Three-seaters and three-wheelers from £3000 – used car buying guide

McLaren F1

McLaren F1

Whether you want a three-seater or a vehicle with three wheels, we have some enticing suggestions, priced from £3k to £6m

Three is sometimes called the magic number, and whether you’re after something with three wheels or three seats, the automotive world can once again deliver choice. Here are five of our favourites.

1 – McLaren F1 (1992-1998)

When we first tried this three-seat supercar, we called it the finest driving machine yet built for the public road, and many think it still is.

Ex-Formula 1 designer Gordon Murray created this 240mph, low-weight, high-tech rocketship. The driver sits in the middle, because that’s the best place to be, and the two passengers sit either side

Power comes from a mid-mounted 617bhp 6.1-litre BMW V12 that shoots the F1 from zero to 100mph in just 6.3sec. It goes, it stops, it corners, and it does it all faster than just about anything else.

The F1 cost £540,000 new. Today you’ll need at least £6 million, but, shared between three people, that might not be so bad.

2 – Matra Murena (1980-1983)

What the delightfully wide and deliciously low three-seat Murena lacked in speed it made up for in sensual gratification.

It replaced the equally fruity Bagheera and retained that car’s three-in-a-row seating layout, with the driver on the left of the passengers (or on the right, in a few cases) in a stylish, if cosy, interior.

The higher-powered of the two engine options was a 118bhp 2.2-litre mid-mounted four, which pushes the Murena from 0-60mph in 8.8sec and on to 122mph. Cornering is impressive, with little pitch or roll. It even rides well.

Only 10,000 examples were made, but if you’re happy with left-hand drive, there are plenty available on the Continent, priced from around £4k.

3 – Morgan 3 Wheeler (2012-present)

A tricycle with two wheels at the front and one at the rear is an infinitely more stable affair than one with the layout reversed. Keep the centre of mass low and it can also be remarkably civilised.

Morgan showed how this could be done as far back as 1912. Its three-wheelers subsequently inspired many more modern interpretations and prompted the Malvern firm to bring out a new version of its own in 2012.

Powered by an 80bhp 2.0-litre V-twin, this 3 Wheeler is a faster and more chunky affair than the original but retains its low-flying, chocks-away spirit. It dispatches 0-62mph in 8.0sec and attacks corners with aplomb. A good second-hand one will be £25k.

4 – Piaggio MP3 (2006-present)

Encounter so much as a wet leaf mid-bend on your motorbike and you will be sliding down the road on your leather-clad rump. Trikes that have two wheels at the rear don’t have this problem, but they can’t thread through traffic like an ordinary motorcycle can.

Enter the Piaggio M3. With two tilting front wheels, it dispenses with the dynamic disadvantage of the dicyclic vehicle while preserving the agility of the monotrack. The latest 500cc model comes with a CVT and a 5.0sec 0-62mph time. Top speed is 90mph. It handles well, and even hardened motorcyclists admire them. Classed as a tricycle, it can be ridden with a standard car licence.

Buy second-hand from around £3k.

5 – Bond Bug (1970-1974)

Early Bond Minicars were low and light two-stroke affairs, but the 1970s Bug was a much more fashionable thing. Ogle Design’s Tom Karen, who also did the Reliant Scimitar, penned the Bond Bug’s sharply styled body. Driver and passenger enter via the pull-forward canopy.

Underneath, a 29bhp (31bhp if you can find the ES model) 700cc Reliant in-line four propels the lightweight Bug to 78mph. Steering is two-turns-lock-to-lock quick and the turning circle just 24ft. However, with its single front wheel, it’s only really stable when driven in reverse. It’s a hairy experience — slightly uncivilised but definitely involving. 

For the full tangerine dream, put your flares on and go and buy one now for between £4k and £8k. Groovy, baby!   

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