After a half-century absence, Morgan returns to three wheels with a firm focus on driver enjoyment above all else. It's a winning formula

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Pull open a small drawer in the Autocar office and hundreds of index cards are revealed, cataloguing more than a century of this magazine’s content.

And there, nestled between Moon and Moskvitch, you’ll find two cards marked ‘Morgan’ that are annotated with the past road tests and features we’ve written about the Malvern manufacturer and its products. But a three-wheeler has never been road tested by Autocar.

Were it not for fear of flying debris, you could drive it without headgear

This is despite the fact that three-wheelers were the vehicles with which HFS Morgan formed the company and were on sale for 40 years. That a three-wheeler is back is cause for celebration, even by the standards of a business that regularly treats us to thrilling driver’s cars.

Few hold the same promise of purity and intimacy as the Morgan 3 Wheeler, because few follow so closely the original formula like it does: grunty, two-cylinder power driving the rear of a lightweight roadster chassis. However, this formula is set to be diluted somewhat with Morgan's introduction of an electric three-wheeler named the EV3.

With two wheels at the back it sounds terrific, but with one? Let’s see how it stands up to the scrutiny of the toughest test in the car media business.



Morgan 3 Wheeler windscreen wipers

Early Morgan three-wheelers looked little like the latest 3 Wheeler. It wasn’t until the Super Aero of 1927 that it began to take on the shape we today recognise as that of the classic Morgan: low slung to aid grip, handling and, crucially, stability. And compared with the earliest cars, it’s relatively aerodynamic, too.

So from the late 1920s onwards that’s how the sportiest Morgan three-wheelers looked, and that’s the basic design that has been mimicked today. To call it retro somehow doesn’t seem right. It isn’t a pastiche of the original like, say, a Fiat 500 or the latest Minis. Instead, it just follows the original formula: a steel tubular chassis, some ash framework and an aluminium body. It’s pure, honest, authentic and real.

Brake discs are a relatively healthy 270mm in diameter

In the same vein, the engineering beneath – and in front of – the Morgan’s nod to styling isn’t a pastiche, either. Morgan has taken what it believes to be the best V-twin for the job. Now, as then, it’s a motorcycle engine. But now, unlike then, it’s made by American engine maker S&S. 

S&S started out tuning Harley-Davidson motors, but after a time, as such companies do if they’ve got the nous, it began making entire engines. Today, if you buy a complete S&S motor, it’ll have the same pushrod V-twin layout as a Harley unit, but none of the internal components will necessarily come from Harley.

This one is pure S&S, and built to a unique Morgan specification. It’s a lazy, old-fashioned motor, square of cylinder dimensions and with two overhead valves per cylinder, operated by pushrods. As a result, it makes a leisurely 82bhp, combined with a healthy 103lb ft of torque, peaking at just 3250rpm – a grunty set of stats for a bike motor.

That’s mated to an MX-5 gearbox via a transitional case that contains a damper necessary to smooth the big V-twin’s otherwise peaky torque output. From the ’box there’s a bevel gear to change the direction of rotation, then a belt driving the single back wheel, which is suspended by a trailing arm. Front suspension is by wishbones, and there are coil springs all round – and no driving aids.

The EV3 is a different kette of fish, with the motorbike engine and manual gearbox removed and an electric motor and battery pack added. While other details remain sketchy at best, Morgan claims that its performance will be comparable to the conventional petrol version and have an operational range of 150 miles.


Morgan 3 Wheeler dashboard

Like all cars of this ilk, the Morgan 3 Wheeler’s interior is notable for one thing: there isn’t much to it.

What’s also true is that you can discern a great deal about a car’s maker from the way it’s finished. Some niche car makers all but forget about interior finish and realise only too late just how much about the overall quality of craftsmanship buyers infer from cabin presentation. After all, it’s their foremost point of contact with a vehicle.

The interior is predictably sparse but well finished

In the Morgan’s case, all the evidence is encouraging. Two pleasing dials sit in the centre of a dash that’s notable not just for its spartanness but also its neatness. The toggle switches look good and operate with pleasing positivity, while there are evocative or imaginative touches, too. The start button, for example, sits beneath an aircraft-style toggle cover, while the indicator stalk is bespoke. And depsite its minmalistic nature the cabin is swathed in leather.

Mind you, Morgan does have an advantage here because the 3 Wheeler only has to comply with legislation geared towards motorcycles, which means that extrusions on the body, components that stick out in the cabin and radii of surfaces are not under the same scrutiny as they would be in a conventional car. Which goes to show what nonsense some of the legislation is when it comes to specialist cars.

The 3 Wheeler’s cabin space is par for the course. There’s as much foot and legroom as you’ll find in a Caterham Seven, but the Morgan’s steering wheel and dash are set higher, which puts you in a heroic-feeling driving position and allows enough room to twiddle a relatively large wheel (although it’s one that could do with a clearer indication that it’s pointing straight ahead).

There is a boot, of sorts; the rear of the bodywork swings backwards to reveal an odd-shaped cubby.


Morgan 3 Wheeler engine bay

What’s most notable about the performance of the Morgan 3 Wheeler is not how much it has, but how it’s delivered.

Thumb the starter button and the S&S motor spins lazily as it tries to bring to life two cylinders that displace a litre each, the flywheel and the rotational damper. It usually takes a few seconds to start, upon which you’re rewarded with fulsome, lumpy and delightfully characterful ‘whumps’ as the motor idles.

