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Why Don’t Any Vehicles Have Three Rows of Doors?

It seems like vehicles with three rows of seats are becoming very popular. Once people realized they could have three rows of seats without driving a minivan or a full-size, truck-based SUV, the big 7-seat crossover started to take over as the de facto vehicle for big families — and it looks like they’re here to stay. However, there’s one thing that all of those 3-row crossovers like the Ford Explorer and the Honda Pilot all have in common. The third row is a pain to access.

Manufacturers try to get around this inconvenience with seat trickery, like Honda’s “Magic Seats” that can slide from side to side — and a few companies, including Ford and Chevy, are starting to use second-row seats that can tip over and slide, making them child-seat friendly. But there’s an obvious solution that, for some reason, every single car manufacturer is ignoring.

I’m talking about three rows of doors.

You can mess with the seats all you want to make it easier to climb into the third row, but you’ll never be able to beat a good old-fashioned door. I think a good solution would be third-row suicide doors, kind of like the ones used on the Honda Element or the R55 Mini Clubman, but for the third row. They don’t even have to be big: You could still have normal doors for the first and second rows and add nice little rear-hinged doors for the third row. It wouldn’t take a much wider window of access to make it significantly easier to climb in and out of the third row.

I understand why minivans don’t have three rows of doors. Sliding doors, which are God’s gift to families, can only slide back so far before they stick out past the back of the van. A wider opening for sliding doors would probably mean a lot of doors breaking off from people hitting them in parking lots. Also, it’s already easier to get into the third row of a minivan than it is for any 3-row SUV, so it’s not all that necessary.

I think the reason nobody is putting a third row of doors on crossovers is that it would just look weird. I understand that — but everyone loves 3-row crossovers, except for the people who actually need to ride in the third row. They’re already being punished with cramped legroom and often insufficient headroom, so why add insult to injury by making it so hard just to get in and out of their seats? They should get their own doors, and they shouldn’t need to get a 6-door Ford Super Duty pickup to get them.

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  1. What would be better is minivan-style power sliding doors on the 2nd row of these big SUVs that don’t fit in the parking lots of schools and Super Targets, or you could do a mini reverse opening door over the wheel for the 3rd row seats to buckle a kid in to a baby seat.

  2. Extra doors wouldn’t fit on a midsize crossover, unless you had accordion doors. With regular doors you’d need a stretched wheelbase, and an extra pillar for two sets of front-hinged doors, otherwise you’d be forced to open the second row doors every time you open the third row. Easier solutions would be to pick a larger SUV, get a minivan, don’t have more than 2 kids, or use the third row as the penalty box that it is.

  3. It might affect safety and chassis rigidity with 2 extra pieces of metal flailing around. It totally makes sense to have it though.

  4. If with the small doors this wouldn’t work without a much larger vehicle(like your picture.)  You might be able to pull it off with a Suburban or Expedition XL but not on 3 row crossovers.  The second door already cuts into the wheel arch.  Can you imagine a child having to climb up to that extra door?

    • On smaller vehicles it is not practical, and on larger ones like Suburban or Expedition Max, it is not necessary. I am 6’4″ and I can get into the 3rd row easily. But the most obvious reason is that a small families, grandparents living separately and everybody having their own car is the norm. And has been for decades. If 7 children in every family was the norm, or grandparents living in, or cars and trucks having very high per unit ownership tax rate, then a 3 row or even a 4 row 6-door SUVs, vans and MPVs would be the norm. Cars, like most other things, are products of their times.

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Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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