25 Feb 2014

2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the 2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler.

2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler

In 1909 Harry (HFS) Morgan created a three wheeled car.  In 1910 he founded Morgan Motors.  In 1911 Morgan displayed three wheelers at the Olympia motor show.  In 1912 The Morgan Motor Company was created as a limited company in order to produce three wheeled cars.  Four wheel car production started in 1950.  Three wheeled car production stopped in the 1950s.

In 2011 Morgan displayed a new 3 Wheeler at the Geneva Motor Show and shortly afterwards it entered production.  Morgan builds 1,200 cars a year of which approximately 300 are 3 Wheelers.

In early 2014 the 3 Wheeler was revised.  My test car was the 2014 model.

It looks like nothing else on the market.  It is made like nothing else on the market.  It sounds and drives like nothing else on the market.

The chassis is constructed from steel tubing and ash wood.  Yes, wood.  The body is aluminium panels, formed by hand, over an ash frame.  Yes, more wood.

The engine is a 2 litre S & S V-twin motorcycle unit which produces 115bhp, of which 80bhp makes it through to the road.  The gearbox is a Mazda MX5 unit.  Final drive to the single rear wheel is via a belt.

The 2014 3 Wheeler gets improved cooling, steering response and stability, increased chassis stiffness, a wider range of graphics, a 30 month warranty and smoother power delivery and reduced vibration.

The 3 Wheeler is small.  It is essentially a long tub with the engine at the front and the passenger compartment behind, front wheels sticking out of the bodywork and the single driven wheel fared in at the very rear.

It has a boot in which the tonneau cover and a couple of squishy bags can be stowed.  Small leather pockets are sewn into the sides of the car.  The passenger footwell is very long. Unless it is occupied by someone very tall another bag, or helmet, can be stored in there.
2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler

The seats and steering wheel are fixed.  The driver gets adjustable pedals.  The seats are comfortable leather-trimmed and are figure hugging from the waist down (very tight if you are on the larger side) and supportive.  The steering wheel is quite high.

The feeling is that you sit low and peer down the bonnet.  There are separate, tiny windscreens ahead of the driver and passenger but it has no doors and no roof.

To get in the 3 Wheeler is like getting in a bespoke racing car. Step over the side, stand on the seat, adjust your..ahem...trouser area, slide yourself in and belt up.

The footwell is narrow and the pedals take up all of the room.  There's no clutch foot rest because there is simply no room for one.  The engine might be mounted at the front but the 5-speed Mazda gearbox is quite large for such a small car and steals a lot of space.

The dash controls are extremely simple.  Revs, speedo, lights, indicators, heated seats (if specified) and not a lot else.  It does have a 12 volt socket tucked away under the dash.

Insert the ignition key, flip up the Spitfire bomb release-alike cover on the Start button and hit the button itself.

Oh yes it's a V-twin motorcycle engine alright.  It sound like one and it vibrates like one.

If you hadn't smiled yet you start to do so at this point.  The twin exhausts (one down each side) and engine create an equally mellifluous racket.  Dab the throttle and the V-twin makes even more noise and produces even more vibrations.

The floor hinged clutch (beautifully engineered if you care to look down the footwell) is heavy.  Engage first gear via the delightfully smooth gearbox and pull away.
2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler

You know how I said before the 3 Wheeler drives like nothing else.  Multiply that by ten.  The first half mile feels plain weird.  Your elbow hangs over the side of the car (you could touch the ground if you wanted to but I'd advise against it), you look down the bonnet with the tiny windscreen half in and half out of your vision, you try to deal, mentally, with the cruiser motorcycle sound and power delivery and you pray it doesn't rain.

The car is narrow but road placement is initially difficult, because you can see the front wheel on the drivers side.  You drive too close to the centre of the road.  The steering is light, it has no power assistance - the car only weighs 550kg - and doesn't need it.

Power delivery is linear.  Lots of torque and an easy going gearbox make progress smooth and rapid.  Very rapid.  0-60mph takes 4.5 seconds*.

Whilst the power delivery might be smooth in terms of acceleration it's not smooth in terms of the occupants being shaken to pieces.  A V-twin is by its nature unbalanced.  This is felt throughout the car, despite the engine being rubber mounted.  The wing mirrors vibrate, the rear view mirror vibrates, the fillings in your teeth vibrate.

The steering is precise - race car precise.  Initial turn in is fantastically good for a car with such skinny tyres and grip through the corners, whilst not quite like a cat on a velcro carpet, is impressive.

If you're going to lose traction it will be from take-off and it's the single driven wheel that will let go with a squeal and a rise of revs.  The front end, on normal roads and at legal speeds won't lose grip.
2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler

The driving experience is raw, exposed, focussed, brilliant, addictive, intoxicating and quite unique.  The sheer force of character of the car is seen at a standstill and felt through every fibre of your body on the go.

Above 40mph the effect of the exposed cockpit and low sides starts to be felt.  The wind in your hair becomes the wind in your eyes, mouth, nostrils and down the back of your neck.  If you wear a hat it will blow off unless it is secured in place.  This adds to the experience, but precautions should be taken if driving in winter - coat, gloves, goggles, hat that ties up under the chin.  Maybe even a helmet.

You can cruise through town and attract stares from onlookers or you can hoon along your favourite roads and have a better and more thrilling time than you would on a roller-coaster.

Every corner is a visceral thrill.  Driving at speed in a straight line is tremendous fun.  Communication with the road is direct and undiluted.  Minute adjustments to the controls deliver  instant results.  At 70mph you try and yell a joyous affirmation to the world that is the best car you could be driving on this road at this point in time but find you can't because the wind has taken your breath and voice away.

The Morgan 3 Wheeler is a completely impractical proposition, but if you want practical then go buy an SUV and die of boredom.  3 Wheeler owners will have another car for ferrying the family around, travelling long distances and attending business meetings but they will use their Morgan on any other journey.  If you have one you will want to use it.

As with any other Morgan the 3 Wheeler is built on site in Malvern, you can choose from one of 1,000 colours, a range of designs, graphics and options and you can go and watch your car being built if you like.  Alternatively you can opt to purchase a photographic record of its construction.

The Morgan 3 Wheeler is the most unusual car I have ever driven, but it is one of the best.

* Note: An owner has written to me disputing the 0-60mph time and saying just under 7 seconds is nearer the mark.


Price - £31,140
Engine 2 litre V-twin
Transmission - 5 speed manual
0-60mph - 4.5 seconds
Top Speed - 115mph
Power - 85bhp
Torque - N/A
Economy - N/A
Weight - 550kg
CO2 - N/A
2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler

2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler

2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler

Review by Matt Hubbard