The Morgan 3 Wheeler's a delightful thing to drive, although ultimately not very fast

Throttle response is terrific: not too frantic, not too lazy. There’s a tendency for motorbike-derived motors to have hyperactive reactions, but the size and configuration of the Morgan engine help it to avoid such traits. It spins with just the kind of response you’d want and is lively to a tickle of the throttle, but with enough inertia to resist stalling when you let the clutch out to get moving.

The clutch is well weighted and the five-speed gearshift slick, as you’d expect from an MX-5 unit. The Morgan licks along at a healthy pace given that it totes only 82bhp, assisted by the fact that it doesn’t weigh much more than half a tonne.

Its track acceleration figures show that it’s slower than most of its rivals – a 0-60mph time of 6.0sec wouldn’t have a warm hatch writing home these days – but the Morgan feels livelier than that. It’s always eager, always keen, and seems to have oomph in reserve at any point in its rev band. It’ll roll along at 80mph or more with no worries and was always as fast as we felt we wanted it to be. 

And all the while it’s an utterly charming powerplant. The heady thrum of the V-twin engine when you work it, particularly the exhaust burble on the overrun and between shifts, is magical.

Meanwhile, not being particularly fast means that it’s possible to enjoy more of the 3 Wheeler’s performance for longer; in the same way that a 1.6-litre Caterham 310 is the most appealing in the range, you feel like you’re getting the best that the Morgan has to offer on almost any given road with a national speed limit.


Morgan 3 Wheeler cornering

The fact that there’s only one rear wheel, and that it’s bang in the middle of the car, has as significant an effect on the Morgan 3 Wheeler's handling as you might imagine.

First, it affects the ride a little. The 3 Wheeler is deftly sprung, and it’s terrific to watch from the cabin as those diddy front wheels bounce up and down on the asphalt. But while the rear is also well damped, from time to time you do notice that it’s bounced by bumps that don’t affect the fronts.

Driving doesn't get more interactive or immediate

It’s not uncomfortable, or even unresolved, just sometimes surprising when you realise you’ve been unsettled by a bump or a pothole that you deliberately steered the front wheels around.

The steering itself is terrific, mind (although the turning circle is atrocious), with first-rate weight, feel and feedback. Morgan has found it possible to set up the steering system so it combines the best in weight, accuracy, response and feel in one package – a boon of having skinny tyres and a lightly loaded front end.

You can place those narrow front tyres with pinpoint accuracy, while the steering wheel tugs delicately at your fingers as it traverses bumps, ruts and cambers. Driving doesn’t get any more interactive or immediate and no other production car puts you so in touch with its engineering elements. 

That serves to make the Morgan both utterly beguiling and an absolute giggle from start to finish. For every one of our testers who approached the 3 Wheeler with scepticism and drove off in it with some doubt about its abilities, you could guarantee one thing: that they’d return with a huge grin on their face.

And, given that that seems to be the Morgan’s general raison d’etre, it’s hard to argue that it does anything other than hit its spot as well as any vehicle we’ve tested in years.


Morgan 3 Wheeler

There’s something you can guarantee with a traditional four-wheeled Morgan that we’d bet will also apply to the 3 Wheeler, and that is that it will hold its value well.

At the moment production is flat out to meet a demand that doesn’t look like drying up any time soon. And we’d be willing to bet that the 3 Wheeler is set to become a mainstay of the Morgan range for years. It’s practically a classic as soon as it’s delivered.

At the moment, production is flat-out to meet demand

Fuel economy was excellent. Even at the test track the 3 Wheeler returned a credible 19.8mpg. Overall it gave us a very respectable 29.6mpg. We couldn’t undertake our typical touring route, but drive in restrained fashion – unlikely, we’ll admit – and you should see high 30s.

One word of caution, though. A car like the 3 Wheeler won’t have completed months of winter and summer testing or thousands of durability laps of the most punishing circuits, as mainstream production cars are subjected to. Nor has it been race bred like many niche products. 

So don’t expect to be able to treat one like you would a robot-built automotive appliance. But treat it 
like a cherished classic from day one and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

Buyers can pick from twelve standard colours, as well as a choice of 30 leather trim colours, and a variety of cosmetic options are available.

Bespoke builds are also offered, so if you've something specific in mind then Morgan should be able to accomodate your requirements.


5 star Morgan 3 Wheeler

The question that overrides all others when it comes to producing an Autocar road test is this: is it fit for purpose?

So when anyone in our office doubted that the Morgan 3 Wheeler was worthy of the five-star rating it gets here, we stuck them in the driver’s seat and asked them to return some time later. And now there is no one within these walls who doubts the 3 Wheeler deserves its full five stars. 

It's impossible not to smile when you get behind the wheel of the Morgan

Unashamedly, the 3 Wheeler sets out to put the biggest smile imaginable on its driver’s face.

It cares not for Nürburgring lap times or market segments, and it and the motor industry are all the more wonderful for it.

The 3 Wheeler is the most fun thing Morgan, or quite possibly any other car maker, produces today. And the Malvern manufacturer is not scared to break barriers down as its proven with the EV3.

As a template for making motoring enjoyable, Morgan’s attitude should be both applauded and more widely adopted. 

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Morgan 3 Wheeler (2012-2020) First drives