Car Buyer’s Guide to Vehicle Body Types
Can you differentiate a sedan from a hatchback? It's exciting to shop for cars once you get pre-approved for a car loan. However, if you don’t know much about vehicle body types, finding the right car for your needs can be time-consuming.
A car's body type or design greatly affects its performance, fuel consumption and quality of driving. It also impacts on your auto loan payments, insurance premium and other fees associated with the purchase.
Here’s a rundown of the basic car body types to help narrow down your search.
More popularly known as saloon in the UK, this car features four doors and a typical boot or trunk. It is highly distinguishable for its three-box configuration of the engine, passenger and cargo compartments.
Several sedan subtypes include the notchback, fastback, compact and sub-compact. Its popular models range from the compact executive Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 to the full-size luxury Mercedes S-Class. The luxury models usually have a longer wheelbase that offers more legroom in the cabin. The limousine is a chauffeured sedan with an extended chassis and a partition between the driver and the passenger compartment.
Also called liftback, this car got its name from its hatch-type rear door that opens upward to provide access to the cargo area. It’s a two-box designed vehicle with a boot lid and rear windscreen that move together in one unit. While a hatchback is smaller than a sedan, it offers more flexibility because of foldable rear seats, allowing for an easy switch between comfortable passenger space or more cargo storage.
Popular hatches include the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3, Hoda Civic and Peugeot 308.
Also referred to as a station wagon or an estate car, the design of this vehicle is based on the two-box hatchback. It has a large cargo area and a rear tailgate that is hinged to open for access to the cargo area. While a sedan's rear window ends at the cabin, a wagon’s rear window extends to the boot lid, creating more cargo room. Its longer roof also provides more headroom for back seat passengers.
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Mercedes-benz E-class Wagon, Volvo V60 and Audi A6 Avant are just a few of the many wagon vehicles in the market.
Also called mini-compact, this vehicle represents the A-segment, which is the smallest category of passenger cars. It has a light steering wheel, diminutive exterior dimension, very short bumper and wheels that are pushed out to the very edges of the chassis. As the name suggests, it is designed for easy maneuvering in the tight and crowded streets of the city. It also offers straightforward parking as the driver can easily see where the corners of the car are.
City car models include the Kia Picanto, Skoda Citigo, Volkswagen Up, Renault Twingo, Hyundai i10 and Peugeot 108.
Considered as the two-door version of a sedan with a hard roof, the coupe features a small cargo space and a sloping rear roofline, making it look like it has been cut off diagonally at the back. Able to comfortably fit only two passengers, owners are mainly drawn to its sleek style.
A GT is a bigger, luxurious version of the traditional coupe. Often designed with powerful engines under the bonnet, it is ideal for high speed and long-distance driving. Because of this, many GT cars are used in sports car racing, like the Bentley Continental GT, Maserati GranTurismo MC, Ferrari GTC4 Lusso and Porsche 911 Carrera.
The line between sedan and coupe has been blurred by four-door cars that have a coupé-like roofline at the rear, such as BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, Audi A5 Sportback and Mercedes Benz CLS. These models appeal to people who desire the sleek look of the coupe but seek a four-door utility vehicle.
Also known as cabriolet or roadster, a convertible is a coupe with retractable hardtop roof or soft folding top. It combines the sleek and sporty appeal of the coupe with the flexibility of open-air or enclosed driving.
Popular convertibles include the Mazda MX-5, Porsche Boxster, Audi A5 Cabriolet and BMW 4 Series Convertible.
Short for "Sport Utility Vehicle", this car mimics the characteristics of a light-to-medium truck with its boxy body style, high ride height and four-wheel drive. It is bigger and has more power and cargo capacity than regular passenger cars. It can also carry or tow heavier loads than conventional cars. Unlike rugged 4x4s, however, it can’t do much on rough terrains.
Popular SUVs include the Mercedes GLE, Nissan X-Trail and Range Rover Evoque.
As the name suggests, a crossover shares the design of an SUV. Unlike the body-on-frame platform of SUVs, however, it has a unibody construction and often lacks heavy off-roading gear. Crossover is a popular family vehicle that offers soft-roading capability and features a higher H point, which provides more legroom for both driver and passenger seats.
Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Atlas, Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage are crossover cars.
Also called minivan, a Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) is designed to provide more space and larger carrying capacity of either people or cargo. It has spacious boot space and two or three rows of seats that can accommodate 6 to 8 passengers. Its rear seats can be folded to create a van-like space. Its upright design style also provides a more spacious and roomy interior, as well as better ground clearance. Additionally, it has hip-height seat bases that make travelling with elders and children easier, making it an ideal large family transporter.
MPV cars, like Nissan Note and Ford S-MAX, are also lightweight because of their unibody construction. This results in better handling and fuel economy.
The microvan is a smaller version of a minivan and is recognizable for its compact size and “bread loaf” shape. It features two swinging front doors, two sliding rear doors and a large tailgate. Its seats are typically thin and vertical to optimise space.
Subaru Pleo is an example of a microvan.
Commonly known in Australia as a ute, this light-duty vehicle has an enclosed cab and an open rear cargo area with low sides and tailgate. It typically has the same chassis as vans. The back of the car where cargos are placed is called a cargo bed. Designed to carry goods with easy loading and unloading capabilities, ute is the ideal vehicle for tradies and farmers.
A ute can have two doors for the passenger compartment, like the Nissan Titan XD, or four doors, like the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross.
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