door layout, three-door cars aren’t as practical as their five-door counterparts. For instance, whereas you can simply open the rear doors when installing a child seat in the back of a conventional family hatchback, you’ll need to slide and recline one of the front seats forward and clamber in to do this with a three-door car.

The trade-off for this less versatile door layout is a car that looks a bit sportier and more stylish than a conventional five-door car - and three-door cars tend to be a bit lighter, and therefore a smidge more economical, quicker and fun-to-drive, than a like-for-like five-door version, too.

When it comes to new cars, three-door models are few and far between in the 2020s, as there aren’t many brand new models available with this door layout anymore. However, there is still a suite of options at your disposal on the used market, covering everything from superminis to family cars and even a few SUVs, and we’ve picked out some of the best examples you can find at reasonable prices.

Best three-door hatchbacks

1. Audi A1

Used deals from £9,390

There are a fair few three-door superminis to choose from second-hand, but what if you’d prefer something with a classier look and image? Enter the Audi A1, which takes the build quality and upmarket prestige you’d expect from a larger Audi, and incorporates it into a manoeuvrable and easy-to-drive small hatchback.

You won’t find any three-door versions of the current Audi A1 that went on sale in 2018, as that model has only ever been offered as a five-door ‘Sportback’. However, the previous Audi A1 iteration was available in a three-door bodystyle - and, while it wasn’t as popular as the five-door car, it struck a chord with quite a few buyers and there are a decent number listed for sale on BuyaCar at the time of writing.

Because this is the previous generation of the A1, it doesn’t come with as much equipment as the newer model. However, the trade-off is that these three-door first-generation Audi A1s tend to be significantly less expensive than their five-door successors.

AUDI A1 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. BMW 1 Series

Used deals from £10,200

Like the Audi A1 mentioned above, the latest version of the BMW 1 Series hatchback has also gone five-door-only for its current iteration. As a result, if you have your heart set on a compact three-door BMW, you’ll need to instead consider the previous version that went out of production in 2019.

You shouldn’t necessarily see that as being a big downgrade, though. While you’ll understandably go without some of the features and technologies you’ll find on the newer car, the outgoing BMW 1 Series still brings to the party a classy cabin with good equipment levels and decent space.

Complementing the three-door model’s sportier looks, the 1 Series also felt a bit like a sports car to drive: unlike the current car, which powers its front wheels - like every other hatchback - the previous BMW 1 Series was equipped with rear-wheel-drive, a feature normally found in traditional sports cars.

BMW 1 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Fiat 500

Used deals from £6,250

Many small cars have been ditching their three-door derivatives over the years, though an exception to that rule has been the Fiat 500. Ever since the 500 was revived as a retro, Mini Hatchback-rivalling urban runabout in 2007, it’s only ever been available as a three-door car - and because it’s been a strong seller over those years, there’s lots of choice on the used market.

Being a small car with light controls and good visibility, the Fiat 500 is perfect for driving around town. Due to its compact dimensions, the Fiat 500 isn’t the roomiest car in the world, though the rear seat passenger room and luggage volume are respectable given its size.

There is now an electric version of the Fiat 500, too, but nearly new examples currently command a hefty premium over the regular models, so we reckon it’s far more sensible to go for the older petrol-powered Fiat 500 instead.

FIAT 500 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Ford Fiesta

Used deals from £9,000

The Ford Fiesta three-door is a great all-round supermini that has gone down a treat with car buyers and sold in huge numbers over the years. As a result, even though it was less popular with buyers than the five-door version, the three-door Ford Fiesta is still very healthily represented in the used car marketplace.

Befitting the three-door model’s slightly sportier looks, the Ford Fiesta is good fun to drive, and especially so if your budget can stretch to the Fiesta ST hot hatch model. If that model’s not quite for you, the three-door Ford Fiesta was available with a selection of petrol and diesel engines in various states of tune, and offered across a variety of trim levels - from the most basic Trend spec, to the mid-range Zetec and more upmarket Titanium grades and right up to the luxurious Vignale models.

FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Land Rover Defender


Land Rover Defender 90 front three quarters view

Used deals from £60,750

The latest version of the Land Rover Defender is far different to the previous one in a huge number of areas. It’s far more comfortable and relaxing to drive, has stronger performance and fuel economy and comes with the type of technology and features that the rugged old model could only dream of having. Not every attribute of the outgoing Defender was dropped on its successor, though: as well as being terrific off-road, it’s also available with a three-door bodystyle.

Because the three-door Defender 90 is a little bit shorter than the five-door Defender 110, the boot is a bit smaller and it doesn’t have as smooth a ride. Those shortcomings aside, the Defender 90 is a plush and enjoyable large SUV to drive, and the muscular diesel models are perfect for drivers with big trailers or caravans in tow.

As standard, the Defender 90 came as a five-seater car, though some models could accommodate up to six people when specified with a front row jump seat in place of a centre armrest. If you want a practical Defender, though, the additional space and boot room of the longer 110 - plus the rear passenger doors - could make it a better choice.

LAND ROVER DEFENDER BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Skoda Citigo

Used deals from £6,180

Should you be in the market for a used three-door car that’s very affordable to buy and run, then the Skoda Citigo should definitely be on your radar. Go for an example with a few years under its belt, and you’ll be able to pick up a used Citigo for a good chunk less cash than what it would’ve set you back when new.

It’s also very economical and sits in low insurance groups, which means the Skoda is cheap to run and a good pick for a younger driver as their first car. If there’s a fly in the ointment of the three-door Skoda Citigo, it’s that finding a used example in your preferred spec may be a bit tricky, as the five-door models were much more popular when the Skoda was originally on sale.

As with the five-door car, the entry-level 60hp engine available in the three-door Citigo is peppy enough for town driving, though the more powerful 75hp versions are a bit more punchy, which makes them better suited to buyers who plan on taking the car onto dual carriageways or motorways fairly regularly.

SKODA CITIGO BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Suzuki Jimny

Used deals from £15,995

It may look like one of the many compact off-road style over substance crossovers you’ll see roaming the roads nowadays, but don’t confuse the Suzuki Jimny for being one of them. While the car’s dinky dimensions and raised ride height help make it easier to drive around town, the Jimny is far better suited to life away from paved roads; it's a very capable off-roader.

As a result, if you’re after a user-friendly small SUV, you’ll probably be very disappointed with the Jimny’s feeble performance, bouncy ride and tiny boot. However, there’s no direct competition for the Jimny as a small and affordable 4x4, and it does have a very enthusiastic and dedicated fan base. So, if you want a small three-door car for adventures, this little Suzuki could be perfect for you.

SUZUKI JIMNY BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volkswagen Scirocco

Used deals from £11,500

Volkswagen did do a three-door version of the Golf hatchback in the past, but what if you’d prefer something that was a bit sleeker and sportier? Handily, there’s the Volkswagen Scirocco to consider, as underneath its stylish exterior are many of the same engines, technologies and features you’ll find on a VW Golf of a similar vintage.

Admittedly, the Scirocco isn’t the sportiest coupe you’ll find at this price range, though the responsive steering and good grip means this VW’s far from being a dull drive, either. The peppy 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines are the best fits for the Scirocco - offering impressive power and good fuel economy - though don’t discount the diesels as they’re still relatively quick and return better fuel economy. As it's based upon the Golf, the Scirocco has a decent-sized boot and enough room in the rear seats for adults to fit, too.

VOLKSWAGEN SCIROCCO BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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